YOU’VE GOT A FEW FISH LEFT TO FRY…
As the weeks of Lent run by interspersed with March Madness, spring storms, spring cleaning, baking for our church’s Just Peace workshop,
preparing for our youngest Emily’s 30th birthday, and the relentless gardening run between cold, cool, warm, but no real precipitation, I can’t let one of the last Friday Fishes go by without throwing a bone to the biggest Friday Fish around — Fish and Chips.
I don’t typically deep-fry anything. I mean, that’s for restaurants where the deep fry rules. Bars. Hamburger joints. I don’t own a deep fryer. I also rarely eat fried fish, though I grew up on it. (I have really low cholesterol, by the way.) One exception is if I’m in the UK or Ireland. ( A bit of a nasty language warning in the UK link: an excellent and fun Scotland fish video “Munchies”– youtube link.)
About Fish and Chips:
Winston Churchill called them “the good companions”. John Lennon smothered his in tomato ketchup. Michael Jackson liked them with mushy peas.
They sustained morale through two world wars and helped fuel Britain’s industrial prime.
NUMBER OF CHIPPIES1910: c25,0001929: c35,0002009: c10,000Sources: seafish.org and Fish and Chips and the British Working Class, by John Walton
For generations, fish and chips have fed millions of memories – eaten with greasy fingers on a seaside holiday, a pay-day treat at the end of the working week or a late-night supper on the way home from the pub.
I will occasionally indulge, also, if we’ve headed up into the mountains for a day away and are driving past McGinty’s Pub in Divide, Colorado on a Friday–the only day they make a fabulous fish and chips lunch. Otherwise I’m watching my figure–not that it does a lot of good. I mean, look at what I do for fun.
I did, however, have cod in the freezer. I’d already done something awesome with half of it. Fish and Chips called loudly for the rest. Hello? (Go ahead and buy those big packages of fresh or frozen fish. Divvy them out into manageable portions, freeze, and thaw them out overnight in the fridge. Mine package was originally about 4 pounds fresh?? at Costco.)
You might remember: the first bit of cod went to: Southwestern Grilled Fish Sandwich with Green Chile Goat Cheese.
So I got out a heavy pot, made the sides first, heated the oil, and did it. I just did it. I changed it up with sweet potatoes in place of white potatoes (a nod toward health) and the additions of some puckery blue cheese and hot sauce to restyle the same old-same old now Worcestershire sauce-free tartar sauce. I skipped the bubbly batter and opted for the 3-step dredge of flour, eggs with milk, and seasoned panko crumbs, which the computer constantly auto-corrects to panic. No Panko? You might try very-well-crushed corn flakes in its place a la Betty Crocker.
It wasn’t an awful mess and it wasn’t difficult. In fact, it was fast, fun, and easy, though it required a little planning and then complete attention to that bubbling pot of oil. I do still have to deal that, but for now it’s cooling. (More on that in the recipe.) So have courage. Be plucky. Channel your inner British pub. Skip the restaurant tab. Think of Michael Pollan’s famous lines from his book, FOOD RULES:
“Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.” That gets at a lot of our issues. I love French fries, and I also know if I ate French fries every day it would not be a good thing. One of our problems is that foods that are labor or money intensive have gotten very cheap and easy to procure. French fries are a great example. They are a tremendous pain to make. Wash the potatoes, fry potatoes, get rid of the oil, clean up the mess. If you made them yourself you’d have them about once a month, and that’s probably about right. The fact that labor has been removed from special occasion food has made us treat it as everyday food. One way to curb that and still enjoy those foods is to make them.
Throw away your fish fear and your fried food guilt (Michael Pollan says it’s ok, right?), give in to cleaning the kitchen –you have to do it anyway– and try this:
FISH & SWEET POTATO CHIPS (Fries) WITH SPICY BLUE CHEESE TARTAR SAUCE
Set the table, make the tartar sauce and slaw, slice the fries–have everything ready to roll before you heat that oil and begin frying. Got your slaw covered, too…Scroll down for a basic version or buy a pint at the deli. Leftovers? Can you say fish sandwich? (Printable recipe below the coleslaw recipe.)
