Thursday, March 15, 2012

Old Fashioned English Fish n Chips


     Fish n chips is a popular entree around the world.  Fish n chips originated in small restaurants that were located in English fishing villages.
     Atlantic cod used to be the choice fish for fish and chips, but now Atlantic cod are nearly extinct from over fishing.  Pacific cod is a good alternative and so is pollack.  When Atlantic cod fishing was banned, I was the chef at an English pub.  Well before the ban on Atlantic cod went into place, the price of Atlantic cod started to go through the ceiling.
     We switched to serving pollack as fish n chips at that English pub long before the Atlantic cod ban went into effect.  The menu made no mention of what type of fish that was used for fish n chips, so we did not need to announce the change to pollack.  The customers could not tell the difference!  In fact, many customers complimented the nice flavor of the "cod" in our fish n chips, even though the fish was really pollack.
     Pollack rose in numbers as cod was depleted.  The overpopulation of pollack caused a decline in herring.  Less herring meant that whales, seals, sea lions and walrus had less to eat and the numbers of those sea mammals also began to decline.  Pollack are prolific herring predators and many fishery authorities begged for a market to open on pollack.  Pollack was not an easy fish to market, because it is not easy to saute or broil pollack without the flaky white meat crumbling into pieces.  Pollack happened to be perfect for batter fry cooking!
    Part of the reason that the owner of the English pub and I decided to use pollack was because of the price.  Pollack filets were selling at about $1.40 per pound.  Cod at that time was pushing upwards of $8.00 per pound.  By choosing pollack, the fish n chips on our English pub menu became a profitable item once again.  Using pollack was also the environmentally correct thing to do!
     Any white fish can be used to make fish n chips.  Large predator white fish with flakey meat makes the best fish n chips.  Ling cod, flounder, tilapia, basa and pollack are good sustainable seafood choices for today's age of declining wild seafood stock.
     English chips did not always look like French fries.  Thirty to forty years ago, English chips looked like chipped potatoes.  The potatoes were not always peeled when making chips.  The pieces of potato were unevenly cut into thin potato wedge shapes, as if they were "chipped" off of a potato.  Every English chip order was cooked to order.  Fresh fried English chips cannot be held under heat lamps, without the chips getting soggy.
     When frying fresh English chips, it is best to partially fry the potatoes, till they just start to brown.  The potatoes are then removed from the hot oil and allowed to cool.  Then the potatoes are fried a second time, till they turn a light golden brown color.  The result is a crisp fried English chip that is moist and steaming hot inside.  By using this frying method, the chips will not become a dark brown color.
     English fish n chips were always served in an old newspaper that was rolled into a cone shape.  Customers used to purchase fish n chips at a fishing village restaurant and walk out with a newspaper cone full of fish n chips.  Fish n chips is finger food at its best!
     English malt vinegar is the standard fish n chip sauce.  A sprinkle of malt vinegar over fish n chips is one of life's great simple pleasures.  Some people like tartar sauce with fish n chips, so I posted a nice tartar sauce recipe.  Fresh made tartar sauce is much better than any bottle tartar sauce product!  Tartare sauce was once an accompaniment for steak tartare.  We once researched the original tartare sauce recipes at a fine French cafe and chose this recipe as being closest to the original.

     Tartar Sauce Recipe:
     Tartar sauce that is pre made and bottled usually does not have all the original tartare sauce ingredients in the sauce.  Most second rate restaurants mix sweet pickle relish and mayonnaise together to make tartar sauce and that is totally wrong.  Gherkin dill pickles are used to make the original tartar sauce.  Creme of tartar is a concentrated acidic sediment that is a bi product of the wine making process.  Creme of tartar is part of the original French tartare sauce recipe.
     Place 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise into a small mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped gherkin dill pickle.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot or onion.
     Add 3 pinches of minced Italian parsley.
     Add 2 pinches of tarragon.
     Add 1 small squeeze of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of finely chopped rinsed capers.
     Add 1 small pinch of creme of tartar.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Place the tartar sauce into a small ramekin and set it aside.

     Beer Batter Recipe:
     Old fashioned beer batter does not have to have an extensive list of ingredients.  The simpler the better is the motto of a good beer batter.  Turmeric is added for color in this recipe and the small amount of ginger compliments the beer flavor in a delicate way.  This beer batter recipe was well liked at the English pub where I was the chef.
     Place 2 cups of lager beer in a mixing bowl.  (Leftover flat beer is good for this recipe.)
     Add 1 teaspoon of finely minced ginger.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add just enough flour, while whisking, to form a medium thin batter.  The batter should be just slightly thinner than pancake batter.

     English Chips:
     You can peel the russet potato or wash the russet potato and leave the skin on.  I peeled the potato for the chips in the pictures.
     Cut a peeled russet potato in half lengthwise.
     Cut the potato into uneven shaped wedges, that look like chips off of a potato.  The wedges should be thin on one side and they should be about 3/8" thick on the wide side.  If you cut the English chips too wide, then they will take too long to cook.
     Heat 4" to 5" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360 degrees.
     Place the English chip potatoes in the hot oil.
     Fry till a few brown highlights appear on the English chips.
     Use a fryer net to remove the potatoes from the hot oil.
     Place the blanched potatoes on a dish and let them cool to room temperature.
     Return the blanched potatoes to the hot oil.
     Fry until the potatoes are fully cooked and crispy golden brown on the outside.
     Use a fry net to place the English chips on a dry towel and drain off any excess oil.
     Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over the hot English chips.
     Keep the chips warm on a stove top while the fish is being fried.

     Old Fashioned English Fish n Chips:
     Heat 4" to 5" of vegetable frying oil to 360 degrees.
     Cut 6 to 10 ounces of pollack filets into wide long strips.
     Dredge the pollack strips in flour.
     Dip the floured pollack strips in the beer batter.
     Place one pollack strip in the 360 degree frying oil at a time, so the pieces of beer batter fish do not stick to each other.
     Fry the beer batter fish, till they turn a crisp golden color and the fish is fully cooked.
     Use a fry net to place the beer batter pollack on a dry towel and drain off any excess grease.

     Newspaper cannot be used for fish n chips, because of toxins in the ink.  Newspaper print food grade parchment paper is available.  Standard parchment paper or brown butcher's parchment paper are easier to find.
     Fold a 16"x16" piece of parchment paper so it resembles half of a cone.
     Place the parchment paper half cone on a large plate or in a small basket.
     Place the English chips on the paper.
     Place the beer batter fish on the chips and paper.
     Place the ramekin of tartar sauce next to the fish n chips.
     Garnish the plate with an Italian parsley sprig.
     Serve with malt vinegar on the side.

     Old fashioned English fish n chips just like how they used to be sold many years ago!  The fish is steaming hot underneath the crisp beer batter coating.  The odd shaped English chips are crisp on the outside and moist inside, just like how they should be.  Malt vinegar is my favorite for fish n chips.  A good fresh tartar sauce tastes nothing like pre-made bottled tartar sauce and it goes great with fish n chips.  Yum!  ...  Shawna



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