December 13, 2010

Fish and Different Sorts of Chips

Before last week, it had been years since I'd last fried up a batch of beer-battered fish.   Some nicely-priced cod caught my eye while shopping, so I put off cooking something from that week's menu planning to instead fry up some fish.

Fish and chips is a famous combination, obviously, but I wasn't really interested in making the standard sort of "chips," which is what the British word for what we call French fries.  I had some of my Cheesy Jalapeno Bean Dip and tortilla chips left over from the day before, but I thought it would be nice to have something a little healthier to go with those.  Specifically, I was thinking about a recipe I'd seen recently on

That recipe, TMPNorth's recipe for Kale Chips, sounded delicious, and a lot of people had giving it very high ratings.  So, I picked up some kale and some beer to go with the cod and I was ready to go.

It was only when I got home and tried to get things ready that I ran into a problem... I couldn't find the beer-battered fish recipe I'd used in times past.    Or, more accurately, I wasn't sure whether I'd found it or not.   Among my cookbooks and recipe binders and so forth, I had a bunch of recipes for beer-battered fried fish, but none of them was ringing a bell with me.  Some of them had notes jotted on or alongside the recipes, and some had clearly been viewed - and used in the kitchen - at some point in the past. 

I ended up deciding on one that was hand-written, with some corrections pencilled in and some cryptic scribbles in the margins.  I looked that over, made a few adjustments (reflected in the recipe printed below) and set out to make a fish dinner.

The beer I had selected in the store was Samuel Adams Winter Lager.  It smelled nice and made for an attractive batter.  After I took what I needed, Juli finished off the bottle, and thus discovered a new beer she liked. 

The resulting fish was... well, it was okay.  More accurately, the fish itself cooked up perfectly.   And the batter stayed on just fine and cooked to a nice golden brown.   But the flavor was... well, more than a little on the boring side.  The seasonings I'd included in the batter were barely detectible.  Not that I expected fried whitefish in a simple batter to be incredibly flavorful or anything, but I certainly remember it being more satisfying than how mine turned out.  Maybe I had chosen too flavorful a beer, but that didn't really seem the case, as the batter wasn't particularly strongly beer-flavored, either.

The Kale Chips... well, Juli and I give them very different ratings.   After shaking them in a bag with some olive oil and vinegar (I used red wine vinegar), they were baked for about 1/2 hour, then sprinkled with sea salt to serve.   Virtually all the moisture had been cooked out of the pieces of kale, leaving it delicately crispy but not the slightest bit burnt.  I rather liked them, finding them light and tasty, but Juli did not care for either the hint of vinegar flavor or the texture of the chips, which she likened more to ash than a chip.

The bean dip warmed up just fine and dandy, though, as I knew it would. 

So, all in all, that evening's dinner was among the least-satisfying ones I've made.  I'm going to have to look over some fried fish recipes, including some traditional fish and chips ones, to see what went wrong, or if perhaps I've just lost my taste for fried fish.  Or maybe some of our readers would have some good suggestions, or some recipes of their own they'd be willing to share.

Beer-Battered Fish

yield = 4 servings

4       cups vegetable oil
1       cup all-purpose flor
1/2    teaspoon cumin
1/2    teaspoon garlic powder
1/2    teaspoon salt
1/4    teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/4    teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8    teaspoon paprika
1       cup beer
1       pound cod, cut into strips
         lemon wedges (for serving)

In a Dutch oven or electric skillet, heat the oil to 375 degrees.

Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine flour, cumin, garlic powder, salt, black and cayenne pepper and paprika in a large bowl.  When the oil is almost ready, add the beer to the flower mixture and stir to combine into smooth batter. 

One piece at a time, dip the fish into the batter to coat it on all sides.  Use tongs to lift the pieces of fish, allow excess batter to drip off, then place the fish in the hot oil. 

Fry until golden-brown, about 5 minutes (if using a Dutch oven, you won't have to turn the fish, merely stir it around, but in an electric skillet you'll need to turn the fish after about 3 minutes.

Transfer fried fish pieces to a plate covered with paper towels, then serve.

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