Fish & chips played a more substantial role in my life growing up than you might imagine.
Now, I wouldn’t say that fish & chips were like a life-changing thing for me, but I have quite a few great memories from my teenage and early adult years that involve fish & chips. I know that sounds weird. Let me explain.
I haven’t eaten at Shoney’s, Long John Silvers, or Captain D’s in years. However, when I was a teenager, for some reason my BFF Angie (still my BFF….we’ve known each other since kindergarten-1983, y’all-and have been best friends since 8th grade) and I thought that the most fun thing to do was drive my 1988 Chevy Beretta to the Shoney’s (the one on 153, long gone) and eat fish & chips. Once we forgot to tip our server (how does THAT happen?) and we felt like complete heels (we would have gone back to tip her but we were already in Soddy-Daisy by the time we realized it). Later, after the Shoney’s closed, we started going to Captain D’s. This makes me laugh so much now. Angie always ate tartar sauce and ketchup (she is famed for her love of ketchup) and made fun of me for dousing my fish with malt vinegar, which she declared smelled like feet. Also, my college roommate and I had an exam week ritual of going to Captain D’s and requesting extra crispies or whatever you call those little fried pieces of batter that come on your plate. We called it “eating a little food with our fat”.
I haven’t been to any of the above places in probably ten years. I still love fish & chips, though. Liberally soaked in malt vinegar. And while I never liked tartar sauce when I was younger, I do now, in the right context at least (not the right context: asking for tartar sauce with your salmon at Back Inn Café. I once heard a man at the table do this and ask the server not to tell the chef. I’ll never forget that.). A friend suggested a cucumber-dill tartar sauce, which she had tried at a restaurant. Sounded good to me! I know that tartar sauce is not a traditional British accompaniment for fish & chips, but a Facebook poll decided for me that I did indeed need to include tartar sauce recipes (I’ve included two).
Getting the recipe for fish & chips right took a while. I tried Alton Brown’s recipe and America’s Test Kitchen‘s recipe, using Newcastle Brown Ale (beer adds bubbles and lift to the batter) both times as a control. We ultimately decided that we liked Alton’s recipe a little better but I decided to shallow fry instead of deep frying because I hate deep frying. I also nixed the deep fried “chips” (fries to us here in the States, of course) in favor of my best baked fries recipe (because, see above. I hate deep frying!). Third try was charm and here’s the final result!
Yield: 4 servings
20 minPrep Time:
30 minCook Time:
50 minTotal Time:
- 2 Medium Russet potatoes
- 3 quarts water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more for sprinkling)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil (or olive oil spread)
- 1 1/2 pounds firm-fleshed white fish (I used cod)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- dash Old Bay seasoning
- 1 cup brown beer (I used Newcastle Brown Ale)
- 3/4 cup cornstarch for dredging (you may not need all of it-start with 1?2 cup)
- 24 ounces safflower, peanut, or canola oil
- malt vinegar and tartar sauce, for serving (optional, but not really)
- ¾ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained & chopped
- 2 tablespoons pickle relish (they recommend sweet, but I used dill)
- 1 tablespoon minced shallots
- 1 ½ teaspoons white vinegar
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup peeled, chopped, and seeded cucumber (this took 2 small cucumbers)
- 1 teaspoon drained & chopped capers
- juice of ½ lemon or ½ lime
- 1 ½ teaspoons dry or 1 tablespoon fresh dill
- salt and pepper to taste
- For the tartar sauces: Stir all ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving.
- For the fries: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place stoneware bar pan or large baking sheet in oven to preheat.
- Place the 3 quarts of water in a medium pot and place on stove over medium-high to high heat. Scrub potatoes. Cut into fries. I cut my potatoes into 5 or 6 slices then stack the slices and cut each slice into 5 or 6 planks; you can adjust the size of your cuts to fit your desired fry shapes. Place the potatoes in a bowl of cold water until the water has come to a boil. Put the salt in the water and place the potatoes in the boiling water with a slotted spoon and discard the starchy water. Boil the fries for three minutes then drain, shaking in the colander to remove excess water. Allow to sit for five minutes in the colander, giving an occasional shake.
- After the fries have “rested” and the oven has preheated, you can either place the fries in a dry bowl and toss with the teaspoon of olive oil or place them on the baking sheet/bar pan and spray with olive oil spray. Sprinkle with salt. Spread out on the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring every five minutes. When the fries have reached desired brownness, remove from oven and serve immediately.
- While the fries are cooking, make the fish: Pour the oil into a ten-inch cast iron pan. Preheat over medium heat.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and Old Bay. Add the beer and whisk to completely combine. Cut the fish into “planks” and dry with paper towels. Dredge the fish in cornstarch then, using tongs, dip into the batter until completely coated. When a drop of batter dropped into the oil sizzles, place the battered fish into the oil (you will need to do this in two to three batches). Cook for about three minutes then carefully turn and cook for another three minutes, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve while hot with the chips, malt vinegar, and tartar sauce.
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