I’ll have mine fried


Patsy Pridgen


Life Columnist

Sunday, April 7, 2019

When nutritionists recommend eating fish a couple of times a week, they’re not talking about preparing it my favorite way: fried.

While grilled salmon is tasty and canned tuna mixed with mayonnaise makes a decent sandwich, there’s something extra tasty about battered, deep-fried fish.

Not that I want to fry fish myself. Like cooking collards, that’s a sure way to smell up a house. I prefer to get my fried fish fix at other places. For example, it’s herring season, and the Cypress Grill is popular among lovers of this overgrown sardine, eaten bones and all. My husband and I recently made a special trip to Williamston for a supper that consisted of two crisply fried herring (the choice is one, two or three) with sides of slaw and boiled potatoes. Hushpuppies, iced tea and homemade lemon meringue pie rounded out this meal fit for a king — or a couple born and bred in eastern North Carolina.

The Cypress Grill lost its quaint home on the banks of the Roanoke River in Jamesville when the old shack of a restaurant burned to the ground last July. My husband and I had to search for the new location buried in a shopping center in Williamston. Despite no longer being located where the herring were once caught, the food is still a drawing card. Judging by a busy Tuesday night crowd of locals who all seemed to know one another, we are not the only connoisseurs of fried herring.

Eating herring is a seasonal experience for me. A far more common fried fish experience is the Friday night trout special at King’s Restaurant in Kinston. My husband and I will time our frequent trips to Emerald Isle so we can arrive at King’s during the supper hour. For the grand price of $8.99 each, we get a huge serving of fried trout — usually three large pieces — two sides, a bowl of hush puppies and tea. Once in a while in a diet-conscious moment, I’ll get a to-go box for my third piece of fish, heating it up in the microwave for lunch the next day. Usually, though, I take no prisoners.

Another fried fish experience I enjoy is at a friends’ house. Residing on the Rocky Mount reservoir, this couple does some serious fishing, especially the husband. Every so often, they have a fish fry that my husband and I are lucky enough to be invited to. Schools of crappy are cooked in a huge fish fryer outside and then placed in large paper grocery bags to absorb some of the grease and retain heat. The bags of fish are put on the table beside the usual fried fish sides, and we have at it. These fried crappy do require some deboning, and we all have a pyramid of fish skeletons by the end of the meal. At the last such gathering, our party of 10 plowed through close to 40 crappy.

Although dieticians may consider grilled, broiled or raw as healthier ways to eat fish, battered and deep-fried is how I prefer this entrée of one of my favorite eastern North Carolina meals.

Check out Patsy Pridgen’s blog at www.patsypridgen.com.