A right proper one, too.
Definitely a fortunate coincidence if you’re in the UK. If you’re not, though, and the closest chippy, British slang for a fish and chips joint, is nowhere in sight, don’t despair. Once again, the Cook’s Country Cookbook keeps the kitchen well-supplied. Their preparation of Fish and Chips furnishes a welcome feast for hungry Brits, starving Anglophiles, or anyone, really, craving great food and a satisfying crunch.
No doubt, crunch is what makes cod a national treasure. Especially in this recipe, where beer gives the batter slightly sweet malty notes, and keeps it light. The suds also help the batter adhere to the fish, sealing in the tenderness. Oil makes the coating audibly crispy, then bounces away harmlessly, letting the fish steam within its golden shell.
Of course, what’s fish without chips? The paring’s irresistible, as are the snappy-then-fluffy chips of potatoes. The secret to attaining this beautiful contrast is in cooking the potatoes twice, first before the cod, then right after it’s done.
…along came a spider. No, that’s what the gadget’s called, due to its web-like basket. Get it? Though the piece above is a Chinese spider, it’s a perfect tool for the job, which is retrieving the chips after Round 1, then again after Round 2, when they’re golden and crackling. Toss with sea salt then sprinkle on some mildly yeasty malt vinegar…blimey!
Completing the team, though the original recipe doesn’t feature them, are mushy peas, a British standby. Specifically, Minty Mushy Peas, as chef Jamie Oliver features on his website. Really, they’re much, much better than they sound. Good peas, particularly baby peas, are clean-tasting. Sauté them with chopped spring onions and fresh mint and they’re refreshingly cool. A perfect foil for all the crunchiness going on elsewhere. Oh, and you get to mash them!
Finally, using the utensil on something other than potatoes. A uni-tasker no more! At last – right, Alton?
Also, some of you are keen to see garden pictures, OK here’s some of the very same mint that went into the mushy peas, earlier in the spring, as they leapt up in front of the chives: Before closing, a word about the tartar sauce. The idea behind it came from the same cookbook page that inspired the fish and chips, and it warrants special mention. Creamy, briny and softly tangy, it compliments perfectly the crispy potatoes and flaky fish. Both in taste and in texture.
Putting all these ideas together brings the chippy right to your kitchen. Eat in, at the counter, or take out, to the nook, dining room or family room. Or, as it’s summer, how about to the back deck? No matter where, you’ll find the taste is spot-on. The crunch? Nearly seismic. Lucky you, there’s a chippy just down the hall!
Fish and Chips
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup cornstarch
- salt and freshly-ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 and 1/2 cups beer (*1)
- 1 (2-pound) skinless cod filet, about an inch thick (*2)
- 2 and 1/2 pounds large gold potatoes, unpeeled (*3)
- 8 cups peanut or vegetable oil (*4)
In a large bowl, (*5) whisk together the flour, cornstarch, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt and baking powder. Add the beer and whisk until smooth. (*6) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
Cut the cod crosswise into eight 4-ounce filets. Pat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Cut each potato lengthwise into four planks. Cut each plank lengthwise into thirds. (*7) (Leave dry, do not place the potatoes in water.) (*8)
Line a rimmed baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels. Place a large pot over a high flame and pour in the oil. When the oil has reached a rolling boil, after about seven minutes, using a spider or slotted spoon, carefully lower the potatoes into the oil. Reduce the flame a bit to maintain a steady temperature.
Cook without stirring for 20 minutes. Then, stir potatoes gently and continue cooking for another four minutes. Using the spoon or the spider, retrieve the chips from the oil and place them on the paper towel-lined baking sheet. The chips will not be fully cooked at this point. Leave the oil at temperature.
Place a wire rack in a second rimmed baking sheet. Place the fish filets in the bowl containing the batter. Toss to coat. (*9) Using a fork, lift each filet from the batter and let excess drip back into the bowl. Working in two batches of four, transfer (once again, carefully) each filet to the oil, dragging it across the surface before releasing it. This will prevent it from sticking.
Cook fish, stirring gently and occasionally to prevent sticking, for about ten minutes. Using the spider or the spoon, lift the filets from the oil and place them on the wire rack. Repeat for the second batch of fish.
Remove any loose batter bits from the oil and let it return to 375° . Return the fries to the oil (carefully, of course, and using your trusty spider/spoon). Cook for another two minutes, until crispy and golden. Transfer back to the towel-lined sheet.
After the chips cool a bit, serve them alongside the fish, in a basket if you’re after the full effect. Season them with sea alt and sprinkle generously with malt vinegar if desired. And you should.
1 – A woefully inadequate amount (come on, Cook’s Country, you’re usually much, much better than this). A full bottle, i.e., about two-and-a-half cups is more like it. By the way, a light-bodied brew, such as a lager, is recommended.
2 – If you’d rather not splurge on the cod, haddock is nearly as good. For that matter, so is sea bass.
3 – Yukon Golds work best here, if they’re available in your area.
4 – Choose peanut oil and be glad you did. Turns this from “really good” to “extraordinary.”
5 – Use a bowl that seems to be much bigger than what you think you’d need. You’ll see why later.
6 – A consistency perhaps a touch thicker than is paint is ideal.
7 – The original recipe calls for more cuts, producing narrower chips. I think a wider caliber, similar to steak fries, is preferable, and adjusted the cooking time upward slightly in compensation. If you prefer narrower fries, by all means. Just reduce the cooking time a bit.
8 – Or they’ll turn into gremlins. (A nod to the movie that starred my first pre-teen crush, Phoebe Cates.) Seriously, though, no water.
9 – Ah, that’s why we needed the larger bowl! A medium bowl just wouldn’t have had the room.
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup dill pickle relish
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for fifteen minutes, to allow the ingredients to cultivate each other’s flavors.
Minty Mushy Peas
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 handful fresh mint leaves
- 1 pound frozen peas (*10)
- 2 knobs butter (*11)
- sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Place a medium saucepan over a medium flame. After it’s heated for a moment, pour in the oil. Add the onions, mint and peas. Cover and leave to steam for a few minutes.
Uncover and turn off the flame. Mash with a potato masher, then stir in the butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper et voila!
10 – Seriously, frozen peas. They’re harvested at peak conditions, then are flash-frozen much more quickly than what we ever could achieve at home, thus preserving their top-of-the-season goodness. Yes, sounds like an ad for the Frozen Foods Council, but it’s true.
11 – I spent a while trying to figure what the heck it was Oliver meant by a “knob,” until deciding he should’ve said, “tablespoon.” So, two tablespoons altogether.