January 18, 2016
Fired Skate – simply made.
Wash the fish well. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt and pepper. Dip the fish pieces in the flour, coating the fish well with flour; transfer the flour-coated pieces onto a plate.
In a large frying pan, add enough oil to fill the pan by about a third. Heat the oil over high heat until hot. To test if oil is hot, dip the tip of a fish piece into the oil. If the oil starts to bubble around the fish, then the oil is ready. If not, then wait a little longer before adding the fish. If the oil is too hot, remove the frying pan away from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes or so; otherwise, the fish will burn in a matter of a few seconds, let alone cause a grease fire in your kitchen.
When the oil is hot, take one piece at a time and dip it again into the flour mixture; shake off excess flour, over the bowl, and then carefully place the piece of fish into the hot oil. Place the pieces in a single layer and avoid overcrowding the frying pan; otherwise, the pieces will stick to each other and they won't crust well: do 2 batches. Don't move the pieces; let them fry undisturbed for about 2 minutes, or until a very pale golden crust has formed on the bottom of the pieces. Some pieces of fish can curl, as soon as you place them into the hot oil and this is normal.
After 2 minutes of frying, turn the pieces over, reduce the heat to low-medium and continue frying them for about 12 -15 minutes, give or take a few minutes, turning the pieces over every 2 - 3 minutes to cook and brown evenly on all sides.
When cooked, the pieces should have a golden brown colour and be thoroughly cooked. Test the fish for doneness by tearing a piece apart; the meat should be completely white in colour and firm, not gelatinous; otherwise, continue cooking until cooked. Serve warm Skate with freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Skate, also known as Stingray, has gelatinous flesh that when cooked becomes a delicate white, yet, stringy meat, similar to that of lobster. It’s sold fresh, year round, in the fish department in most grocery stores. After you’ve selected your piece(s), it’s weighed and priced, by the fishmonger, according to its price per pound, or kilo: that’s the cost you end up paying for the fish. Ask the fishmonger to “clean” the Skate for you; to remove and discard the grey skin, and to then cut up the remaining fish into 1 1/2-inches wide strips, or so. The grey skin, which is inedible, is slippery and hard to remove, especially if you don’t have the proper tools; however, fishmongers do. “Some” fishmongers, though, don’t do this service for you, unless you tell them; therefore, don’t feel shy to speak up; otherwise, you’ll have a hard time trying to do this at home. The white skin on the fish isn’t removed, because it keeps the flesh intact during cooking; otherwise, the fish will fall apart. When all is said and done, a 2 1/2 pound piece of uncleaned Skate can yield about 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 pounds of edible fish; that’s what you actually get and pay for. This is one reason why fresh fish is expensive; you end up paying for fish as a whole before it’s cleaned.
What I particularly like about Skate, unlike most fish, is that there are no thin, prickly bones that can get caught in your mouth or throat. Its bones are thick and clearly visible, as well as removable; they look like connected and flattened pen ink tubes.
When frying flour-coated fish, you want to start cooking one side of the fish undisturbed (without moving it around the pan), on a high heat, at first, for 1 – 3 minutes, long enough for the flour to form crust. You then want to lower the heat to a little less than medium and then gently cook the fish all the way through to its centre, which takes about 12 – 15 minutes. If the fish is fried on high heat through out its total frying time, then the fish will brown too quickly and too much (it’ll look burnt) and the inside will be uncooked (raw): a no-no. A continuous ‘low’ heat, on the other hand, will cause the flour to absorb too much oil and will make the fish taste greasy, in addition to increasing the cooking time: again, not what is needed. I start to heat my cold oil on high heat, as to not waste time, and then I reduce the heat to a low-medium as soon as the flour has formed a crust on the fish.
I like to double coat the fish into the flour mixture to ensure a good crispy crust. When I’m about to lay them into the hot oil, I shake off the excess flour on the fish over the bowl and away from the oil; otherwise, the excess flour will settle in the oil, in the bottom of the pan. Depending on the oil used, the flour can burn (turn black) and start smoking, giving off a burnt taste to the frying fish, as well as an awful odour in your home. Some oils, on the other hand, don’t do this and are a pleasure to use; it’s a matter of ‘trial and error’.
When you’re done frying the first set of pieces, drain them on paper towels and then transfer them to a serving platter. Don’t cover up the pieces with foil paper to keep them warm, because the foil will retain heat and steam, which in turn, will make the coating soggy, instead of crispy. Continue with more pieces, in the same manner, frying them at the same temperature: low-medium.