Time to take advantage of the bountiful nature on the wintry Great Lakes! With all the reports of the guys catching perch on Lake St Clair from their little ice shanties, I figured everyone could use a good recipe for some Fish Fry Batter. By making your own, you save considerable money, it's much healthier for you without the preservatives and you can proudly say, "I did it myself". Purists who really do it themselves make their ice shanties out of wood and take their ice spud to make their hole in the ice. Modernists buy a pre-fab light weight portable shanty and use a motorized auger that will give 'em a decent hole in just 2-3 minutes.
The secret to battering and frying fish is using the fresh stuff, straight from our own state. If you do use frozen, however, remember that the fish must be completely thawed before you attempt anything. You see, moisture is drawn to the top as it thaws and your fish must be patted dry before you batter it. If you pat it dry and batter it before it is completely thawed, moisture will still rise to the top and your nice batter will slide right off. Bummer!
Another reminder is to make sure your oil is heated up to 350 degrees. This will fry the outside quickly and make it nice and crispy. If your heat is too low, it will break down the batter. For a major catch of Great Lakes perch, you'll need:
3 cups water
2 ea. eggs
1 lb. plus 1 cup flour
3/4 cup corn starch
2 tsp baking powder
1 TB salt
2 TB paprika
Mix everything together, then refrigerate until you are ready to fry. If you want to make beer batter, substitute beer for the water. Do you like your batter a little zippier? Add some cajun spice.
A note on freezing fish: Many people take empty cardboard milk cartons, place their fish in it, add water and freeze. I do not recommend this method, because the water draws the natural sodium and flavors from the fish. Plus, all that water does not help when it comes to frying it up. If wrapped properly, in good freezer paper, it will last and not take up much space in your freezer.
There is nothing wrong with paring up a nice white Michigan wine with your perch. There are over a dozen really decent wineries in our state. The Loon River Cafe proudly serves only Michigan wines! I recently visited and tasted wines up at the Leelanau Wine Cellars. They have many remarkable ones from their Tall Ships Chardonnay to their sweeter Rieslings. Pick your favorite style and go for it. And remember, a good cook appreciates nature and what it has to offer to make you a creative cook!