When it comes to Lenten meals, thoughts often turn to the popular fish fry.

Churches, VFW posts, civic, religious and other organizations regularly present fish fries on Fridays during Lent and often other Fridays during the year. The food event offers a great way for people following the Lenten practice of abstaining from meat to join others for a meal.

It's also a way for neighbors and the community, in general, to gather for lunch or dinner.

According to fishfrychronicles.com, there is a definite history of fish fries in the U.S.

"While the fish fry is primarily an American tradition, its roots can be found in the Germanic culture of the Midwest," the website states. "The tradition is strongest in Wisconsin, where there are many German Catholics who enjoy fishing. The fish fry mostly took off in the 1920s and 1930s, when pubs were unable to sell beer during Prohibition. Fried fish dinners were seen as a very profitable source of new income, as fish was both plentiful from the many lakes in the state, as well as relatively low cost to make a dinner out of fish."

Local fish fries often include a variety of seafood, including perch, shrimp, walleye, tilapia and more. Other items such as potato side dishes, pierogi, cabbage rolls, desserts and other creations are usually added to the mix. For non-seafood eaters, one can often find chicken or other meatstuffs on the menu, too.

The following list offers just a sample of fish fries in the Region. Let The Times know of any other fish fries that we haven't featured.

  • Bishop Noll Institute will present Lenten fish fry dinners from 4:30 to 7 p.m. March 16 and 23. Diners should enter Door C at the school, 1519 Hoffman St. Dinners include choice of entree, salad bar/sides, dessert and beverages. Prices are $8 for pollock, $9 for ocean perch, $11 for shrimp and $11 for mixed plate (pollock, perch and shrimp). For more information, call 219-932-9058 or visit bishopnoll.org.
  • Descent Of the Holy Spirit Fish Fry Fridays, 3 to 7 p.m. Fridays through March 30 at Descent of the Holy Spirit Orthodox Church, 545 E. 77th Ave., Schererville. Doors open at noon on March 30 with an Easter bake sale. Visit holyspiritschererville.com and click on fish fry Fridays for menu and pricing. Eat in or carry-out. Credit cards and debit cards accepted. Call 219-864-1529. Among dinners are fish, shrimp, catfish, cabbage rolls, lake perch and more.
  • Fish and Shrimp Fry, 4 to 7:30 p.m. every Friday at St. Michael the Archangel Church, 6629 W. 133rd Ave., Cedar Lake. All-you-can-eat fish is available. Other dishes include shrimp; chicken; pierogi; and other dishes. Call for prices and more information. Call 219-374-7626.
  • Fish Fry Friday will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Fridays through March 30 at St. Elijah Serbian American Hall, 8700 Taft St., Merrillville. There will be lake perch, cod, shrimp, pierogi and more. Call 219-769-4375.
  • The Friday night fish fry crew of the Westville United Methodist Church will hold fish fries from 4 to 7 p.m. every Friday through March 30. Dinner includes fish, shrimp or chicken strips, choice of potato, coleslaw or mac and cheese or applesauce and drink. Cost is $9 for adults and $8 for senior citizens. Children's meal is $5. Call 219-785-2314.
  • Knight Council 12149 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 356 W. 700 N., Valparaiso, will hold an all-you-can-eat fish fry 4:30 to 7 p.m. every Friday until March 23. Choice of traditional style fried fish, Cajun-style, lemon pepper or oregano baked fish. Shrimp can be added to any dinner. This includes a cold salad bar and hot side dishes featuring cabbage and noodles. Desserts, coffee and soft drinks available. Children 6 and younger eat for free. Call 219-759-2400.
  • The Knights of Columbus will hold Lenten fish fries from 4 to 7 p.m. at these locations: Friday, St. Edward's Church hall, 216 S. Nichols St., Lowell; March 16, St. Elizabeth Seton Church hall, 509 W. Division Road, Valparaiso; March 23, St. Edward's Church hall, 216 S. Nichols St., Lowell.
  • Knights of Columbus St. Thomas Council 1347 in Hobart will hold fish fries from 4 to 7 p.m. through March 23 at St. Bridget Parish Center, 107 N. Main St. Dinners include smelt, pollock, ocean perch, butterfly shrimp, catfish, lake perch. Call 219-670-1263.
  • St. John VFW Post 717 will hold fish fries from 4 to 7 p.m. Fridays through March 30 at 10400 W. 93rd Ave., St. John. There is ocean perch for $12, shrimp for $13 and a combo for $13. The auxiliary will be baking desserts. Call 219-365-8224.
  • St. Kevin Church will present An Evening of Faith, Family and Fish from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 16 at St. Kevin Church, 10509 S. Torrence Ave., Chicago. Cost is $7 a plate, which includes fish, salad, mashed potatoes, corn, dinner roll and dessert. Pop or water costs $1 extra. Stations of the Cross will be said at 6 p.m. Funds raised through the event will benefit the new Elevator Fund. Call 773-721-2563.
  • Moose Lodge 1357 has a fish fry from 4:30 to 7 p.m. every Friday at 108 Indiana Ave., Valparaiso. There are fish, shrimp dinners, hamburgers, chicken fingers and fries throughout the whole year. To phone in orders, call 219-462-2311.
  • Hammond Mohawks Lenten Fish Fry, 4 to 7 p.m. Fridays through March 30 at Hammond Mohawks, 4040 Calumet Ave., Hammond. Lenten Fish Fry features various items including all-you-can-eat pollock with sides. Plated dinners include  walleye, lake perch, fried shrimp, saute Cajun shrimp with rice, frog legs and more. Call 219-933-9823 for prices and more information.
  • Morgan Township Volunteer Fire Department will present a fish fry from 4 to 7 p.m. March 16 at 291 S. Ind. 49, Morgan Township. Call 219-462-1665 for advanced tickets that are $11 for seniors and adults and $5 for ages 5 to 12. Advanced ticket holders are asked to arrive by 5 p.m. to guarantee their tickets.
  • Msgr. Connelly Council 1700 and Columbian Club of East Chicago will present a Lenten Fish Fry and all-you-can-eat soup and salad bar from 4:30 to 7 p.m. through March 23 at 1104 Knights of Columbus Drive, East Chicago. Fish dinners include lake and ocean perch, shrimp, frog legs, walleye, baked tilapia, salmon, crab cakes and fish tacos. Call 219-398-6700.
  • St. Andrew's Fish Fry & Pierogi Dinner, 4 to 6:30 p.m. Fridays through March 23 at St. Andrew's Ameling Hall, 801 W. 73rd Ave., Merrillville. All you can eat fish and pierogi dinners will be served. Dinners include fried or baked fish, pierogi, coleslaw and choice of potato. Call 219-769-8534.
  • St. Maria Goretti Church Fish Fries, Fridays during Lent except for Good Friday, March 30 at Casa Maria Banquet Hall, 500 Northgate Drive, Dyer. Cost is $13 for adults; $6 for children. Call 219-865-5482 for menu and more information.

