Tuesday, June 17, 2014

First Crack at Fish and Chips

We had some frozen cod fillets in the freezer after a coupon-inspired frozen food grab. Hopefully they weren't actual cod fillets, as cod are in serious trouble due to overfishing. I hope assume that these were other white-fleshed groundfish like haddock or hake, which are much like cod but are less threatened.

Anyway, we wanted to try making that English classic fish and chips with these fish. We enjoy a good plate of F&C here any day, but the chips are certainly not like American French fries. Here they enjoy thick-cut chips, fried once until hot- not until crisp. I picked up some practice recently cutting fries thin and double frying them for that perfect crisp crunch. I was ready.

It is a multi-step process, good thing I have time to do things like this now. First, I cut the potatoes into quarter-inch fries. A long soak in cold water helps remove some of the surface starch.

Later, with about an hour to dinnertime, I heated up some oil to 325 degrees F. Before the fries went in, I removed them from the water and dried the surface as thoroughly as I could for faster cooking. Water is a huge heat sink, bringing down the temperature of the less-dense oil quickly.

The first potato fry takes some time, especially when using a small saucepan and frying enough fries for two servings in one batch. A commercial fryer would handle four or five potatoes easily, but not so the saucepan.

While the fries were cooking, I cut the fish fillets into the shape they call goujons here, we would call them strips in America. I prepared the batter of flour, salt, baking powder, and ice water. Cold batter sticks to the fish and crisps up more easily than warm batter.

When the fries had finished their first fry at 325 F, I took them out of the oil and put them on a wire rack in a warm oven. The oil went back up to 350, and we were ready for fish. Each strip got a dip in the batter and then straight into the oil. I did the fish in two batches of three strips each.

The fish came out crispy and flaky. A bit overdone in the narrow part of the fillets, not sure how I'll handle that next time, but that will be for next time.

Finished Fish and Chips
Finished Fish

When the fish were done, I had only to give the fries one more quick blast in very hot (375 F) oil to crisp them up. The same oil went back on the heat for the final cooking. The second round of cooking the fries doesn't take nearly as long as the first, as the potatoes are already warm and much of that heat-sucking water has already been cooked out. When the fries were golden brown and crispy, I pulled them out and put them back on the wire rack with the fish to drain.

On the side, I heated up some frozen peas with butter and mashed them with a fork. They weren't quite as smooth as the canned mushy peas so often served at sit-down chippers, but certainly passable. I made a fish dipping sauce with mayonnaise and lemon juice. Normally I would add sliced dill pickles to it and call it tartar sauce, but cheap dill pickles are no longer a staple in our refrigerator... sad.

Fish and Chips and Mushy Peas
Fish and Chips and Mushy Peas

Was it a bit decadent? Yes. Will I make it again? Yes. The fish and the fries were excellent, if greasy and unhealthy. I can now see how the Brits got along for so long eating only food like this. It is certainly more to my taste than anything over here with the word pudding.

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