I’ve probably mentioned a number of times now my powerful love for fish and chips, that perfect pairing of foods that allow me to practically mainline tartar sauce and malt vinegar – 80% of the time, fish and chips with tartar sauce is my meal of choice, though I hardly ever get it because there are only a handful of places that do it right and I have to go a long way out of my way to get it. I’ll attempt to sate my craving periodically with a Filet-o-Fish, but that is never enough, and so I get a little sad sometimes.
And then Paul calls offering to pick up fish for dinner, and I misunderstand and think he means salmon so I start thinking of rice, and he corrects me to say that he is considering codfish and will we need potatoes with that? And yes, yes we will, and I don’t have quite enough oil to fry all the pieces in a way that will keep some of them from kind of sticking to the bottom of the pot, but most of the pieces will come out okay, and also seriously? Is anyone looking for a single, well traveled, virile young man with fixing-stuff skills and excellent taste in food and wine? Because I am very close to injecting Paul with heroin and pimping him out for real (I think he reads this, but I refuse to self-edit). He shoots ducks and hooks trout and catches crabs, kids. I’m going to see if Nick will let us have a third.
Mad digression aside, last night we had homemade beer-battered fish and chips with hand-cut fries (baked to save space on the stove top), tartar sauce from scratch, and salad. It. Was. Awesome. The fish was fresh and perfect, the kind you can tell was just caught that day. If you’ve ever had bad fish and chips (I’m looking at you, Guildford Red Robin – your fish tasted like low tide and your patio has a view of the Walmart and your waitresses will only address Nick and pretty much ignore me so you suck), you will appreciate the difference quality and freshness make. And I am still kind of full, almost twelve hours later.
Here’s what you should do. Be sure you have at least three quarts of oil, and use a thermometer to make sure the oil hovers around 350°F. You may need to top it up – you want the fish to fry at the top, where it can’t possibly use its batter to adhere to the bottom of your pot.
Beer-battered fried fish
- 2.5 lbs. fresh cod or halibut fillets, about an inch thick, cut into pieces that will fit comfortably into your pot (I started with three large fillets cut into six)
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 regular-size (355mL or 12 oz.) can beer, such as India Pale Ale
Bring about three quarts of oil to 350°F in a large, heavy-bottomed pot on the stove. Use a candy thermometer to monitor the heat – you will need to do a bit of adjusting throughout the cooking process, as the oil will drop dramatically in temperature as soon as you add the first hunks of fish.
Mix together your batter, adding water as needed to bring the mix to a thick, pancake batter-like consistency. You might end up with too much batter, which is okay because that just means you can fry stuff tomorrow too! (Tip: Deep-fried pickles are pretty much the greatest invention ever … find out for yourself?) Optionally, you can add a bit of cumin or curry powder to the mixture for an exotic twist.
Once the oil has reached peak temperature, dredge as many pieces as will fit comfortably into your pot in batter, and gently drop them into the oil – no splashing, please … you will hurt yourself and then the experience will be ruined. I could fit in two pieces at a time.
Fry for about three minutes per side, but keep in mind that thicker pieces will take longer to cook, and thinner pieces will take less time. But since you’re deep frying at home, you’ll probably not want to let the pot out of your sight, so just monitor the fish as it cooks, and use your best judgment. Cook until the batter is crisp and golden.
Remove from pot onto paper towel, and salt right away. Repeat steps with other pieces of fish. You could also drizzle a bit of lemon over the pieces at this point, but I waited until I sat down with my plate to do that.
Serve with tartar sauce, lemon slices, fries, and all those wonderful sorts of things. Feel that craving finally get satisfied. And then undo your pants because it’s one of those kinds of meals. Delight.