April 22, 2020
By In-Fisherman and Chef Lucia Watson
Fish freshly caught and cooked outdoors over an open fire perfectly complete the circle of life we’re living out there. Many anglers consider fish cooked like this to be the best they’ve ever eaten and the most memorable part of the trip.
Of course the fish doesn’t always have to be cooked over an open fire. A Coleman stove on a picnic table at a campsite or on the tailgate of your truck works, too.
The classic shore lunch scene transpires about noon, on an island point somewhere in the wilderness, the fish freshly caught that morning, the first built with wood gathered nearby. Or you’ve been on the river all day and have pulled onto a sandbar and gathered driftwood for the cooking fire, which then becomes your campfire.
Cooking over an open fire requires a larger fire reduced to a bed of coals. Control the heat by adding sticks or split wood about 1/2 inch in diameter. Be sure to have more than enough sticks piled up to get you through the cooking detail.
Deep frying calls for oil temperatures in the 360°F range. Crisco and lard can stand temperatures up to 400°F, so they can take the range of temperatures that go with working over an open fire, where absolute control of the heat isn’t possible.
A Nice Wet Batter for Deep Frying
- 2 egg yokes
- 1 cup ice water
- 1.5 cups of flour (add salt and pepper a dried herbs, if you wish)
A wet batter must be ice cold, so that when it hits the hot oil it instantly seals the batter around the fish, allowing the fish to cook by steaming within the firm, crunchy crust. Don’t add too much fish at once, in order to keep the oil temperature at about 360°F.
A Nice Dry Breading for Deep Frying or Sautéing
- flour seasoned with salt and pepper
- a pinch of dried herbs
- a pinch of garlic salt
- several beaten eggs with a little milk
- cornmeal or crushed cornflakes
Dip the fish in the seasoned flour, then in the egg mix. Allow the excess egg to drip off, then dip the fish in the cornmeal. Deep fry or sauté. This makes a beautiful crunchy crust, covering a perfectly tender piece of fish.