One of the silver linings from social distancing is having that extra time (no matter how small) to check in with ourselves. That can be terrifying for some of us (all of us?), but when you nix the happy hours and dinner parties, hours can stretch before you. Whether it was anxiety-driven, or the result of some much-needed free time, we got ourselves some hobbies.
There was the sourdough, the immaculate TikTok dance clips and the tie-dying. My husband took up fishing, and it is a joy to watch. To see his truck skid into our driveway at 11:00 pm. Robert jumping out gleaming with a hefty catfish in his bucket. Or watching him teach our son how to cast a line while we picnic.
This means we're getting a lot of fresh fish at home. Scales, eyeballs and all. Whether you have taken up fishing, or see a great selection at the market, don't be intimidated by the sight a whole fish. One of my favorite meals in the world is a Thai dish, with crispy bass (fried whole) and chili sauce. Before my husband took up fishing, I thought I was at the mercy of the restaurant. I'm happy to say I'm not.
And a whole fish is worth the extra couple steps. You'd need a scaler and a fillet knife to keep the process hassle-free. A large pan will allow you to fry it whole. At home, we use our wok. Thankfully it comes with an oil drain rack, which keeps fried fish light instead of greasy. Make diagonal cuts on the fish (close to the bone), allowing the oil to cook the fish thoroughly. A temperature probe is necessary for the oil, and 375 is perfect temperature. Use a wide fish turner or risk breaking the fish. Last but not least, find a handsome, large platter to present it on.
A full fish, when plated, is as elegant as it is earthy. It elevates the whole meal, especially if an unforgettable sauce is drizzled down the middle. Here's a link to my favorite recipe. So go ahead, pick up a striped bass at the market, or spend a day fishing. One way will save you time, the other way will save you money and allow you to enjoy a day on the water. Either way, the results will be delicious.