Posted: 12:00 a.m. Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Frying fish is a family affair



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Frying fish is a family affair photo
Betty Hecht (left) and her daughter Bonnie Sierschula batter Icelandic Cod fillets to be fried at Friday night’s fish fry at Fenwick High School March 7, 2014, in Middletown. The Hecht family has been throwing fish frys for over 50 years. NICK DAGGY / STAFF

By Meredith Moss

Staff Writer

There’s nothing fishy about the Hecht family’s devotion to area fish fry events.

Since the late 50s and early 60s when patriarch Bob Hecht first introduced a small fish fry to the Knights of Columbus — 3730, he and other members of the Hecht clan have been carrying on their family’s fish fry tradition at churches throughout our region.

“Our season begins in late January and runs through the end of Lent,” says Tim Hecht, one of Bob’s nine children. “Over the early years our dad perfected a recipe which the family still uses to this day.

Tim says his dad prepared his children to take over the various roles prior to his death in 1999.

With mom — Betty Hecht — as the leader, each person in the family steps in to do the various tasks — setting up, cooking, putting everything away. Participants include children, spouses, grandchildren, cousins, family friends.

“Hecht’s Frying Fish is a name we adopted many years ago to give an identity to what we do,” Tim explains. “We are not a business. We are a family group that enjoys the privilege of volunteering our unique talents to run the kitchens for the various churches in support of the events designed to financially assist the children.”

Many of the churches, he explains, use the fish fry as a means of raising funds for athletic, cultural, and other programs for kids.

Tim says most of those involved began at high school age to earn service areas and help out.

“Pretty much all of the grandchildren are still involved either at the fry or their special job of loading all of the necessary supplies at Grandma’s house and unloading after the event,” he says. ” They help complete initial set-up and begin the breading process. At the end of the night they return to the event and reload everything into Grandma’s car and help her unload at home.”

Q. What’s special about making fish? What are some general tips on making fish?

A. People have an “it tastes fishy” thought about fish. But if you buy good fish, thaw it in running cold water for a while to get the fish oils out, it can be a very tasty entree.

We use North Atlantic Cod, frozen at sea. It is a good flaky fish that has a nice flavor to it.

Never overcook fish as it will become tough. It is versatile — it can be baked, fried or pan seared. Either way is good by itself or with some extra added butter, wine, breading or even Ted’s favorite, Mountain Dew.

Q: How many meals do you make?

A. We serve a little under 10,000 dinners a year. Some big, some small but all are fun events put on by some very good people. At our larger events, the family can prepare over 1,100 pounds. of fish and 750 pounds of fries serving over 2,000 people and at our smaller fries 150 pounds of fish with 120 pounds of fries serving over 300 people. Our food purchases are made through King Kold in Englewood and include frozen-at-sea North Atlantic Cod.

Q. What early memories do you have of cooking and food?

A. My Dad and his turtle soup, homemade sausages, steak cook-outs with the neighbors, spaghetti, and egg rolls. Cooking is a way of bringing people together to enjoy, not just the food, but the event it creates. Even something as simple as sitting down together for evening dinner is enjoyable. Give all the kids something to do and let the fun begin.

Q. Does your family get together for holidays, who cooks? What are specialties?

A. Our family is unique in that a family get together involves over 60 people. Each person has their own special recipe, whether it is Bob with his fried turkey, Teri with her green bean casserole, Mike with his mashed potatoes or Sarah with her awesome desserts, we all seem to bring it together for a good fun evening.

Q. What advice do you have to someone who is a beginning cook or baker?

A. Well, cooking is an art, not a science. By that I mean be creative and try different ingredients, spices and flavors together. I have made some pretty bad food in my day, but have come up with some pretty good recipes along the way. Clean out the fridge vegetable soup is always a favorite around our house.

Q. What do you enjoy about doing these events?

A. For us, each week is like a family reunion. With a family our size — Mom, her nine children, 25 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, and when you throw in a few cousins and friends, there are always plenty of hands to make these events happen.

It is also a privilege to work with the many volunteers at the local churches. There are many good people who set up the events for the benefit of the schools/parishes. We truly understand we are just one piece of putting together these fun events. Over the last 35 years we have come to know some great people at the local parishes who make our job much easier and enjoyable.

As the Hecht’s cousinFather Chris Worland of Ascension — who helps when his schedule permits — once said, “It’s a party, but it’s an effort. It’s almost like a ministry. You always get back more than what you put in. It’s a blessing to get together.”


Tips on Frying Fish from the Hecht Family

1) Buy good quality fish — we use North Atlantic Cod frozen at sea. Thaw in cold water.

2) Soak in a milk and egg bath of 1 egg to 1 1/3 cup whole milk for 20 minutes.

3) Bread in a cracker meal/corn meal mix of 2 cups cracker meal, 1 cup corn meal. Salt and pepper to taste.

4) Place on tray for at least 20 minutes to allow the breading to dry.

5) Cook in vegetable oil on medium to high heat (340 degrees is best if you have a food thermometer at home) for 2-3 minutes. The bubbles from cooking the water out of the fish will get smaller and there will be a crispness to the breading. Better to undercook than overcook because the fish will become tough.

We us a portable fryer at home which usually has a “chicken” setting. Cooking on the stove works but be careful with the oil as it can be dangerous.

6) Lightly salt and enjoy.

VIDEO: To meet the Hecht family, see MyDaytonDailyNews.com

MEET THE HECHTS at these upcoming fish fry events:

* St. Charles on David Road in Kettering , March 21, 7 p.m.-midnight

* St. Francis of Assisi on Wilmington Pike in Centerville, March 28, 6 - 11 p.m.

* St. Leonard K of C on Clyo Road in Centerville, April 4,. 6 - 11 p.m.

Prices are usually $13 presale, $15 day of the event. Most have carryout for $10.

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