This is gunna be a three-parter. One part recipe, one part product review, and one part local business promotion.

I’ll start with Lake Edge Seafood. A relatively new, unassuming fishmonger and restaurant in the Lake Edge strip mall off Buckeye and Monona. They took over the corner spot held by an upscale second-hand store and I hope they do well. The interior is nice; full of the sort of tables everyone gets for their new restaurant. It’s not overly ocean-themed (like a place that rhymes with Bled Blobster), and while it smells fishy, it’s a good fishy. Like, Gramma’s-been-cleaning-bluegill-all-afternoon-and-that’s-what’s-for-dinner fishy.

I stopped in last weekend, on a whim, to get some fish and found their deli case to be clean, crisp, well-stocked (for a Saturday, seeing that they’re closed Sundays and Mondays), and the wares were all very good-lookin’. I’d gone in the search for cod, but they didn’t have any, so I asked for enough tilapia (at $10/lb) for two hefty sandwiches. The guy said it was cheap enough that he’d recommend two fillets and we may end up with extra. I said that we’d contend with that challenge.

In order to get the scoop about bluegill (a fish that I love, adore, and wish there were more of), I asked if they ever had any on hand. He said if I called a day ahead of time, they could get some and that they’d have to order 5 lbs but wouldn’t be opposed to putting whatever I didn’t buy into the cooler for sale. Since then, I’ve been considering the possibility of putting in a 5 lb order, packing it all up nicely, and freezing it. I’ll let you know if this happens.

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop in and take a look around. They have some dry goods for sale as well. Unless I think of something else, I’ll move on to the second part: the product review.

I am both methodical and spontaneous in my decision-making. Contradictory, I know. Just ask everyone around me. Or don’t.

I had been considering, researching, vetting, questioning, and otherwise obsessing over air fryers for at least the last year… basically, since I purchased Gina’s Skinny Taste, One and Done and sorta skipped over the chapter that is specifically air-fried because I don’t really care for fried foods (crinkle-cut potatoes are the exception). I don’t care for fried foods because they make my stomach hurt and I can feel the grease hanging out in my mouth… I can feel the breading seep into and out of my pores… not super enticing, right?

So, I hemmed and hemmed (I don’t “haw” very well) and waited for a while. My hesitation came from a place of efficiency and practicality. “Why,” I said to myself, “do I need a Vitamix, an Instant Pot, a Pizzaz, two (that you know of) slow cookers, and an air fryer?” I contend that everything has a use, and some things can be stored because they are used less often. So, the Pizzaz went into a cupboard, and the tiny slow cooker found a home next to the huge one in the basement, which means I now had room for the air fryer.

But it wasn’t until one fried fish taco Tuesday when the results were delicious but they hung with me for a while, that I decided if fried fish tacos were going to be in my life, then it was air fryer time.

Still not completely convinced, I looked again at the ones I’d been eyeballing and all of the negative product reviews cited melting, smoking, and otherwise defective machinery. A friend suggested one of the Phillips’ models, but those were about three times more than I wanted to spend on something I wasn’t *absolutely* sure would make making food better.

With a 36oz Nalgene nearby for scale.

I finally settled on a $50 version: the GoWISE USA 2.75qt. According to my purchase history, I’ve had this for less than a month and I’m pretty sure we’ve used it three times a week, on average. It continues to impress, and I look forward to thinking up creative meals, but for now, the fried fish sandwiches using fresh tilapia from Lake Edge Seafood are the current stars of the show.

Now it’s FINALLY recipe time. This may seem simple, but sometimes simple is needed, just to see what you’re dealing with.

You’ll need two buns, some mayo, dijon, relish, leaves of romaine, slices of tomato, two tilapia steaks, an egg, a cup of panko, some cayenne, salt, and pepper. And the air fryer.

At $10/lb, these two came in a little over $6.

I usually make the tartar sauce first, both because it’s easy, and to get it out of the way and in the fridge so the flavors can marry. If you only need enough for these two sandwiches, I’d use 1/3 c mayo, 1 tsp squirt of dijon mustard, and however much relish you like your tartar to have. If you want to make extra, it’ll keep at least a week in the fridge; I mean, it’s mayo, mustard, and pickled stuff.

This lasted us four sandwiches and two breakfast fishes worth.

Now you need a small bowl for the egg, but big enough to sloosh the fish into. Also, grab a plate, the panko, and spices.

Egg wash, panko breading. It really cannot get any easier!

Onto the plate of panko, sprinkle a generous amount (2 tsp) of cayenne, a couple turns of ground pink Himalayan salt, and a couple turns of freshly ground peppercorns.

Mix it all up with a fork, whisk that egg, and preheat your air fryer. Most of the recipes I’ve seen suggest running it at temp for 5 minutes before cooking in it.

Dip the fish in the egg to coat on both sides and lay on the panko plate. I usually use my fingers to get panko on the top side so I’m not shaking the fish and getting panko all over the kitchen.

That’s a soon-to-be-tasty fillet under there.

Cook each piece separately (if you bought a smaller fryer) for about 7 minutes on the first side and 4 to 5 on the second, storing the first piece under a piece of foil on a plate. When the second piece is done, place the first on top and cook them together for 5 minutes so they’re both hot.

One fillet.
Two fillets, pieced.

Last night, we made the executive decision to cut down the middle of each fillet and that made it much easier to handle. It also revealed that an entire fillet per sandwich was a bit much, so we had the rest with eggs for breakfast.

Toast, heat, or otherwise warm the bun and top with tartar, romaine, and tomato slices. Place fish and serve with crinkle chips.

Fishy Sands

A good recipe for getting to know your air fryer.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2

Equipment

  • Air Fryer

Ingredients

Tartar Sauce

  • 1/3 c mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp sweet relish or more, if you're keen on it

Fishes

  • 2 tilapia filets or other whitefish in a hoagie shape
  • 1 c panko
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper powder
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 egg
  • 2 long buns hoagie, brat, etc.
  • 4 romaine leaves
  • 2 beefsteak tomato slices

Instructions

Tartar Sauce

  • Mix all ingredients together, store in the fridge until ready to use.

Fish

  • Preheat air fryer on 400º for 5 minutes.
  • Mix panko and spices together on a plate or other dredging vessel. Whisk egg in a small bowl.
  • Coat a piece of fish with the egg, and dredge in the panko mix. Place in the fryer for 7 minutes, flip and cook for another 5. Repeat with the second piece. Put the first piece back in with the second for another 5 minutes, checking frequently for good color.
  • Assemble buns, tartar sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, fish. Serve!