A couple of years ago, I came up with a glorious recipe for fried fish minus gluten, dairy, or egg. Everyone I made this for loved it, but boy was it a pain to make. Not just the breading, but standing over a hot frying fan (or two) for about an hour. And I’m not a lowfatter but it really did suck up the oil too.
Welcome to the new and improved version. Now I bake the fish in the oven, which reduces the oil use but still leaves it crispy, and cuts the time I spend in the kitchen way down. Plus now I can make 4 meals at once.
Just like before, you want to choose a flat boneless fillet. I’ve tried several, but really can’t get better than dover sole. It’s reasonably sustainable, wild caught, sold boneless, and cheap. I usually buy it at Costco (can’t vouch for all branches, but mine has a excellent fish counter).
The basic directions are to take fresh (or defrosted) fish that is reasonably dry (I always rinse fish before using), coat it in flour, coat it in “egg,” and coat it in flour again. It really makes a big difference to do the double coating, so I recommend you don’t skip it. I use the same container of flour for both dips, you could do different ones if you wanted…some people do a fine flour for the first dip and a coarse one for the second. Use a large roasting pan for the flour. The 2-3″ lip helps keep the mess down and the large size lets you work with 7 or 8 pieces of fish at once.
It helps a lot to have a wet hand and a dry hand. I use my right hand to lay the fish on the flour and turn it over, then I use my left hand to dump more flour on the fish to make sure it’s fully coated as I pile them up to one side of the container. You can follow my suggestions of plates from my old recipe, but I’ve found that to be an unnecessary step.
Next I use my right hand to dip each piece one at a time in the “egg” and let it drip before laying it in the flour and turning it over. The dry left hand piles flour on top to make sure everything is coated.
In the past I used half soy flour and half brown rice flour plus salt (a tsp or two for every 3 cups) and pepper. The soy cuts down on the carbs but is too heavy alone. Brown rice works well but is very carby. This makes a nice but thin coating.
Then I started using cornmeal, the standard fine grind from Arrowhead or Whole Foods. Because it isn’t as fine as flour, I do 3 parts cornmeal to 1 part brown rice flour. Plus salt and pepper. This batter is slightly thicker and has a nice flavor.
Azure Standard sells a corn flour which turns out to be an actual flour grind. It gives a thin coating to the fish and isn’t very good on its own. They also sell a medium grind cornmeal which turns out to be pretty coarse. Not quite as coarse as polenta but way beyond “meal.” My last fish batch was about 3 parts medium cornmeal and 1 part corn flour. Came out thick and very good. And the “scones” I made with the leftover flour was fabulous.
Do experiment with flours if you don’t like, or can’t have, my choices. Heck, even wheat.
I’ve changed my seasoning too. I still use salt and pepper but add cumin powder and paprika. You can’t taste them in the final product but it gives it a depth and richness it lacked before.
You can use real egg here if you want. But we use flaxseed, which works very well. Heat up water and add well ground flax seeds (I use a way oversized glass measuring cup in the microwave). Stir and let cool. The standard amount is 1/3 cup water to one tablespoon of meal equals one egg. I usually make a bunch of eggs worth and then add more water as I get down to the bottom. I find that a thinner “egg” coating works better on the fish.
Plan on around 1/2 pound of fish per person (measured before coating). This is an average for children and adults. A group of just adults will eat more.
It’s very hard to give the amount of flour mix because it varies so much based on how thick the fish fillets are (it’s surface area that counts, not weight), how coarse your grains are (coarser ones weigh less per cup due to more airspace and also make a thicker batter), and your technique. Count on at least 3 cups of flour mix per 5 lbs of thin fish. But I add extra to make hushpuppies with.
About 6 eggs or egg equivalent will do 5 lbs of thin fish. For flax I usually use 6-8 tablespoons of flaxmeal to 2 cups of water, then add 1-2 cups as I go along. Since I like it thinner, this is enough for 7-9 lbs of fish. Plan to have extra for hush puppies.
I like to make 9 lbs of fish at a time. It’s not that much more work than making 4 or 5 lbs but it’s about all I can handle. Fried this would be way too hard, but baking makes it easy. I generally bake up 1/4 of it then freeze the rest, for an additional 3-4 meals for 3 people (each time we usually have a serving or two leftover for lunch the next day).
Dover sole fillets
Seasoned flour mix
Beaten eggs or flax goo
Oil for baking (I use olive)
Baking the Fish:
Coat the fish in flour, dip in egg/flax, coat again in flour, shake off excess and put on a cookie sheet with a good deal of olive oil on it (just enough that it moves around when you tilt the pan). Do not use baking pans. The fish will not crisp up. Use sheets that are flat or have a lip no higher than an inch.
Bake at 400*F until the bottom is browning nicely. Flip fish over and brown the other side. Take care not to burn it or let it get too brown. But you want it crispy.
Freezing the Fish:
Coat the fish in flour, dip in egg/flax, coat again in flour, shake off excess and put on a cookie sheet or baking pan with a piece of parchment or waxed paper on the bottom. Do not use oil. The fish can touch but should not overlap. You can make 3-4 layers of fish as long as there is parchment or waxed paper between each layer. Stick in freezer.
In theory, you can move the fish to zipper bags once frozen, but we’ve never bothered. You will want to do this if your freezer gets freezer burn easily though.
When you want to cook them, just remove from freezer. No need to defrost. Put the fish (minus the paper!) on a well oiled cookie sheet and bake at 400*F as per above.
I’ll make a separate hush puppy post at some point. I make mine more like scones and they are fabulous. Mix the leftover flax goo or egg with the leftover flour mix. Add water or milk (I’ve used soy milk to good effect) or more flour until the batter is thick enough to only partially hold its shape on a pan. Add more seasoning (dill weed, dill or cumin seeds, chipotle pepper powder are all good) and a pinch of baking soda. Bake on an olive oil coated pan until fully cooked but not too hard.
Recipe for Tarter Sauce:
Relish (I prefer dill but sweet is fine)
Veganaise or mayonnaise (1-3 times the relish)
A squeeze of fresh lemon
A bit of salt
Serving the Fish:
Serve with tarter sauce and lemon slices (or catsup if you’re like my daughter). The fish is delicious with coleslaw but goes well with a wide variety of vegetables.
Leftover fish is great cold or heated.