Life has been rough in our little corner of the world for the last few weeks. I've learned a lot about my fiance, his family, their traditions, and my own expectations. Mostly I've learned that they love each abundantly and I'm so blessed to be a part of their family.
Quite a few Yup'ik and Native Alaskan traditions differ greatly from what I was expecting, but one thing is the same between the South and here - crisis are best confronted with copious amounts of food.
Several times as the food was being planned, Nana's beer battered salmon was mentioned. However for various reasons, and various lack of familiarity with deep frying, no one was jumping in to make it. Yeah, I'm from the South, I may repress most of my emotions publicly, but I can deep fry anything. Give me that recipe.
And so I made Nana's beer battered salmon. It is odd for someone from a landlocked state to fry up salmon. Salmon is precious/expensive where I grew up, but not up here. Here we have an entire freezer full, as do most people we know. Even vacuum-packed straight from the river, salmon loses moisture and usually requires a sauce/marinade when you cook it later. Frying adds back in that moisture in a most delicious way.
My initial cooking instinct was that this batter was too thin. I decided to test out a few pieces before thickening it up. Glad I did because it was perfect. However it lacked seasoning. The aunts informed me that Nana didn't use much seasoning beyond salt (probably a reflection of what was available in Alaska when she was learning to cook rather than a personal choice to eschew spices). I added in Nature's Seasoning Blend
(from Morton's) because it is my go to quick and safe choice, about 2 teaspoons worth. I'll be playing with different seasoning choices in the future. I know I'll be making this again and again.
Now for the cooking (and this is my first time food blogging so be kind). First gather your ingredients:
I am using a Pyramid Thunderhead IPA because we bought a mixed case of Pyramid beers at Costco and neither of us really like IPAs. It has been also featured in a number of beer breads. The aunts let their beer go flat first, I dumped mine from glass to glass until most of the foam was gone. I deep fry in regular vegetable oil - the big container from Costco.
Have someone helping you (pictured is my David, you'll have to get your own helper) cut the salmon into bite sized chunks:
Please note that his bite size chunks are really more two-bite sized chunks. They were perfect that size. When he is finished with that, have your helper finish up the remaining beer. (One beer is a bit less than two cups needed four a double batch so he gets about 2/3rds of the second beer.)
While he's doing that, mix up your batter:
I made a double batch of beer batter and we had plenty left over after cooking up three large filets. The egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks and folded in at the last moment before frying.
Next set up your frying space.
I am a big fan of getting everything set up and ready to go before you turn on that oil. When you're frying, that is all that you need to focus on. On the right, beer batter, salmon chunks, and sliced potato (for testing if the oil is hot enough). Middle: fry pan, splatter guard, oil thermometer (the less tasty but more accurate way of testing if the oil is hot enough), metal tongs and metal slotted spoon. When I was young and stupid, I melted a plastic spoon in frying oil. Left side: baking sheets lined with a triple thickness of paper towels to put fried food.
And it is time for the fun - start frying!
You need to keep the oil at around 360. As I was heating up the oil, I tested it with a sliced potato. That's delicious (especially with a light sprinkle of the seasoning salt) but not the most helpful. The thermometer helps you maintain a steady temperature. It is also acceptable at this point to grumble about using an electric stove and make your partner promise to never buy another house without a gas stove in the kitchen. Flip things over periodically so they cook evenly. Try not to burn yourself too badly.
Always I let the fried things cool on a triple (minimum) thickness of paper towels. Often I pat the top with another set of towels. This absorbs some of the grease and makes them healthier (probably not, but it does make them less greasy).
Nana's way of doing this had apparently been to cook them ahead of time, store in the fridge, and then pop in the oven to reheat. I did so as well. Worked marvelously though of course fresh is best.
Also we had a lot of batter left over. So I beer battered some carrot sticks (out of the organic Full Circle
box which I thinks makes them a health food) you see those in the smaller pans. Those were fantastic and vegetarian friendly. I was considering beer battering many other things before common sense reasserted itself. Beware once you start frying, it is hard to stop. I'm glad I didn't remember we had mini snickers left from Halloween or there might have been beer battered snickers.
And if you made it through all of that - the recipe almost exactly as I received it):
David's Nana's Beer Batter
2 egg whites (beaten to stiff peaks)
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup beer (flat-ish)
Optional: other seasonings, see note above, use your own best judgment
Mix ingredients (I used a whisk). Fold in stiff egg whites just before deep frying.
Moral of the story: everyone likes fried things and food is the universal language of love.