Lenten season on the Liturgical calendar also marks the appearance of fish fries across the country.
Ted Hecht is something of an expert on the crispy, golden preparation and tradition that so many of us look forward to.
Hecht, 53, fries more than 5,000 pounds of flaky delicious fish each year, feeding thousands of people in southern Ohio.
The story behind it dates back to the 1950s when his father, Bob Hecht, who passed away in 1999, started tinkering with recipes for frying fish for Knights of Columbus Council 3730. He came upon a simple recipe that worked and eventually agreed to volunteer — along with his many family and friends — at a host of Catholic parishes south of Dayton.
“Since then we have been adding parishes and now do five big parishes and four small parishes,” said Hecht, an engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. “Dad always said that as long as we have the volunteers he did not mind organizing the fish frying food by buying the food and setting up the fryers. Since he passed away, my mother has kept going, and the kids just have taken over the rest.”
“As hard it is to admit, I have been doing this for over 30 years, and my mother is still the hardest worker in the family at 86 years old.”
Although he characterizes the recipe they use as “nothing special,” the humble Hecht, who volunteers and donates his time and talent just as his dad did helping to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Catholic parishes over the years, acknowledges the food has visitors lined up each year to enjoy it.
The preparation was made basic intentionally to highlight the main ingredient.
“It is a simple egg and milk wash soaking followed by breading the fish with a two-parts to one cracker meal and corn meal breading with a little salt and pepper,” said Hecht. “We think what makes it so good is the freshness of the fish. We buy high quality North Atlantic Cod, fresh frozen at sea and thawed out at the fry where it is cut and breaded. Very good stuff.”
Hecht says his weekends are booked. Some of his events coming up next:
• Incarnation Parish in Centerville on Friday, March 8
• St. Leonard’s Knights of Columbus Council 10215 and St. Charles Parish in Kettering on March 15
• St. Brigid Parish in Xenia on March 22.
“We hear that we make very good fish, and we do have folks that we see at about every fish fry over the years and follow the Hecht family,” he said. “Also in the end this is about the kids and raising money to support the schools. We love it.”
TED HECHT’S TIPS FOR FRYING FISH
1. Fresh fish is the best. Usually in Ohio that means it was frozen at some point, so freshly thawed is best.
2. Keep the breading simple so you can taste the fish.
3. Oil temperature should be 340 degrees.
4. Do not over-fry the fish. You need to leave moisture in the fish.