Ken Klauser keeps thinking he'll get the catfish filets, but he can't seem to resist the whole catfish.
"There's just something about it," Klauser said. "The whole catfish sells way more, but the majority of my family takes walleye."
Klauser chairs the annual fish fries at St. Dominic School and helps with the long-standing Lenten tradition at St. Anthony Church. The Men's Society sponsors the fish fries, but the St. Dominic PTO and parishioners step up to help.
The fish fries start the Friday night after Ash Wednesday each year and alternate between the school and church. This year's fish fries are March 8, March 22 and April 5 this year at St. Dominic and March 15, March 29 and April 12 at St. Anthony with serving from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at both locations.
The meals feature whole catfish, catfish filets or walleye and three sides – a choice of American potato salad, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, applesauce, french fries or only at St. Dominic, German potato salad – and dessert.
"We each use our own recipes for breading the fish. The macaroni, baked beans, potato salad and coleslaw all are different recipes," Klauser said. "Before the merge between St. Dominic and St. Anthony, each had their own group that did the fish fries. To stick with that tradition, we didn't want to mess with any of the recipes developed by the early parishioners."
Parishioners and school families also supply homemade desserts for the fish fries, with favorites including layered Chocolate Lush and Coconut Cream Pie topped with toasted coconut.
"The desserts are definitely a highlight," Klauser said.
Any kind of homemade pie is popular, and "some people go out of their way and make meringue pies," St. Dominic PTO President Penny Weiman said. "We have a variety, and we have stuff for the kids – cookies, brownies, some cakes."
The fish fries typically serve 800-plus meals each week using around 400 pounds of walleye, 300 pounds of whole catfish and 125 pounds of catfish filets. Work begins on Wednesday to clean and thaw the fish, peel potatoes and prepare the sides to have everything ready by Friday afternoon.
"I'm going to say there's as many as, and I won't be wrong, 70 to 100 volunteers at each fish fry to make it come off. It's something they enjoy doing," Klauser said. "At any given time in the kitchen during serving there will be several people putting baked beans in the oven, making macaroni, breading fish, counting fish so we don't make too much ahead. We continue to bring fresh fish as fast as we can fry to the carryout line and serving line. It's always fresh, nice and crisp."
Carryouts are available at each location. At St. Dominic, carryouts account for nearly half the sales, with students and their parents working the drive-through and filling orders with well-practiced precision.
"Everybody knows their job from year to year, and people just show up to do their job," Weiman said. "It's delicious. They do a wonderful job frying the fish and with all the sides. It's a great meal."
2 sticks melted butter
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons sugar
Combine ingredients. Press crust into bottom of a 9x13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, then keep at room temperature.
1 cup powdered sugar
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup Cool Whip
Mix together, and spread over the crust while it is still warm but not hot.
2 small boxes chocolate pudding mix
3 cups milk
1 cup Cool Whip.
Combine together until mixture is thick. Pour over cream cheese and cool. Add Cool Whip over top.
Coconut Cream Pie
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
3 cups half and half
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup sugar
½ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup Cool Whip
Spread coconut on a baking sheet. Roast flaked coconut in a 350 degree oven for five minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown.
In a medium saucepan, combine half and half, eggs, sugar, flour and salt; mix well. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly for two minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in ¾ cup toasted coconut and vanilla. Reserve remaining coconut for the top of the pie.
Pour the filling into the pie shell, and chill until firm, about four hours. Top with Cool Whip and reserved toasted coconut.