Now most anglers treat the humble Whiting as either a nuisance fish or a blank saver. To me, I have no problem with them. They keep me busy with bites throughout the colder months and are extremely versatile when it comes to cooking. I’ve created numerous dishes from them including, fish pie, deep fried goujons, whiting fish cakes and more. But my favourite and easiest way has to be the Florida Style Fish Sandwich.
At certain times of year Whiting can be an absolute menace. They are, like many fish, a shoal fish and sometimes those shoals can be huge. On many occasion I have been fishing big worm baits on pennel rigs and had a fish on each hook. Whiting can grow to over seven pounds, with the British boat caught record 7lb 6oz and the shore record of 4lb 8oz.
Shore caught fish are often quite small and range from a couple of ounces to around the pound mark. The size limit that you can legally take home is currently 27cm and is an ideal size for making a delicious tender fish sandwich.
On a recent autumn trip to the Essex coast, I managed to catch half a dozen fish over this size and knew exactly how I was going to cook them. If you’ve been to the States then you’ll know that a lot of restaurants have a fish sandwich on the menu. Usually Grouper, Snapper or Mahi Mahi. At this moment in time we haven’t been allowed to travel to the USA for nearly eighteen months due to Covid restrictions and was longing for a fish sandwich.
Coming to the terms that I wasn’t going to see that side of the pond for at least another six months I decided to take matters into my own hands. Could I produce something that replicates it?
Firstly you need the correct bread. Brioche Burger Buns. Brioche is a sweeter, tastier bread and has added ingredients like eggs and butter. It is a delicate bread but still holds together well. I’ve used burger buns but they seem to disintegrate as you are eating them.
Most supermarkets sell them and my recommendation is to get the best you can afford. Its not expensive buy worth every penny. I’d put a lot of effort catching the fish so why spoilt it to save 50p on the bun.
You will need approximately one minimum size Whiting per sandwich. As the fish are so small I leave the skin on. This helps keep the flesh together and adds a little crispy texture to the pallet. First of all gently descale the fish under fresh running water. Because of there size I use the back of a knife rather than my descaler tool. At this point you can remove any pin bones by using some tweezers or small pliers. Voila! You’re now ready to season your fillets.
What I like to do is nothing more than give the fish a dusting of seasoned flour. I like a little flour added to the mix as it helps bond the delicate fillets together. You can just use seasoning but the fillets will break apart too easy. If you have a go using Grouper or Snapper you will only need to use the seasoning and not the flour as the fish is much firmer. The recipe is nothing complicated just some Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and some blackened Cajun Swartz seasoning to add a little kick.
- 1/2 cup plain flour
- 2 heaped teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons Swartz Blackened Cajun seasoning
- For extra kick you can add some chilli flakes or chilli powder
Take your fillet and lay it on it in the seasoning mix. Gently move it around for a second or two then flip it over and repeat the process. Then gently shake off any residue and place on a dry plate ready for cooking.
Because the fillets are so small they do not need long in the pan. Set a large frying pan on a medium heat with a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil. Once it has reached temperature, carefully lay the fillets in the pan and cook for ninety seconds then flip over for another minute. Lay them on a paper towel to remove any excess oil and they are ready for your sandwich.
For me there is no tastier and easier to make sauce than Florida Style Fish Sauce. Its easy and quick to make and enhances the taste of the fish perfectly. All you need is some Mayonnaise, Ketchup and some Cajun seasoning.
Mix together three heaped tablespoons of Mayo and two heaped tablespoons of tomato ketchup. I like to mix them together until they have turned an orangey colour. Then keep add some Cajun seasoning that suits your pallet. You can also add some chilli for more heat or some finely chopped gherkins for a little crunch. It’s a simple but a really tasty sauce that can also be used with beef and chicken burgers.
Take the bottom of you brioche bun and add some of the fish sauce. If you like cheese you can add a little cheddar on top of the sauce. Then lay a leaf of lettuce on top. Then add your pan fried whiting and add the top of the bun. There you have it, “catch and cook” Florida Style Fish Sandwich.
If you want some tips on fishing for Whiting why not take a look at my fishing trip on the River Crouch in Essex then CLICK HERE