If you'd like to make a Lenten fish recipe at home, try the following dishes.

Pan-Fried Fish From McCormick

Pan-Fried Fish

1 pound fresh or frozen fish fillets, 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons water

2/3 cup cornmeal or fine dry breadcrumbs

1/2 teaspoon salt

Black Pepper, Ground

Shortening or cooking oil for frying

DIRECTIONS: Thaw fish, if frozen. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into four serving-size pieces, if necessary. Measure thickness of fish. In a shallow dish, combine egg and water. In another shallow dish, stir together cornmeal (or breadcrumbs), salt and pepper. Dip fish into egg mixture; coat fish with cornmeal mixture.

In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch melted shortening (or oil). Add half of the fish in a single layer, frying on one side until golden. (If fillets have skin, fry skin side last.) Turn carefully; fry until second side is golden and fish begins to flake when tested with a fork. Allow 3 to 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm in a 300°F oven while frying remaining fish.

From McCormick

Fried Squid From Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

Fried Squid with Feta Cheese, Almond and Arugula Pesto

8 squid (about 8 ounces), cleaned, cut into rings

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup (4 ounces) almonds, peeled and toasted

1/2 cup arugula leaves, chopped and firmly packed

1 clove garlic, peeled

1/2 tablespoon paprika

3/4 cup (6 ounces) olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup (6 ounces) Wisconsin feta cheese, crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 eggs, beaten

2 cups dried bread crumbs

4 cups vegetable oil

1/2 lemon

DIRECTIONS: Marinate squid rings in buttermilk, refrigerated, for 2 to 6 hours. In blender or food processor, puree almonds, arugula, garlic and paprika into coarse paste. Slowly add half the olive oil while processing. Scrape down sides of bowl. Slowly add remaining olive oil and the lemon juice. Scrape pesto into bowl; mix in crumbled feta. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Pat squid rings dry on paper towels. Dip rings in flour, then egg, coating thoroughly, and then in bread crumbs. Heat vegetable oil in large saucepan to 375°F. Gently place breaded squid rings in oil; fry until golden brown, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Do not overcook or squid will become tough. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.

Squeeze a little lemon juice over squid; season with salt and pepper. Serve with pesto on the side.

From Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

Lenten fare: Get creative with these 8 meatless recipes