Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Fish n' Chips

Fish n' Chips is synonymous with England. That and curry, but fish and chips was first. I've been to a chippy (a fish and chips shop) in England a couple of times and just loved it! Fish and chips in the US is just not the same, it's really hard to find a place that even comes close to a British chippy. In England, the fish fillets we had were huge, about ½ pound each! Over here, all the "fish and chips" I've ever had or seen have been smaller and more like fish sticks.

My boyfriend tells me that plaice is the traditional fish to eat for fish and chips, but his step-father says it is cod. Regardless, I saw cod at the market, so that is what we had.

One thing I was really confused about on one of my trips to England is that I knew they called "fries" "chips" but I saw some restaurants advertise french fries. I found out that, in England, that "french fries" are the thinner version, more like you would get at McDonald's or Burger King. "Chips" are like what we Americans call "steak fries." Chips are "chipped off the potato" instead of "being Frenched" or "being cut in the French manner."

As for the debate of whether to do beer batter or not, I found a recipe from a woman who was from Yorkshire that was for beer batter. I also see boxes of batter at the supermarket for beer batter, so I figured it was traditional. My boyfriend said that he didn't think that he ever had a beer battered one, and I looked online and it seems as though only some places do beer batter. It makes sense since chippies are relatively inexpensive and beer would raise the price.

We both loved this meal, although neither of us are beer fans so I don't think I'll do a beer batter next time. There was just too much of a beer taste for us. I used a Newcastle Ale for the beer since that is from England.

We both LOVED the chips! I didn't have a mandoline or Vslicer, so I just used my chef's knife, which was perfectly fine for chips. I soaked them in water for about an hour to get rid of some excess starch and then did a double frying method. The chips turned out perfect! Lee couldn't stop eating them. I thought I made too many chips (six or seven russet potatoes go a long way!), but it turns out we didn't really have leftovers.

To fry or not to fry...Fry!! Baking won't give the same taste as frying. Also, according to Alton Brown, if you do the frying correctly you don't get in much extra fat anyway. As he explains, the moisture in the food is trying to get out and there is no room for the fat to go in. It's only once the moisture in the food is gone that it begins to absorb the oil. If done correctly, the food should absorb no more than a tablespoon for the entire dish!

As for the oil and frying method, I used canola oil because it doesn't add a lot of strange flavor to the food. When first making mozzarella sticks, I used vegetable oil, but I could taste the oil too much. I switched to canola and it soon became my favorite oil for frying. I didn't manage to get the oil up to the recommended temperature, but the oil got plenty hot enough and the chips turned out perfect anyway. I think the oil got up to 350°F in the end, but for most of the cooking the temp was in the high 200s.

One more tip, when beginning the process, turn on the kitchen fan and/or open some windows, otherwise your home will start to smell like a chippy. It's one thing to taste like a chippy, a completely different thing to smell like one!

I am rating this dish as a 4 out of 5 just because we would prefer it without the beer batter.

Beer Batter Fish and Chips

~3lbs. russet potatoes (or other good frying potato)
1 gallon mild oil such as canola
2 lbs cod fillets (you can sub either haddock or plaice)
6 oz. all-purpose flour + a bit extra for coating the fish
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 oz. beer
juice of ½ a lemon

  1. Place oil in a dutch oven or fryer. My 6.5 quart dutch oven held a gallon. Leave about 1½ inches at the top to allow for oil bubbling.
  2. Scrub, peel, and thickly cut potatoes. Place in water to soak for about an hour.
  3. When oil reaches approximately 320°F, remove potatoes from water and dry. Carefully drop potatoes in oil one by one. Do small batches so the chips don't crowd. To safely drop in chips, hold by the end and only let go when the potato is mostly submerged. Cook for about 3 minutes or until soft, but not browned. Allow to sit on a cooling rack placed on top of a baking sheet.
  4. When potatoes are finished with the first fry, prepare the fish for frying. Coat them in the flour, shake off the excess, and coat in the batter. When thoroughly coated, slowly submerge the fish in the oil. Do not just drip the fish in the oil or the batter cannot set and it may stick to other parts of the fish. Cook for about 6-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to cooling rack and sprinkle with lemon juice. Place in oven at warm setting.
  5. Raise the temperature of the oil to approximately 375°F. In small batches, fry the potatoes in the same manner as before for about 3-5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to the cooling rack and salt.
  6. Serve with malt vinegar and ketchup.


Made by Lena