It’s no secret to long-time readers of this website that I have a deep-seated, lifelong obsession with the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish. I understand the consequences of voicing this passion publicly, understand that every time I mention the sandwich, another self-appointed “foodie” rolls his eyes in disgust, and goes back to the dictionary to find a new way to use the word “unctuous.”
Here’s the gamble: I’ve always been willing to bet that for every miso-scented prig who Alt-F4s this website in disgust, vowing never to return again and to instead get back to the very important business of name-dropping their butcher in unrelated conversation, there’s at least one other person cheering us on. Someone with a whole head full of common sense. Someone with $3.13 burning a whole in their pocket. Someone who knows that there are few moments more rewarding in life than the second you discover that your piping hot Filet-O-Fish was made fresh to order, just for you. It’s enough to change the trajectory of your whole day, enough to turn a lousy day at work or a fight with your wife into a tiny moment of personal reverie.
A soft, steamed bun, a crunchy mishmash of pollock, a heavy dose of tartar sauce, and an inexplicably half-melted slice of American cheese. It’s paradise on a bun, and I know that there are more people that accept that, than deny it.
For this sandwich, I wanted to honor the uniquely American combination of flavors, textures, and ingredients native to the Filet-O-Fish, and then ratchet them up to levels of gluttony that are enough to make you pick up the phone after it’s all over to call your dad and tell him what you’ve done. The thinking was simple: If minced pollock is good, an entire mahi-mahi, cod, or haddock fillet would be even better. We added a layer of lettuce and tomato to bring both moisture control and juiciness, respectively. Or friends in jolly old England inspired the addition of a layer of french fries, and the cheese sauce? Well, if a slice of processed, pasteurized American cheese was good enough for the Filet-O-Fish, an entire river of molten cheese sauce over the whole thing would be even better.
- 2 large fillets of your favorite fish (haddock, cod, or mahi-mahi all work wonderfully)
- 2 heaping tablespoons yellow cornmeal
- 2 heaping tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 heaping tablespoons masa harina (corn flour)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Peanut oil, for frying
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup shredded colby jack cheese
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 hamburger buns or sandwich rolls, split
- 2 leaves Boston bibb lettuce
- 4 slices tomato
- 2 cups frozen curly fries, cooked according to package directions
- Combine cornmeal, flour, masa harina, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder on a shallow plate, mixing well to combine. Dredge fish in cornmeal mixture, shaking off excess.
- Pour two inches of oil into a large, deep cast-iron or heavy-duty skillet; heat to 360.
- Fry fish, in batches, 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and set aside, or keep warm in a 225 oven.
- In a small skillet or saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Mix in flours, and whisk until combined and smooth. Slowly pour in milk, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and no lumps remain. Remove from heat, add cheese, and stir well to combine and until all cheese is melted.
- Combine mayonnaise, pickle relish, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Stir well.
- Layer each bottom section of bun with a dab of tartar sauce, a slice of lettuce, then two slices of tomato. Top with fish filet, then a handful of the cooked curly fries. Drizzle with as much cheese sauce as you'd like. You should have plenty. Top with the other half of the bun, and serve. Make as big a mess as you can.