Seafood coatings
  |  First Published: September 2013

When either shallow frying your coated seafood or deep frying, it is always important to make sure that your oil is at the correct temperature. If you have a deep frying thermometer, heat the oil until the thermometer reads between 180°C to 200°C. A traditional test is to drop a cube of bread into the hot oil. If the bread browns in about a minute, then the oil is spot on for frying. Another trick to ascertain the temperature of the oil is to put the tip of a wooden chopstick into the oil. If tiny bubbles surround the tip of the chopstick, the temperature of the oil is approximately 200°C.

Whether you are shallow frying or deep frying, take care not to overcrowd the pan and thereby reduce the temperature of the oil too much. Doing so tends to steam the seafood and give you a soggy coating/batter.

Tip: Set your oven to the lowest temperature to keep the cooked seafood warm while you cook the remaining batches.

Cornmeal Bayou Coating

This coating is a simple mixture of cornmeal (an alternative to the cornmeal is polenta) with spices and herbs added to give a delicious hit of flavour. This coating is excellent on fish fillets, oysters, prawns and calamari rings. Po’boys (or poor boys) taste delicious using this coating. Basically, a po’boy is golden crumbed seafood piled into a split bread roll, with lettuce, sliced tomato and a generous dollop of tartare sauce.

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups cornmeal (or polenta)

1 tablespoon Bayou seasoning (recipe follows)

Coat your seafood in the beaten egg. Place the cornmeal and Bayou seasoning in a shallow dish and mix them together well. Dip the egg coated seafood into the cornmeal Bayou coating and pat to ensure that the cornmeal coating adheres to the seafood. Place the coated seafood on a plate in the refrigerator for a half an hour to firm up the coating before cooking.

Bayou Seasoning

Using ingredients available in Australia, this is my version of the southern USA concept. This seasoning will keep for a few months when stored in a well-sealed container in the refrigerator. Mix the ingredients together thoroughly. The quantities of spices will make approximately three tablespoons of Bayou seasoning.

2 tablespoons paprika (smoky is good)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

A good pinch of cayenne

Chardonnay Batter

This white wine based batter is delicious and delicate. Chardonnay batter can be used to coat fish fillets (wonderful with whiting fillets), prawns and oysters. You can crumb and fry the oyster meat and place a few of them on your Po’boys

As a variation, I don’t actually deep fry the oysters but top oysters in their half shell with a generous amount of crumbled batter. To achieve this, simply deep fry tablespoonfuls of this batter in hot oil. When golden brown, remove the crispy bundles of batter from the pan, drain on paper towel. Crumble the batter while it is still warm and sprinkle it on top of your oysters. The combination of salty, slippery and crunchy is irresistible.

Hint: You will need to make this batter approximately an hour before deep frying.

1 cup plain flour

1 1/4 cups chardonnay

1 egg, separated

1 clove garlic, finely grated (optional)

Freshly ground salt and pepper

Vegetable oil, for deep frying

Mix the flour, 1 cup of chardonnay, egg yolk, garlic (if using), salt and pepper in a large bowl until just combined. The batter will be a little lumpy at this stage. Allow the batter to stand for an hour before the next step.

After standing, stir the remaining (two nips) of chardonnay into the batter.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until soft peaks form. Gently fold the beaten egg white into the batter.

You are now ready to coat your seafood and deep fry until light golden.

Coconut Batter

This batter goes beautifully as a coating for squid or prawns (and fish fillets as well). For the beer in this batter I would suggest a pale ale style. The pale ale imparts a beautiful golden colour to the batter.

1 cup plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground salt

1 1/4 cups flat beer

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup shredded coconut

To make the coconut batter, first combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Then add the lightly beaten egg and beer to the flour mixture in the bowl. Stir the batter with a wooden spoon until it has just combined. Take care not to overmix because you will lose the lightness in the batter. Gently stir in half of the shredded coconut. Place the rest of the coconut in a shallow plate.

To coat your seafood, dip each piece of seafood in the batter. Roll the batter coated seafood in the remaining coconut before frying.

Tip: You can add 1 teaspoon of curry powder or a similar spice (for example the mix known as ‘Jamaican Jerk’) to the dry mix in the first step of this coconut batter.

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