Local fish fries reel ’em in

Published Apr 2, 2014 at 4:47 am (Updated Mar 28, 2014 at 4:40 pm)

Info Box: Pierogies

Dough: 4 cups flour

3 eggs

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons oil

¾ cup warm water

1 tablespoon sour cream (optional)

Filling: 4 cups potatoes

¼ stick butter

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup or more grated longhorn cheese

Cook potatoes, drain. Add butter, salt and cheese. Mash until cheese melts.

Place flour in a large bowl. Add beaten eggs, salt, oil and water to flour. Mix well. If dough is sticky, add more flour. Roll on floured surface. Cut circles with round cutter. Place a spoonful of filling in center. Fold over and pinch edges firmly together. Drop pierogies into boiling, salted water. Add a few drops of oil to water. Cook gently for about 8 minutes. Serve with melted butter and sauteed onions. Makes about 40 pierogies.

Even before the festive lights of Christmas were packed away, a buzz was stirring around our neighborhoods about Lenten dinners and fish fries. Weeks before Ash Wednesday, volunteers were being recruited and menus planned to offer the biggest and best-tasting fish in the South Hills. These much-anticipated Friday gatherings not only bring local families together, but those from communities at large. Most everyone is ready for not only a great meal, but the relaxing atmosphere and a great sense of fellowship.

Fantastic cooks, both men and women, eagerly get involved in making a variety of traditional meatless meals, many from classic ethnic recipes. In the South Hills, folks check out menus at different churches each week and are rewarded with a great meal.

Members of St. Joan of Arc Church in Library first planned fish fries in the 1980s, hoping to raise money for their building fund. The menu was simple, fried fish, shrimp and fries. With no dining room available, tables lined the church’s hallways to accommodate hungry diners. Today, more than 80 volunteers help prepare and serve not only the basic fish and shrimp, but Norwegian salmon, fish tacos and shrimp Po boys. “I joined the fish fry about five years ago and started using my own recipes,” said Mona Musser. “Friday favorites include the crab cakes and vegetarian vegetable soup.”

Side salads with homemade dressings complement fish and pasta dinners at St. Bernard Church in Mt. Lebanon. But it’s the homemade seafood gumbo served at its Gourmet Fish Fry that’s a favorite of many heading to Clairvaux Hall on Fridays. “I learned to cook while living in Mississippi and working in restaurants,” said Quintin Kittle. “Gumbo has always been a favorite in the South. I created my own recipe combining what tastes I liked at the restaurants where I worked. This is my seventh year making gumbo for our fish fry. It’s filled with shrimp, crab and oysters.”

More and more families head to the fish fry at St. Patrick Church in Canonsburg each week. It’s not only the fish and shrimp, but the home-cooked stewed tomatoes that have been a sellout on Fridays. This favorite fish topping of Father Jack Batykefer (St. Pat’s pastor), is his mother Georgine’s family recipe that has hungry folks coming back for more. Each week, diners request the warm tomato side dish not only as a topping on fish, but spooned on the homemade mac and cheese as well. Sadly missed at last year’s fish fry, the potato and cheese pierogies, homemade by church members, have returned to the menu.

“Dinner favorites here at St. Valentine Church are the baked cod in wine sauce with a parmesean/cracker topping and beer-battered fried cod,” said Cindy McKitrick. More than 650 diners head to Frawley Hall in Bethel Park for dinner each week.

Dining on great fish and other Lenten meals will continue at local churches for the next couple of Fridays. Check out neighborhood fish fries or try someplace new. You won’t be disappointed with the food or the fellowship.

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