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by Sarah Steimer

Fish fries are a BIG deal in Pittsburgh, particularly during Lent. There's a pretty large Catholic population in Pittsburgh, which means lots of church fish fries. I never thought of it as a regional trend, so I was pretty stunned when I moved to Chicago and couldn't seem to find any Lenten (church) fish fries. Just one more reason to love Pittsburgh food.

For the “chips”

  • 3 large russet potatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • seasoning of choice

Cut the russet potatoes into thin fries. Soak in water for a few minutes then pat dry with paper towels.

Toss the fries in olive oil and season with salt, pepper and any other seasonings you would like – I went with chili powder. Place a metal cooking/cooling rack on top of a baking sheet and place the fries on the rack in a single layer. This allows the heat to circulate and you will not have to flip the fries.

If you do not have a metal rack, place the fries on a piece of parchment paper on the cooking sheet. You will need to flip halfway through.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until the fries are golden and crisp.

For the fish

  • 1 quart (4 cups) vegetable or canola oil
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 12 ounces (3/4 pounds) of cod or another white fish, cut into four 3-ounce pieces
  • 3/4 cups beer (I used an amber ale)

Mix together the flour, corn starch, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika. Place 1/3 of the flour mixture in a rimmed baking sheet. Add the baking powder to the bowl.

This was the first time I ever cooked fish - or fried anything. Not a bad effort (but still don't love dropping anything in sizzling hot oil).

Dredge each piece of the fish in the flour mixture in the bowl. Shake off the excess and place on a rack.

Add the beer a little at a time to the bowl of flour and whisk. Add only enough beer so the mixture is smooth, but not too thin. The batter should fall from the whisk in a thin, steady stream and leave a faint trail across the surface of the batter.

At this point, begin heating the oil in a dutch oven or other heavy pot or high-rimmed pan. The oil temperature should reach 375 degrees. If you do not have a thermometer, just test the water by flicking some water in the oil. The water should pop when it hits the oil.

Using tongs, dip the fish in the beer and flour mixture, allowing some of the excess to drip off. Place the fish in the flour mixture that was set aside in the pan. Turn to coat.

Place the fish in the hot oil, two pieces at a time. Stir the fish occasionally and fry until golden brown, about 7-8 minutes. Use the tongs, a slotted spoon or a Chinese strainer to remove the fish from the water and place on paper towels or a paper bag. Cook the final two pieces.

Serve the fish and chips with tartar sauce, ketchup and/or malted vinegar.

Makes two or three servings.

Chips recipe adapted from: The Talking Kitchen

Fish recipe adapted from: Brown-Eyed Baker

**Interested in finding a fish fry in Pittsburgh? There’s a guide for that (with an accompanying map) – and some churches even offer the dinners year-round, not just in Lent. (St. Joan of Arc in South Park is my personal favorite – GREAT perogies, too!)

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