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Fish and Chips

Just about everybody likes crunchy fish fillets served with a heap of crisp fries, and you can successfully make this venerable British dish at home if you time the steps carefully. These fries—chips to the British—are “oven-fried” to ease the cook’s workload.

Ingredients:

For the tartar sauce:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise (purchased, or see recipe at left)
  • 2 Tbs. sweet pickle relish
  • 1 Tbs. nonpareil capers, rinsed
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  •  
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup lager beer, or as needed
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 5 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for frying
  • 4 large baking potatoes
  • 1 1/4 lbs. skinless haddock or cod fillet, cut into 4 pieces
  • Malt vinegar and lemon wedges for serving

Directions:

To make the tartar sauce, in a bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, relish, capers and parsley. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend.

To make the batter, in a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt. Add the 1/2 cup beer, the egg and 2 Tbs. of the oil and whisk just until the ingredients are combined (it should be slightly lumpy). The mixture should have the consistency of pancake batter; add more beer if needed.

Let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour while you prepare the potatoes. To make the chips, position racks in the center and upper third of an oven and preheat to 400°F. Cut each unpeeled potato in half lengthwise, then cut the halves lengthwise into wedges about 1/2 inch thick. Arrange the wedges in a single layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets, drizzle with the 3 Tbs. oil and toss to coat. Place 1 sheet on each oven rack and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the potato wedges, then switch the pans between the racks, rotate the pans 180 degrees and continue to bake until tender and golden brown, about 25 minutes more.

Just before the chips are finished baking, set a large wire rack on another rimmed baking sheet and place near the stove. Pour oil into a large saucepan to a depth of 3 inches and heat over high heat to 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Remove the chips from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 200°F. Combine the chips on a single baking sheet, season with salt and return to the oven to keep warm.

In batches to avoid crowding, dip the fish pieces in the batter, letting the excess drip back into the bowl, and add to the hot oil. Deep-fry until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to the rack and keep warm in the oven while frying the remaining fish. Serve the fish and chips hot, passing the tartar sauce, vinegar and lemon wedges. Serves 4.

Variation: For an amazing fried fish sandwich, serve the fried fish and tartar sauce on a soft roll, such as a torpedo roll. Add some shredded lettuce and sliced tomatoes, if you like, and serve the chips on the side.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2009).