Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How To Fry Fish

That's beer battered cod, onion rings, and mushy peas. yes, I did make the peas from scratch boiling dried peas beyond recognition. I added some food colour because I have to meet the expectations of my family-expectations based on tinned peas. I used to be able to find dried packets of marrowfats, but those seem to have dissappeared from the import aisles at the market. These were simple enough to do, but I'm left with an awful lot of peas. I'll probably make croquettes and deep fry them tomorrow. Kidding. Sort of.

I've done posts on cornmeal coated fried fish, but it seems I've neglected batter.

Everyone has their favourite batter-sourdough toss-off, beer batter, yeast raised. Honestly, technique is more important than what you coat it with because if your fish is soggy, or overcooked, it won't make a difference if you had some elaborate way of casing it.

Use a halfway decent fat to fry in. You don't need to use fresh oil each time you fry, and you don't need to spend a fortune on something claiming health benefits and vitamins (you're frying for god's sake-get a grip and do a few extra sit-ups tomorrow) but it should at least be clear enough that you can see through it...sort of. OK?

Now that you have your kettle filled with oil-heat it properly. Use a thermometer because you really do need to get the fat hot. If you're accident prone, keep a box of bicarb and the lid nearby. Watch the kettle-different oils have different smoking points which you never think of until it begins smoking. Funny how that happens. Oh, and don't leave the room. No really, don't. If you have a child at home, put up the toddler gate in the doorway and should you need to fetch said child-turn off the heat. The heat will recover. better to lose whatever you're frying than burn down your home.

When I fry, I keep a rimmed baking sheet with a rack over it next to where I'm working. This not only provides a good draining spot for the fish (draining on paper will make the fish soggy) it gives you somewhere to rest your tongs and slotted spoon. Yes, you're going to need both.

As you fry, particularly if you are also doing chips, or onion rings, you'll need to keep things warm. Have a baking sheet in an oven on the lowest setting ready to hold food as it drains. As with most things, it helps to be organised.

If you are making chips, it really is worth the bother of soaking them in cold water in the fridge for a few hours, then rinsing them and patting them completely dry. I know it seems like overkill for potatoes, but the end result really is wonderful.

Chill your batter for at least an hour before using it. Most beer batters can be made 2-3 hours ahead. Wash your fish and coat it in AP flour lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. Set the fish on a plate and chill it as well. The flour will help the coating to stick, and chilling everything makes it crunchier. Cold fish, cold batter, hot oil. Make that your plan.

Here's the batter I used tonight. I like it quite a bit, and you'll notice that I use a really inexpensive beer. I don't know if a four dollar bottle of ale would make this better, but I wouldn't do that. If I had a religion, it would be against it. Four dollar bottles of ale do not belong in the frying kettle. I use a perfectly acceptable Canadian beer that I wouldn't hesitate to drink . Oh, go on, I know the beer snobs are aching to make jokes, but as far as I'm concerned (and I'm the one doing the shopping, cooking, and cleaning up) there's nothing wrong with Moosehead, though I wouldn't volunteer to drink one warm.

You Will Need:

1 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarb)
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
1 large egg
1 cup beer

Lightly beat the egg. Pour in the beer avoiding foam if you can for the sake of measuring. Whisk dry ingredients together in a large, non-reactive bowl. Whisk in the beer and egg until smooth. Cover, let rest 2 hours at room temperature. Chill 1 hour before using. I used the same batter for the onion rings.

You don't get a smile like that from frozen fish fingers. No, really you don't. Yes, he does need a haircut, thanks for noticing.

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