It used to be notoriously difficult to cook with American IPA—it was bitter and challenging—but the continuing evolution of this growing family of styles has created new opportunities for compatibility in the kitchen. Meanwhile, the arrival of new, fruit-forward hop varieties—and brewing techniques that amplify their flavors in beer—have provided the equivalent of all-new ingredients for the beer-wielding home cook.
Chicken-Fried Whitefish Sandwich with Sumac Mayo
Culinary sumac is a wild bush with reddish-purple berries found throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. The ripe berries are picked, dried, and ground into a coarse powder. Sumac is tart, tangy, and fruity and a main ingredient in the Middle Eastern spice blend Za’atar. Here, it spices up a mayonnaise for a tasty fish sandwich.
- 2 cup (473 ml) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (237 ml) cornstarch
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 Tbs iodized salt
- 1 egg
- ½ cup (118 ml) milk
- 2 fl oz (59 ml) hazy-juicy pale ale or IPA
- 2 whitefish pieces (cod, halibut, seabass), about 4 oz (113 g) each
- ½ cup (118 ml) mayonnaise
- 1 tsp ground sumac spice
- 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- Oil for frying
- 2 kaiser rolls, 4–5″ (10–13 cm) diameter, split horizontally
- 4–5 leaves Boston (Bibb) lettuce
- 4 slices fresh tomato
- 2 slices red onion
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, paprika, black pepper, and iodized salt, and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, milk, and beer, and whisk until smooth. Place the fish pieces in the egg mixture and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sumac spice, lemon juice, and kosher salt. Mix well and set aside.
Heat the frying oil to 350° (177°C) in a fryer or in a skillet on the stovetop. Make sure to have enough oil to cover the fish. Once the oil has reached temperature, remove the fish from the egg mixture, shaking off the excess. Dredge the fish pieces in the flour mixture, making sure to coat well and shake off any excess flour. Fry the fish until golden brown, about 4–5 minutes. The internal temperature should read 165°F (74°C). When the fish has finished cooking, remove the pieces from the oil to a plate or paper towel and allow the excess oil to drain.
Toast the kaiser rolls and build the sandwiches from the bottom up: Place the lettuce on the bottom of the roll, top that with the tomato, then the onion. Place the fish on top of the onion. Place 1–2 Tbs of the sumac mayo on the fish and finish with the top of the roll.
Serve with a salty side such as dill-pickle potato chips.
Beer Tasting Notes: IPA traditionalists may lament that the hazy-juicy trend has left bitterness behind, but amateur beer-chefs can rejoice: That bitterness always tended to concentrate in the cooking and present a problem on the palate. In this case, a soft and light but bright profile is just the thing for a delicate yet tangy fish preparation. Whether a hazy pale ale or juicy IPA, its aroma and flavor should deliver clear, expressive tropical and citrus hop notes. Those notes find fast friends in the lemon and tart sumac, brightening the fish and complementing the spices—deepening the flavors, not overwhelming them.
Beer Suggestions: Bell’s Official (Comstock, Michigan), Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing (Chico, California), Roaring Table Tuba Solo (Lake Zurich, Illinois), or your favorite local hazy IPA.