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Whether you’re a life-long fish fry fan or brand new to the tradition, you can create your own fish fry at home any day of the week. Start with beer-battered cod and round out the menu with soup or salad, your choice of potato, a bread basket, dessert, and more!
Even if you’re not religious, tradition of a Friday night fish fry is probably one you’ve experienced if you have lived in the Midwest.
Normally celebrated as part of Lent in February and March, when Catholics typically abstain from meat on Fridays and holy days, communities gather to savor fish fry feasts. Family-owned restaurants, bars, and breweries alike all share their take on the menu.
It’s truly an institution, and now you can learn how to bring the best of a Midwestern fish fry into your home any time, anywhere.
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Beer-battered cod (or sometimes perch) is very popular. You can also ordered baked cod (often served with lemon and butter).
The server’s interrogation continues with: “Soup or salad?” On Fridays during Lent, you usually can pick between Clam Chowder and “the house salad.” Your choice of dressing on the side!
Along with your soup or salad, you often get a bread basket: A literal basket of rolls or slices of rye bread, saltine crackers, sesame sticks, and individual packets of butter. It’s extra touches like these that make fish fries feel like such a special event.
My sister and I used to be waitresses together, and we still play a game where we try to rattle off all the ways you could order a potato with your fish fry. There are so many ways!
Beer-battered cod comes with tartar, always. Baked cod is normally prepared with lemon and butter. Latkes come with applesauce or maybe sour cream and chives. And every plate has the tiniest paper cup of coleslaw.
Not all fish fries come with dessert, but when they do, you’ve got options: chocolate cake, cheesecake (with or without strawberry topping), red JELL-O, tapioca pudding, rice pudding, chocolate pudding, ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, or butter pecan), rainbow sherbet, maybe even eclairs. And if you’re already full, you just take it to-go.
Your meal might also come with a mug of beer or a glass of house wine (red or white). But if it doesn’t, or even if it does, consider a Brandy Old-Fashioned, THE classic Wisconsin cocktail for a fish fry.
I hope this fish fry brings back wonderful memories of communal dinners gone by! And I hope, if you can’t go out for a fish fry, you can create one in your own home.
Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.