Filet O’Lent

IMG_0016The tradition of Mark and I abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent predates our being a couple. We worked together for a year and a half before we went on our first date. And during that one spring when we were “just friends,” we discovered we both did the “no meat thing” on Fridays and decided to get lunch together.

We usually went to the local hangout Fresh Salt. Mark would get the hummus plate, and I would get the eggplant sandwich. Most of the time we talked about how we needed to stop talking (er, complaining) about work. More often than not we failed at this goal, but regardless of the topic, we obviously developed a connection over those workday meals, which continued after Lent came to an end.

Years later, we have kept up the tradition of honoring our shared Catholic heritage by making a big deal out of no meat Fridays. To be fair, we don’t actually eat very much meat in general these days. But we still like to make a point of planning something on those few Fridays each spring. Last week, I proposed that we finally try a recipe I had been saving for years: fried fish sandwiches.

If you believe fast food marketing, you know that fried fish sandwiches are the official dinner of Lent. Remember this guy?

IMG_0012In true Mark and Leslie form, we decided it would be more fun to make our own than head to the drive-thru. It would also let us flex our deep frying muscles again. Mark and I learned to deep fry on the fly a few years ago when he declared he was making fried chicken for his family on Mother’s Day. (guess who the more spontaneous chef is in our relationship?)

Much to my surprise, making fried chicken was easier than we expected. And following the same process for fish was equally simple.  The big challenge with deep frying is having the right tools.  Do not try this at home without a heavy pot and a deep frying or candy thermometer.  Trust me, I’ve made that mistake, you’ll end up throwing away a lot of food.

IMG_0018This recipe required three main steps – dredge the fish in flour, dip the fish in batter, fry the fish in oil heated to exactly 375 degrees.  The batter included Old Bay seasoning and a bottle of beer, both of which gave it a nice seafood shack taste. Start to finish, the recipe took no more than 30 minutes.

The recipe recommended cod. Our budget recommended tilapia. I’m sure cod would have been good, but I found our significantly cheaper purchase to be more than sufficient. In fact, it was really quite excellent.

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The recipe, which is from Rachael Ray, also recommended making fresh tartar sauce. But we also went with the more budget friendly jarred variety.  We also added cheese to truly replicate that fast food experience:

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Ok, so the sunchokes and kale are not french fries. We weren’t truly authentic, but frying fries AND fish seemed like too much work. That’s where we drew the line.

I know Lent is supposed to be a time of sacrifice and reflection. But for me and Mark, it’s not just that… it’s about remembering where we started and being grateful that our shared no meat policy encouraged us to share lunch, get to know each other, and form a lifelong bond.

Want to make fish on Fridays? Check out the recipe here!

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