Dish of the Week: Fish and Chips
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.
Photo by Mats Hagwall A bit of baking soda and vinegar or beer helps to make a light and bubbly batter.
This week, we're sharing a recipe for Great Britain's favorite pub fare, fish and chips.
The classic dish gained popularity among the U.K.'s working class in the mid-late 19th century, when railroads connecting ports in the North Sea to major industrial city were developed to support the rapid expansion of trawl fishing. With fresh catch being transported faster and workers seeing a rise in their incomes, the battered and deep-fried fish spread like wildfire.
But that wasn't the first time fried fish has been seen in the country. It was Portuguese Morranos, Jewish refugees who had been forced to hide their ethnicity, who introduced the dish to Britain in the 16th century.
Chips came into the equation a bit later. The first recorded fish and chip shop, also known as a "chippy" or "chipper," was opened in London in 1860 by a Jewish immigrant named Joseph Malin. He began selling the fish alongside chipped potatoes, which had mostly been seen in Irish potato shops before then. The year before, we saw the first reference to "chips" in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities (published in 1859): "Husky chips of potatoes, fried with some reluctant drops of oil". By the late 1920s, there were more than 35,000 fish and chip shops in England. Today there is said to be around a quarter of that.
Atlantic cod or haddock are the most common fish used, but any kind of white fish can be used. The fish are dipped in a simple batter or water and flour, with a little baking soda and vinegar added so that -- once fried in lard, beef drippings or oil -- a light, bubbly and crisp texture is achieved. Today, milk or beer batters are also common. The chips served are cut slightly thicker than American-style fries, almost in the fashion of steak fries. Common sides include malt vinegar and mushy peas.
This recipe, slightly adapted from Alton Brown, uses brown beer in lieu of vinegar to create a light and airy batter. A dash of cayenne and Old Bay seasoning bring a hint of heat.
Fish and Chips
For the chips:
1 gallon vegetable, safflower or peanut oil, for frying
4 large Russet potatoes
For the fish:
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Dash Old Bay seasoning
1 bottle brown beer, cold
1 1/2 lb firm cod, cut into 1-oz strips
Cornstarch, for dredging
For serving: malt vinegar and tartar sauce
In a deep skillet or deep fryer, heat oil over high heat until it reaches to 320-325 degrees. Peel the potatoes and cut them into chips about the size and width of your index finger. Place in a large bowl of cold water.
Meanwhile, make the batter by whisking together flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, Old Bay, and the bottle of beer until mixture is completely smooth. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Drain the potatoes and, using a fryer basket or slotted spoon and working in small batches, carefully lower the chips into the hot oil. Fry 2-3 minutes until chips are pale and floppy. Remove from oil and set on a paper towel to drain. Repeat until all chips are partially-fried.
Increase the oil temperature to 375 degrees. Fry the chips for a second time, once again working in batches, and cook until crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Remove and drain on a rack. Sprinkle immediately with Kosher salt and hold in a warm oven.
Bring the oil to 350 degrees. Lightly dredge the fish in cornstarch and dip into the batter. Working in batches, add the fish to the oil. When the batter is set, gently turn and fry until fish is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Drain on a rack and season lightly with salt.
Serve hot (wrapped in newspaper for cute factor) with malt vinegar and tartar sauce.
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