For separate and brief periods of our lives, Kyle and I both lived in St. Louis, Missouri, the main metropolis of MO and the place we small-town kids dreamed of moving to when we grew up. Our eyes weren’t big enough for the glitz of New York City, and Hawaii wasn’t yet a rainbow on our horizon, so—for us—St. Louis was the pinnacle of civilization.
We never lived there together, but STL is the kind of city where you still share in many experiences simply by living there once. For instance, the terrible nightlife of The Landing—it promises shenanigans and memories to last a lifetime and delivers only broken heels wedged in cobblestones and a pained vow never to interact with strangers again. It also boasts an amazing Italian neighborhood, and though we may have never dined at the same time at a certain restaurant, we can still share the craving for Cunetto’s sauce and heavily dressed house salads.
St. Louis is also home to a large number of Catholic communities, and since neither Kyle nor I partake, we’ve missed out mutually on some major St. Louis Catholic traditions. We did manage to borrow the tradition of playing canasta, albeit on our lanai and not in a church basement, but when Lent rolled around, on Friday nights we were not attending a fish fry.
I would hear from friends and co-workers about the different fish fries, which were best, who they saw. They never talked about the grub though; I guess it’s pretty self-explanatory. I’ve only been to a few Catholic masses in my life, and while I wasn’t too keen on shaking a stranger’s hand, I can get behind this weekly tradition of eating a flaky white fish battered and fried to crispy perfection. I was on the verge of converting when I had a spiritual awakening of my own. “Make it yourself, you lazy hag,” my inner spirit told me. Apparently, like Kyle, my inner spirit also gets the hanger. And so, with the help of Micah, our benevolent fry daddy, we’ve managed to throw together a pretty darn great fish fry whenever the urge strikes, which is probably more often than one should be eating fried fish.
This is also an English tradition, so in the spirit of the Queen, we like to use as much paper as possible. I can’t tell you if the Catholic fish fries do this because, as I’ve recently written about, I wasn’t invited. We’ve altered the classic slightly by making salt and vinegar potatoes instead of actual french fries. Then we whip up an easy cole slaw, pickles, and tartar sauce. You could invite your fellow refugees over to feast, but I’m a secular kind of gal, and I think religion and dinner parties don’t mix.
All are welcome at our table.
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 (12 oz.) bottle of beer
- 1 lb boneless, skinless white fish, cut into strips or pieces
- Pre-heat oil over medium heat to 350 degrees in a cast iron or heavy-bottomed skillet.
- Sift together dry ingredients.
- Pour beer into large bowl. Slowly add dry ingredients to beer, whisking constantly to avoid lumps in the batter.
- Dip fish into beer-batter and into the hot oil (do not overcrown). Working in batches, fry the fish, turning occasionally, until browned and crispy.
- Remove the fist from the hot oil and transfer to cookie sheet lined with a cooling rack. Keep warm until ready to serve in an oven heated to 200 degrees.
- 1 ½ pounds baby potatoes, cut in half (if you can’t find these, use Yukon gold or red potatoes, as small as you can find, and halve them, possibly quartering if still too big. Potatoes should be an inch in diameter)
- ½ cup apple cider or white vinegar
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons malt vinegar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Fresh ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, parsley, or chives)
- Place potatoes in a medium pot and add vinegar and salt, reserving the 2 extra tablespoons of malt vinegar for later. Add water until the potatoes are covered.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, simmering for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
- Drain the potatoes and pat as dry awith paper towels.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes and stir to coat.
- Sautee over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes have reached the desired crispiness.
- Remove from pan and place in a serving dish. Drizzle with remaining vinegar, toss with fresh herbs, and sprinkle with extra kosher salt and pepper to taste.