Spicy Blue Cheese Tartar Sauce
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- Pinch each salt and pepper
- Hot sauce, to taste (start with 2 drops)
- 1 tablespoon minced red onion
- 1 teaspoon minced dill pickle or dill relish
- 2 tablespoons crumbled or finely chopped blue cheese
Mix together well, but lightly. Taste and adjust seasonings. Can make one day ahead and store tightly covered in fridge. (Extra blue cheese is great for a garnish.)
Fish and Sweet Potato Chips (Fries)
- 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (2 large), peeled and cut into wedges*
- 1 quart vegetable oil (or canola, corn, peanut, safflower, or soy)
- Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, ground cayenne pepper and ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 pounds cod or haddock fillets (24 ounces–4 – 6 ounces per fillet)
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour mixed with 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- 1 egg beaten with 1/4 cup milk
- 2 cups Panko bread crumbs mixed with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- Lemon wedges, garnish
- Spicy Blue Cheese Tartar Sauce, garnish (recipe above)
- Coleslaw, optional side (recipe below)
- PREHEAT OVEN to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and line 2 baking sheets with foil or parchment paper topped with a layer of paper towels. Set aside.
- HEAT OIL, COOK SWEET POTATOES, KEEP WARM IN OVEN: Heat oil in a heavy, deep cast iron frying pan or dutch oven. Oil should be 350 degrees fahrenheit or is ready when a cube of bread tossed in immediately sizzles like crazy. Add sweet potatoes carefully a few at a time and cook until browned, crispy and tender, 4-6 minutes. While the potatoes are cooking, in a small bowl mix together 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon each ground cayenne pepper and ground cinnamon.
- Turn potatoes out evenly onto one of the lined sheets and sprinkle with the salt-cinnamon mixture and toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Place potatoes in oven on the first lined baking sheet to keep warm while you cook the fish.
- COOK FISH: Pat dry fish fillets gently on both sides with paper towels. In each of three shallow dishes, place the flour mixture, the egg mixture, and the Panko mixture. Dredge a fillet first in the flour, then in the egg mixture, then in the Panko crumbs, shaking off fish gently between each bowl. Carefully lay one end of the fillet into the hot oil, letting the rest easily slide down so the oil won’t pop up onto your hand. Repeat with another piece of fish or two and fry until they’re deep golden brown, 4-5 minutes. Don’t crowd the fish. Test a piece by removing and cutting to see if it’s done (opaque and flakes easily) or taking it’s temperature for doneness–145 degrees Fahrenheit. Place cooked fish on the other lined baking sheet, sprinkle lightly with salt, and place in oven to keep warm. Cook rest of fish in the same way.
- SERVE: Divvy fish and “chips” between four baskets or plates and serve hot with lemon wedges, Spicy Blue Cheese Tartar Sauce and coleslaw, if you like. An extra bit of blue cheese wouldn’t go amiss on the fish.
*Some people soak the sweet potatoes or potatoes in water and drain well before frying. I don’t do this, but it’s a popular method.
OIL CLEAN-UP NOTE: Let the dirty oil sit until totally cooled or overnight. Do not pour into sink drain. You can strain, refrigerate, and use again if you like. (I don’t keep oil fish has been fried in. You can make your own decision.) To discard: Pour the used, cooled oil into an empty, clean large plastic jar or milk carton and place lid on tightly. Dave used a Hellman’s mayonnaise jar. Discard in trash. Some people put used cooking oil into compost heaps. As we have bears in our neighborhood, I don’t compost.
photo credit goes to a neighbor, but I’m unsure which one
WINE: Nah. Have a good Scottish, Irish, or British ale.
DESSERT: Probably not.
Alyce’s Basic COLESLAW
|Crunch, Crunch–Here’s your slaw. It keeps in the fridge several days.|
6-8 regular servings
- 1/2 head green cabbage, outer leaves removed, cored, shredded coarsely into 1/4″ slices with chef’s knife
- 3 green onions, trimmed and minced (white and green parts)
- 1 large carrot, grated
- Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon each crushed red pepper and freshly ground white pepper (can sub black)
- 2 generous pinches white sugar, divided
- 2 tablespons white vinegar, divided
- 2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise (or to taste)