Pacific Whiting is the cornerstone in this old-fashioned Midwestern fish fry.
St. Louis Style Jack Salmon
By Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime
It’s time once again for Fish Friday Foodies and there is nothing like choosing a recipe that will start a good old-fashioned war. Some of you may have chosen your fighting words already, while others might wonder what the hubbub is all about.
It’s about the salmon. Or not salmon, as you might see it.
When the topic came up for this month, I just knew right away that I wanted to fry up some jack salmon. (There you guys go again, yelling at me that it’s not salmon!) Yes. I know it’s whiting. And some of the best kind of whitefish you can get- and what was my Mom’s favorite. She would never eat something like baked cod. She told me she had been tortured (this is from a child’s memory) having to take cod liver oil supplements and to her it smelled so atrocious, she claimed that for the rest of her life the smell of it made her want to gag. So she was always suspicious. And somehow, over the years, the suspicion of codfish (I used to think about Captain Hook when she spoke of it) spread to other types of fish as well, so long as they were baked.
But fried? Yes thank you please.
So yes, this kind of fish is what I grew up with. Besides, our family wasn’t that well off and jack salmon was notoriously cheap. For many years it was pretty much the only kind of fried fish I knew, unless Dad went fishing.
Yes kids. Back in those days you could actually eat what you caught.
Okay. I am still hearing rumblings about salmon, so let me tell you about that.
For much of the northern tier of the USA and also Canada, salmon is simply something like walleye pike, coho salmon or young chinook salmon. Not so in St. Louis and much of the midwest, where Jack Salmon is what we call Pacific Whiting. As you can imagine, it can cause a lot of confusion.
So besides being totally delicious and something from my childhood that I wanted to prepare, I could see that it might have some small importance to tell people out there who don’t already know. Know what, you ask? That if you order Jack Salmon in the midwest, y’all ain’t gettin’ any salmon. So pay attention to that and remember it.
And I do like my Jack Salmon (whiting) whole and on the bone. Around Cincinnati, in the local fish bars, I can get fried whiting (and some even call it Jack Salmon here as well) but for the most part, that fish is filleted. And I know that finding pacific whiting on the bone can sometimes be a challenge- but just so you know, you can fry it up the same way, with it requiring less cooking time.
I know some of you worry about the bones, especially with kids and whatnot. Kids have it hard enough as it is without having to deal with tiny bones the way something like trout has. But the bone in whiting is fairly firm, so the fish comes off easily. In fact, the fish is kind of torpedo shaped with a three pointed bone. The bone reminds me a little of catfish, but different. I managed it easily as a child, so it can be a good starter edition for kids learning how to eat fish with bones. They will encounter it sooner or later.
As well, I have always thought bone-in fish added more flavor, and to top it off, it does give that old-fashioned feel of having been to the lake on a summer’s day, fishing for dinner and frying the fish up as twilight fell. I have been there and did that many times myself. Those are good times with happy memories of endless summer days when everyone was forever young, immortal, and likely sunburned. But who cared? We were eating fish like kings. Who new such lowly fish could lift one so high?
Until next time-
St. Louis Style Jack Salmon
- 2 pounds whole, bone-in dressed whiting or jack salmon
- peanut oil
- tartar sauce, shrimp sauce, remoulade sauce, or ketchup (to serve; optional)
- sliced lemon (optional)
Fish Coating (Makes 4 cups):
- 1 1/2 cups yellow corn meal
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup lemon pepper seasoning
- 1/3 cup Cajun seasoning
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Rinse fish in cool salt water; make sure they are cleaned well.
- Stir together ingredients for coating.
- Set up two dishes, one with buttermilk, the other with ample fish coating, each large enough to contain the fish piece.
- Heat oil to no more than half way in a large deep skillet to 375ºF.
- Dip fish in milk, then in coating, and repeat. Rest each fish on a platter while you do the others and the oil heats.
- Fry fish pieces in hot oil (7-10 minutes bone-in; 5-7 minutes boneless fillets) or until golden and fish flakes easily.
- Serve with condiments and side dishes as appropriate.
Fish Friday Foodies
Pan or Deep Fried Fish
April at Angel’s Sweet Homestead
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