To make fish and chips for four, you’ll need:
4 frozen hake fillets
Half a cup of flour
Sunflower or canola oil
6 large potatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A hearty staple meal or a blast of out-of-control cuisine – yes indeed, fish and chips has it all. In this version of the friendly meal, we tackle fish and chips from ground level. The purpose is to avoid everything that can undermine the pleasure of the experience and to maximise the good. This includes kitchen strategy to undercut grease and fishy smells. Who could ask for more?
Yes, it’s true – anyone can fry up a fillet of fish and a bundle of slap chips. In this recipe we’re going to go a couple of steps further, paying special attention to the logistics of frying and its frequent aftermath – a thin layer of oil over everything, including the cook. My suggestion is to do the high temperature frying outdoors using a Cadac. It’s that simple.
Moving on. You can choose any fish species you like. When it comes to straightforward value and predictability, date-stamped frozen hake is always reliable. Let the fillets thaw, then dip them in a simple batter of whisked eggs and flour. Proportions aren’t a big deal; all we really want is some sticky stuff coating the raw fish to give the final product a nice, crisp, golden jacket.
Next, the potatoes. Peel and cut them into uniform sections. The more uniform the sections, the more likely the chips are to turn out exactly the same. At this point we reach a minor crisis. Ideally, the fish and chips should cook at the same time. But a kitchen filled with near-flashpoint boiling oil is a bad place to let concentration slip, so I suggest you handle the chips first.
Pour the cooking oil of your choice into a high-sided frying pan. Bring this up to high heat and fry the chips a few at a time. Too many at once and the temperature reduces. As soon as they’re done, remove and drain them on brown paper. This works better than disposable kitchen towels, which sometimes stick unappetisingly to the food. When drained of excess oil, arrange on a plate and store in the warmer drawer of your oven.
Deal with the fish in exactly the same way, topping up the oil in the high-sided frying pan if necessary. Remember, the oil must be really hot. Be alert, dress appropriately and nobody gets burnt. Cook the fillets for about two minutes per side, turning once. As with the chips, drain the fillets on fresh brown paper then store them briefly with the chips in the warmer drawer.
Serve this meal with all the old standards: a couple of lemon quarters for each diner to anoint their fish, plus a simple marine sauce. Make it like this: stir together 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and a dash of red Tobasco. Apply this glorious flavour enhancer exactly as you see fit. Enjoy. – David Basckin