Saturday, February 6, 2010

Fish, Chips, and Other Fried Sources of Delight

Many great meals are the result of careful planning, but some others follow the spaghetti on the wall strategy: let's throw everything we've got at it and see what sticks. I find that some of my best work is of the second category. Not to say that I don't do careful planning. I do. But, here's the thing. I LOVE to cook. And not it's because I love following directions, wandering aimlessly through the grocery store, or slicing and burning my hands on a near daily basis. No, I love to cook because I love the freedom that it brings me. It is an escape with a fantastic reward at the end. It's also a way to express myself. My personality definitely comes through on the plate. Not to say that I think that I am like the food I make. I recently saw an episode of Chopped where one of the cooks kept saying that she is like a spicy fish or something like that. It made her sound insane.

I don't purport to be sane, but I do know that I'm not similar to fish and chips. That said, my personality definitely comes through in my cooking. It is bombastic, it is bold, and it revels in experimentation.

Last night was definitely a night of reckless experimentation. I caught a deal on wild-caught Cod and figured that I'd try my hand at some fish and chips. My mom came over for dinner, so I wanted to make something nice.

Let me tell you. It kicked ass. I've had fish and chips all over New York City. It is the go-to dish when my wife goes out to eat and doesn't know what to order. Mine was superior to anything we've had out. Now, granted, this was an exquisite piece of Cod. It was really nice. It was such a beautiful piece of fish before I even touched it that it made me want to rent a boat to find some fishermen and thank them. But, even still. My fish and chips is the bomb. I suspect I'll be asked to make it again at least 5 more times by the end of the year. Killer fish dishes aren't always easy to come by, so when you get one, you gotta hold onto it like, well, like you got a fish on the line.

Since I already had a vat of hot oil and a bowl of flour batter, I figured it was a good opportunity to experiment after dinner. I added a whole bunch of sugar and a little vanilla extract and tried to make a funnel cake with the beer batter. No, it did not taste like fish. What did happen was that I put too much batter in there at one time, and it cooled the oil too much and wouldn't turn golden brown until it turned almost black. I burned it.

Next I made a new batch of batter, added A LOT of baking powder to that mixture, and instead of putting strings of batter in the oil, I just plopped a ladle full of batter all at once. That was the key! The baking powder made it puff out while it cooked. The batter blob was big enough to not get burned on the inside, but small enough not to overcool the oil. I took my fry cake out of the oil, put it on a paper towel and sprinkled it with a good amount of powdered sugar. Awesome! Of course, by this time I had eaten fried cod, french fries, a burned funnel cake, and two delicious fry cakes. I ended the night with a tummy ache, but satisfied in the knowledge that I had mastered the baking powder/hot oil combo technique. Make sure you eat a salad with this meal. Or better yet. Make the fish and chips on one day, and the fry cake on a different day. Nobody should eat that much oil in one day.

I've made a few other things since I last wrote, and I'm trying to take some nice pictures, so there's a few of those around too. That salad picture really gets me excited about taking more pictures, although I have to admit that I just went to Whole Foods and bought salad greens and then very thoughtfully and carefully drizzled store bought salad dressing on it. Goes to show how nice something can look even if you didn't do shit to make it be so beautiful.

The noodle dish is sort of a Thai chili-basil chicken concoction based on a recipe in the January/February 2010 issue of Cooks Illustrated. It was delicious. I couldn't stop eating it. I ate it until it was gone, and then I paced around the apartment thinking about going to the store to get more chicken. My only gripe was the lack of color in my version. It looked dull for such a spicy, sweet mess. Also, I could have used more basil or at the least the right kind of basil, but that's for another day. My basil plant is growing tall and strong and I'm not going to kill it over one noodle dish.

Today I made my own Yogurt, which was shockingly easy. Be that as it may, I still managed to mess something up. I was keeping it warm in a warm oven when I turned the oven on to keep it warm and then got distracted with the rest of my life and forgot to turn it off. Plastic yogurt cup. Melted plastic yogurt cup. But hey! It still made yogurt, and I saved it before the Yogurt couldn't be salvaged. Next time, I'm going to use hot water. Then I strained the yogurt through some cheesecloth to make it more like Greek Yogurt. I actually overstrained it and add to go back and add a dab of milk before eating it. It is sort of weird to have dry yogurt, but its possible. Anyway, it was good and really easy to make. You can use just about any kind of milk too, so, you could use goat milk if you want or skim milk or lactose-free milk or whatever. I used organic whole milk. That's how I roll.

I'm still working on the header picture up at the top of the site. Let me know what you think. I suspect this new one looks more professional than the last one, but it might hurt your brain to look at for too long. Let's see how it goes. I like it because that is the pattern of my apron, although if you didn't read this post you'd never know that and you'd always wonder why I chose such an odd pattern as my header. Of course, if anyone wants to donate a header for the site, by all means, hook me up!

Classic Fish and Chips


2 lbs. cod
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 bottle of beer (preferably dark beer)
2 Tbsp. salt
1 Tsbp. pepper
1 quart peanut oil
4 white potatoes, skinned

In a medium-sized pot, warm the peanut oil on low heat. While the oil is warming, slice the potatoes, lengthwise, into half-inch thick slices. Next, turn the potato and slice it lengthwise again, to form french fries. By the time you've completed slicing the potatoes, the oil should be warm to hot. Now heat the oil on high heat until the oil is 300 degrees F. In small batches, approximately a full handful of potatoes per batch, cook the fries in oil for about 3 minutes. Batches that are too large will cool the oil and prolong the cooking process, if not ruin it entirely. Remove the fries with a slotted spoon and spread the fries on a baking sheet. Once all of the potatoes have been fried the first time, put the baking sheet in a warm oven about 200 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, 1 tsp of salt, 2 Tbsp. of black pepper, 1 Tbsp. of baking powder, and a bottle of beer. Mix the ingredients with a whisk until they form a thick batter. Slice the cod into approximately 2-3 inch thick pieces by cutting across the width of the fish. With tongs, coat the fish with the batter by dipping the fish into the mixing bowl. Be gentle with the fish while ensuring that the entirety of the fish is coated with batter. Next, carefully put the battered fish into the oil in batches of no more than 4 pieces of fish at a time. Cook for approximately 4-5 minutes, being sure to turn the fish over halfway through cooking and removing the fish from the oil only after the batter becomes golden brown. Cooking times will vary depending on the the size of the pot, the heat of the stove, the amount of oil used, and the size of the fish. When the fish is cooked, place the cooked fish on a plate covered with paper towel. The paper towel will soak up excess oil.

Next, return to the baking sheet and re-cook the fries in oil until they are golden brown. Small batches should not take more than 5 minutes. Remove the fries to another paper towel covered plate, coat with the remaining salt, and serve.

Serve the fish with malt vinegar and/or tartar sauce. Serve the chips with ketchup and/or mayonnaise. Serves 4.


  1. When I lived in Brooklyn, my favorite place to get fish and chips was the Chip Shop, which was run by Brits. I loved that place. The photo of your fish and chips looks like it would rival the Chip Shop's in that essential crunchy-on-the-outside/smooth-creamy-fish-flesh-on-the-inside taste sensation. Yum!!

  2. Love Fish and Chips and it looks like you have a great recipe. Use to use Halibut when we made them, but it's getting way to expensive. Best to you and your family!

  3. Trix,

    I think I've heard of that place, but never been there. We used to go to Telephone when we lived in NYC. Too often we ended up with soggy fish. I think the baking powder was the real revelation.

    And thanks for the fettucine post! I didn't know I was supposed to let the pasta dough rest. I think that's why my pierogies were so chewy.