Crispy Grouper Sandwich

I love fish sandwiches. I even dig those Filet O’ Fish sandos at the golden arches (although it’s been many long months since I ate one of those). Something about the fried crunch of the batter, the mild sweetness of the fish, the slight tang of the tartar sauce, and the yielding softness of the bun working in concert appeals to me tremendously.

Grouper or baqueta makes a fantastic fried fish sandwich.

I’m especially fond of grouper, a mild white-fleshed fish quite common on the southern eastern seaboard. Grouper always brings to mind Florida, although if that’s because grouper is plentiful in Florida or because I ate a few grouper sandwiches as a kid there I’m not sure. But regardless, I think of hot days, the smell of sea and sand, refreshing lemonade, and a fried fish sandwich.

Grouper is not at all common here on the Pacific coast. I suppose it prefers warmer waters. However, in the last year I’ve noticed at Santa Monica Seafood the appearance of Baqueta, which apparently is a largish fish in the grouper family that’s caught off the Baja Coast and in the Sea of Cortez. Well, this fish is excellent — moist, mild, sweet, tender, delicious. And it makes a killer sandwich.

But if you can’t find baqueta or grouper, you certainly can use halibut, or cod, or pretty much any mild, white-fleshed fish.

In this recipe I use my Pretty Awesome Cheater Beer Batter, which is a snap. Just a box a store-bought tempura batter with some decent beer mixed in.

The bread I used is a “rodeo” roll from Belwood Bakery in Brentwood, but use anything you have. A soft French roll, kaiser roll, or even a good-quality hamburger bun would be perfect here. In the sandwich I have shredded iceberg lettuce, sliced tomato, watercress, and a very simple American-style tartar sauce.

As I’ve done in the past, when frying I recommend you use a counter-top fryer. They’re relatively cheap, very easy to use, and it takes a lot of the guesswork and fuss out of frying. It’s much safer than a big pot of oil on the stove!

For this recipe you’ll need:

Fresh grouper filets, about a 1/3 – 1/2 pound piece per sandwich, about 1/2-inch thick
Flour for dredging
Pretty Awesome Cheater Beer Batter, recipe below
A little salt
Simple Tartar Sauce, recipe below
Lettuce, Tomatoes, Watercress, Rolls

Now Do This:

Set up your fryer and heat to 355 degrees F.

Make batter. Dredge fish pieces in flour. Shake off excess and drop fish into batter. Carefully transfer battered fish with your fingers into the oil. Hold onto the fish and swirl it gently in the hot oil, being careful not to cook yourself, until batter begins to firm up, about five seconds. Release it gently. When it falls to the bottom of the fryer basket, give the basket a little shake with the handle to prevent it from sticking. Turning over occasionally, cook each fish piece until golden brown, about six minutes.

Drain on a wire rack. Season with a little salt. Now assemble your sandwich. I like to assemble it thusly: bottom half of roll, tartar sauce, lettuce, fish, tomato, watercress, tartar sauce, top half of roll.

You really should drink a beer with this sandwich!

Glorious!

Pretty Awesome Cheater Beer Batter:

  • 2 cups boxed tempura batter (pretty much any brand is fine)
  • one bottle of lager beer, such as a Mexican or Asian beer
  • cold water

Put tempura mix into a large bowl. Slowly add the beer, stirring slowly to incorporate. Add water slowly until mixture is about the consistency of thin pancake batter, but still a little uneven and lumpy. Let batter sit for 20 minutes.

Simple Tartar Sauce:
make a lot more than you need for one sandwich!

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 2 heaping tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • juice of half a lemon
  • pinch of salt, pinch of sugar, some cracked black pepper
  • a little bit of minced parsley, dill, and/or chives

Santa Monica Seafood
1000 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310-393-5244

Belwood Bakery
11625 Barrington Ct
Los Angeles, Ca 90049
310-471-6855

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