[Eran Elhalal, regales us yet again with one of his delicious recipes. SYR tested it last night and loved it. CS]
Comfort food is what it’s all about! What is comfort food, you ask? It’s fun food, heart-warming food, food that brings memories of warmth, memories of times past. Interestingly enough most comfort food stems from poverty. Creations relying on inexpensive cuts of meat/fish, and the cheapest ingredients available. There are countless examples: American Soul food,Mac&Cheese, Meatloaf, Rice & Refried beans (also Latin Americas’ protein supplement), Hummus & Fava Beans (the North African protein supplement), Pasta,etc.
Every country has its own array of comfort food, Fish N’ Chips are The British Empires’ greatest contribution to the culinary world! Well… that may be debatable, but it’s definitely the food for which English cuisine is most famous. It became popular in South-East England and London in the early 1800’s. They were even referenced in Charles Dickens’, “Oliver Twist” (published 1838). The first recorded Fish N’ Chip shop was opened between 1860-1865 by one Joseph Malin in London. Selling for Nine Pence in the 1800’s, it soon became the quintessential poor man’s food.
Trawling (pulling nets through the water behind the ship), which became the main fishing method in 19th century England, made fish abundant and thus inexpensive. Along with the fact that potatoes could be farmed on almost any soil and could survive the British Isles’ harsh winter, fish and potatoes became the perfect choice for the hungry working class.
Fish N’ Chips shops and carts are still the main British working stiff’s lunch or traditional Friday night dinner.
Traditionally served wrapped in newspaper, the fish is beer battered and deep fried with the fries. It is then drizzled with malt vinegar or onion vinegar (the vinegar used for pickling onions). Classically a Cod family fish is used (Cod, Haddock, Pollock, Hake), these are lean white flesh fish that are found in great numbers in the Atlantic Ocean.
I developed this recipe while doing my very first stint as Chef, at UnWined, in Manhattan’s Upper West Side:
Fish N’ Chips
Makes 12 servings
3 lbs Cod fillets cut to 2 oz pieces
salt & white pepper to taste
oil for frying (for best results use peanut oil – it has the highest smoking point)
2 lemons cut to wedges
2 cups flour
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tsp oil
1 bottle (12 fl oz) beer – (I use toasted lager!)
2 egg whites whipped to soft peaks
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut to battonettes (1/2 inch wide finger shaped)
cold water to cover fries (keeps potatoes from oxidizing and maintains crispness)
- Sprinkle yeast over the warm water and let stand until fully dissolved.
- Mix flour, salt and sugar and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture, oil and beer and stir to combine only. Gently fold in the egg whites.
- Let stand for 1/2 hour until the batter becomes frothy.
- Pat the fish fillets and season.
- Heat frying oil to 350 degrees F. Drain well and fry potatoes, only to cook through – no color! Fry in batches! Set aside.
- Reheat the oil to 400 degrees F (the cold batter will make the oil temp drop initially).
- Dip the fish in the batter and fry. Add the fries for the last 2 minutes to color and crisp up.
- Toss the fries in a mixing bowl with salt.
- Serve with malt vinegar and lemon wedges .
Enjoy it folks, enjoy!