Contrary to what you hear, oat bran is not passe. At least Gordon Leisch of Arlington, Va., hasn't given up on it.
He was a bit too modest to claim his fish loaf was tasty, but he didn't hesitate to extol its health aspects after recently whipping-up a batch for a fish fry at Fletcher's Landing on the Potomac near Washington. With stacks of crispy-brown fried fresh white perch on the table, he didn't expect his dish to get much attention.
But it did; everyone tried it, most returned for seconds (including this writer), and within 15 minutes the big serving plate was empty. The recipe, including the cooking, was simple and fast. And it certainly rates consideration among those catching panfish in these the early days of the fishing season.
Leisch didn't even use freshly caught fish. "It was clean out the freezer day," he said. "I thawed some white perch, catfish,
crappies, a walley, and a rockfish I caught in the Tidal Basin in downtown Washington last fall."
It would have been better, he said, with fresh fish, but no one was complaining, not even the grizzled old river rats who learned such sissified ingredients as oat bran, skim milk and cholesterol-free Egg Beaters were among the ingredients.
Let's face it, when a fellow is a biologist for the Department of Interior's Office of Environmental Affairs, one tends to concede he propably knows a bit about what's good for you. And, healthy food can taste good.
No frying is involved in Leisch's dish. To prepare the fish for the recipe, he boiled it, then flaked it from the bones. Incidentally, I prefer steaming fish for recipes that call for flaked fish, but that takes more time and is done in smaller batches. This recipe will serve six or eight people.
To make this dish, you can use leftover fish cooked in any method, baked, broiled, poached, grilled, yes, and even fried ` and maybe that oat bran gives you a little leeway for including the fried variety.
But, Leisch insists the fish should be of the white-fleshed variety - and the list is long. Other species that can be used include pickerel, pike, yellow perch, bluegills, sea bass, ling cod, porgies, trout, tautog, flounder and spot to name a few.
Fish for this dish need not be large; just big enough to boil - and only for long enough that the flesh flakes easily with a fork. Flake carefully; you don't want any bones mixed in.
I wouldn't hesitate to try the dish with bluefish, which should appear in the Chesapeake within a couple of weeks, maybe even carp, but with these two species I would add moderate portions of seafood seasoning, either red or black.
Matter of fact, you can let your imagination run wild and add a dash of Tabasco, soy sauce, or any spices and herbs preferred with fish. Maybe you'd like a bit of chopped celery.
But first, give the original recipe a try. You might not want to modify the recipe.
Leisch's Fish Loaf
2 pounds flaked fish
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 green pepper, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups oat bran
1 cup skim milk
1 carton Egg Beaters
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all together, shape into a loaf, and bake in a casserole dish in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. That's all there is to it.