There are two Black National Anthems. I’ve known this since I was a child growing up in Washington, DC. Not knowing either of the two is enough to get your Black card officially revoked, and not just in the party game. The first anthem is the official original, “Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing,” penned by James Weldon Johnson with music by his brother, Rosamond Johnson. (If you know the second and third verse by heart, you get bonus Black points.)
The second Black National Anthem is undeniably the cookout classic “Before I Let Go” by Frankie Beverly and Maze. In fact, if you host a Black gathering and this song doesn’t play, did it actually happen? This is the song you recognize within those first six syncopated hits and Frankie’s wailing “whooooooooooaaaaaaooooohhh!” And if by the next six hits and the opening guitar solo you’re not up on your feet fixing yourself a plate, you must be preoccupied doing the electric slide. Or maybe you’re doing both. This is official fish fry music.
I know it’s not the healthiest thing to eat, but there isn’t a person alive that can resist a nice crispy piece of fried fish. While whiting is usually the cheapest option, I’m flexible on the fish, as long as it’s fried hot and hard with plenty of hot sauce to go on it (no, thank you on the tartar sauce.)
1 ½ lbs of firm white fish fillets (whiting, cod, haddock, trout, even catfish works well)
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup milk or buttermilk (you can make buttermilk out of regular dairy milk by just adding a small amount of vinegar or lemon juice and allowing it to curdle)
1 tbsp hot sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp Old Bay
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried parsley
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
⅓ cup cornmeal
⅔ cup flour
(through trial and error, I’ve realized that the appropriate ratio of flour to cornmeal is roughly 2:1)
oil, for deep frying
Optional: 1/4 cup water or beer, for wet batter
Rinse fish in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. (If you’re making nuggets, slice the fish into 1 ½ inch wide, 3 inch long pieces.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper and let sit in egg, milk/buttermilk and hot sauce combination. Set aside.
Combine all the remaining dry ingredients and mix well. (Here lies the ultimate culinary choice: Wet Vs. Dry Batter. If you’re going to make a crunchier, wet batter, add the water -- or beer -- until the mixture becomes smooth and can coat the fish, just beyond stickiness. I personally prefer dry.)
In a dutch oven or deep fryer, fry the battered pieces in hot (350º - 375º) oil for about 5-6 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Remove from oil and let drain on paper towels, or on a wire rack for at least 6 minutes.