Friday, 15 June 2012

Fish and Chips

Father's Day is such a bittersweet day for me. I missed my dad every minute of every day for the longest time after he passed away. Then, over time, the sense of loss became more sporadic in nature. I'd see a rainbow and think of my dad. And I believed that rainbows were a special hello from him. I still do. Or the smell of shoe polish would bring me back to the time he'd be shining up his police boots to go to work. The sadness eventually became less raw and was replaced by a sense of pride and my memories became happy ones and that sustains me now. But Father's Day also gives me a great sense of celebration and I think of my brothers and what wonderful fathers they became. Which I never would have guessed would happen during my childhood growing up with them. And my two daughters (the ladygirls) struck gold when they won their father in the lottery jackpot of life. Over the course of their lifetime, he has been kind and loving and generous and patient. He has guided them with his wisdom to achieve everything they thought they could do and then a little bit more. In short, he did, and continues to do what only the very best fathers do. He adores them!
I love to cook and whenever I asked my dad what he would like me to make him for a special dinner, the answer was always the same. "Let's have a big feed of fish and chips" he'd say. Hahah Did I mention my dad is a Newfie? In my stupid, ignorant, petulant youth, I'd resent this request. I felt my skills were quite a bit more considerable than frying up fish and chips. Under protest, out I'd go to get the ingredients and stomp around the kitchen fixing up his supper. I didn't have the wisdom back then to realise two important lessons in life - Fish and Chips, when done properly is bloody well delicious. And eating a big, all you can eat fish fry with your friends and family is a tradition that is beloved by many countries around the planet. It is a joyful experience to say the least. And oh what I would give to make my dad a feed of fish and chips just one more time!
Let's start with the chips. I don't have a deep fryer or even a thermometer to test the temperature of the oil. What I do have is a pot with handles on it that holds the vegetable oil, and a basket that fits into that so you can put the fries in it and drop it down into the oil. This is probably pretty old school. So use your deep fryer if you have it, or otherwise, pour about 3 inches of vegetable oil in a pot and let it heat up on Med-High heat. Peel your potatoes and slice them into the size of fry you like. Some people like thin and some like thick. The important thing to remember here is that only a new white potato will make the best fries. Don't use yellow flesh or red potatoes. Put your fries down into the heated oil and let them go for about ten minutes. If you have the deep fryer or the basket, pull them out and prepare your fish. Then put them back into the oil to fry when you put your fish to cook. Frying them twice will make them crispy. When they are golden brown and you can easily stick a knife in them, pull them out of the oil. Let the excess oil drain off them and put them on a paper towel lined platter and salt them liberally while they are still very hot. This way the salt will stick to them.
For the fish, I always use cod because that's what we eat in Newfoundland. Here they tend to like halibut or haddock. It really depends on your budget and what you can find that will determine your fish. You can use fresh or thawed frozen. Plan on at least two pieces of fish per person. Cut your portions to make sure each fillet is no more than 1/2" thick. Dry all your fish pieces with a paper towel and dredge each one in seasoned flour. Just salt and pepper is all you need to season.
Your batter is the key. It is just flour and beer. The end. Don't put anything else in it. Start with a cup of flour and whisk in some beer. The goal is to have a pancake thickness. If you get too thin, add more flour and if it's too thick, add more beer. Put about 3" of vegetable oil in a large pot and heat it up on Med-High heat. I put just a small drop of batter into it once it heats up to see what's going on. If it bubbles up right away, you're ready to go. Reduce your heat a little bit. Using a pair of tongs, take a floured piece of fish and put it into the batter making sure it's battered all over. Then slowly let it slide into the oil and keep holding a small corner with your tongs until it rises up off the bottom. You don't want to just drop it in there or it will stick to the bottom of the pot and you'll have a disaster on your hands. Only do two or three pieces at a time or your oil will lose its heat and that spells another disaster. After about 4minutes, flip the fish over and see if the batter is golden brown. Do the other side when you're liking the golden colour. Let it go for another 4 minutes and then, using a draining type spatula or spoon, lift it out of the oil over the pot and let the oil drain out of it back into the pot. Then put it on a paper towel lined platter and salt it right away. Heat your oven up to 250 degrees and as you have the cooked and salted pieces on your platter, keep it warm in the oven until the next few pieces are done. And so it goes. You can make two pieces or twenty pieces. Just don't leave your oil unattended for even a second to prevent fire. This is not for the faint of heart. And maybe you should not even attempt this recipe if you don't have a drop or two of Newfie blood in you! And you have to be vigilantly attending this meal. So if you have guests, they'll have to fend for themselves until all the oil is turned off. Or you could hire a witty guest to entertain them while your back is to them for what seems like forever!
I serve lemon and tartar sauce with this. And ketchup and malt vinegar for the chips of course! And if you're really puttin' on the Ritz, cole slaw. Enjoy and wishing a very happy Father's Day to all you wonderful Dads!

1 comment: