Homemade Beer-Battered Fish & Chips
Hailing from New England, Scotch-Irish blood coursing through my veins, who wouldn’t be a lover of good ‘ol fish and chips. There’s just something so satisfying about biting into a flaky chunk of fish encased in a light, fluffy batter touched with a tangy, dilly, mustardy hint of flavor. Kind of a like a great big hug of oceanic yumminess.
However, over the years, in my quest, I have tasted more poor renditions of this classic fare than good. Now living in the Midlands of South Carolina, I’ve only stumbled upon one — yes, one — restaurant that has risen to meet my culinary expectations. This has left me no choice but to take on the challenge of recreating this dish and make it my own.
I’m not one who is particularly experienced in deep frying. Never been a big fan of fried foods and usually opt for the more healthier methods of food preparation. But there are just some things that you must submerge in this culinary hot tub in order to make your taste buds sing.
So after scouring countless recipes, it was time to take to the kitchen. Now, I don’t have any fancy deep frying appliances, so I was more or less winging it. For my dish, I went with the 1/2 authentic, 1/2 cheating method. My concentration was on the fish this time, so we stuck to the tried and true oven-baked steak fries. (I did throw them in the hot grease at the very end just to give them that little bit of crunch.)
Before tackling this dish, there are a few basic rules you should follow:
• If you don’t have a fryer (which includes most of us), use a non-reactive deep pan that can hold enough oil to submerge at least half the fish. I used a large cast iron skillet. It heats evenly and is heavy.
• Use an oil with a high burn rate. Do not use olive oil. I used canola oil. You can use vegetable oil, but the canola is a little lighter and healthier.
• Do not overheat your oil or it will burn the batter. I didn’t have a thermometer, so I just guessed. The best way to know if your oil is hot enough is to drop a little batter into the oil. If it doesn’t sink to the bottom of the pan and sizzles nicely, you’ve achieved the appropriate level of heat.
• Be sure to let your oil return to it’s hot point in between batches.
• Use a darker beer in your batter for a more rich flavor. You can use a lighter beer – it’s whatever you prefer or whatever you have on hand.
• Use a good flaky white fish. Cod or halibut are your best bets. I prefer cod. It happened to be on sale, so that’s what I used. Frozen is fine, fresh is better. Just be sure to pat dry the fish well before seasoning and dredging in the batter so that the batter doesn’t slide off when you place it in the skillet.
So here’s the recipe! I hope you enjoy it. Be sure to make my homemade tartar sauce for dipping. (Recipe below)
6 – 8 medium-sized pieces of white fish
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup beer
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
Enough oil to fill half a large non-reactive pan (about 1 cup)
Pat fish dry and lay on a plate, season with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in pan. I began on high, then reduced to medium-high for the remainder of frying. While oil is heating, mix flour, beer, salt, pepper and cayenne in a large bowl. Add the beer and whisk until fully incorporated and about the consistency of pancake batter. Add more beer if necessary. Pour mixture into a dish for dredging.
When oil is hot, coat the pieces of fish in batter and then gently lie them in the oil. Be sure to fully coat the fish and do not overcrowd the pan.
Cook fish until crispy and a rich light caramel-brownish color. Gently turn fish over and cook on the other side until done. Approximately 5-6 minutes total. The thicker the fish, the more time you’ll need.
Drain fish on a plate lined with paper towels or paper bag.
(Prepare and refrigerate at least 30 minutes prior to serving)
1 cup good mayonnaise (I love Duke’s)
1 tbsp stone ground dijon mustard
1 tbsp capers
1 cup dill pickles plus 1 tbsp of the pickle juice
1 tbsp chopped scallions
Salt & pepper to taste
Put all in small bowl of food processor and blend until desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.