Friday, April 18, 2008

Fish and Chips

With the arrival of my new Staub 5-quart French oven (Dutch oven if you will), I decided to test it out on frying foods. After all, that was the primary reason why I got it. For my first fried food test, I decided to make Fish and Chips. Well, the chips was really Ore-Ida® Zesties!® baked in the oven but if you're in the mood for some homemade fries, you can follow the recipe for my Sweet Potato Fries. Just substitute it with Russet potatoes. I was just a little lazy after coming home from a not-so-hard-but-boring day at work. Also, I love Ore-Ida Zesties and felt like some zestie fries without the fuss.

So on to the Fish. I've made the fried fish (cod) twice now, trying to perfect the beer batter. I think if I was to use tilapia, I would soak it in buttermilk for about 30 minutes to eliminate any "muddy" taste that tilapia can sometimes have. Same goes for catfish. I used Alton Brown's recipe the first go-around but the batter was way too thick. His recipe also didn't specify the exact amount of beer to use. I just used 1 bottle of beer.

I did a test fry and the coating was thick and not cooked completely through even after 4 minutes of frying. I added some water to the batter to thin it out and it was better but still on the thick side. The fish was moist but it lacked flavor. I don't think there was enough salt or seasoning for my taste. The Mister liked it a lot but for me, just missing something. So back to the test kitchen.

Last night, I decided to use the same technique as the chicken fingers in order to turn it up a bit (ha, bet you thought I was going to say notch, didn't you?). I ended up seasoning the fish and the batter. I suppose I didn't have to add the spices in the batter but I really liked the color the cayenne pepper gave the batter. I also ended up with a bit more batter than I needed, but it's better to have too much than not enough in this case. I also switched from cornstarch (as per Alton's recipe) to mochiko flour for dredging because the cornstarch created a rather thick coating on such thin strips of fish. The mochiko flour provided a very nice, thin coating. The results? Awesome!! The Mister and one of the Eating Machines said it was a keeper!

As for my new French/Dutch oven (oh heck, I'm just going to call it Dutch oven--DO for short), I was really amazed how well it kept the heat. I've used cast iron skillet, stainless steal pans, and electric wok for frying and none of them kept the temperature as well as my DO. It was pricey but I think it's worth every penny. I've even made a No Knead rustic crusty bread in it, but that is another post to come. I should probably do a whole post just on my DO. But for now, I give you fried fish.

For Frying:
I used about 1/2 gallon of peanut oil but I probably could have used a bit less, probably 1/3 gallon. Two 24-oz bottles should do the trick.

For the batter:
2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 to 1 1/2 bottles of cold beer (I used some Belgium blonde beer that the Mister had in the fridge)
1 1/2 pounds firm-fleshed whitefish (tilapia, Pollock, cod), cut into ~1 oz strips
Mochico flour for dredging

For Fish Seasoning:
2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning


Heat oil in a 5-quart Dutch/French oven over high heat until it reaches 350F degrees. I used a candy/oil thermometer to monitor the oil temperature. I was aiming for anywhere between 350-360F degrees (the sweet spot).

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cayenne pepper, and Old Bay seasoning. Whisk in the beer until the batter is free of lumps and has a smooth texture. Use enough beer to obtain a consistency similar to a pancake batter that's on the thinner side. I had to use about 1/4 of the second bottle to get it thin enough. (Use a beer that you like so you can finish up the remainder!) It should run off the whisk fairly quickly, not globby (if you know what I mean). Refrigerate for 15 minutes. You can make the batter up to 1 hour ahead of time, just keep it in the fridge until you need it.

Liberally cover the fish strips with the fish seasoning. Lightly dredge fish strips in Mochiko flour. Work in small batches, I did about 4 strips at a time. Dip the fish into batter and gently immerse into the hot oil. Make sure you immerse the fish going away from you to prevent oil splashing onto you. Safety first!

Once the the batter is set and turns a light tan, turn the pieces of fish over and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. I recommend using a splash guard to keep the mess down a bit. Note: Alton's recipe said 2 minutes but I found 3 minutes produced a much nicer and thoroughly cooked coating. The fish was not dry at all.

Drain the fish on a rack with some paper towels underneath it. I find laying down the paper towels help wick condensation away from the fish. It's best to serve the fish within 3-5 minutes. Serve with malt vinegar and/or tartar sauce.

Have a wonderful weekend. Now go and eat well.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

What!!!! A local girl eating talapia!!!! First thing that came to my mind was the captial building muddy fish pond. I'm glad you used cod instead. Do you think using buttermilk to get rid of the (sometimes) muddy taste in mullet to made chinese style steam fish would work? Or would you use another technique? Thanks for the tip on using mochiko flour instead of cornstarch to coat the fish. BTW, my friend tried the mayo, honey, horseradish, mustard mix and said that wasn't the one for the burger. Back to the drawing board for me. Have a good one, lance

Barefoot Plumies said...

Hey Lance! lol! For some reason, tilapia seems to be more readily available here and a whole lot cheaper than cod. I only resort to tilapia if I can't find cod. Heck, I rather get pollock instead of tilapia (if it's good for fish balls, it's good enough for me!).

I watched an episode of Dirty Jobs where he went to a tilapia farm and I've been a bit put off by tilapia ever since. I still haven't recovered from the Alaska Halibut story I heard 5 years ago (ewwww). You don't want to know if you like halibut.

I think milk might be a better choice for mullet if you're cooking it Chinese style. Buttermilk has a tangy flavor and is quite thick. But it could add an interesting flavor. Maybe just rinsing the buttermilk off before cooking?? I've read soaking in milk can help get rid of some of that muddy taste but never tried milk.

I'm sorry the honey mustard sauce didn't work out. If I ever get my okole back, I'm definitely getting a burger to see if I can recreate the sauce.

Have a great weekend!

KirkK said...

Hey CAB - I like the use of mochiko, sounds great.

I'm kinda with Lance on this one....I have a problem with tilapia, I get Blaisdell Center Pond flashbacks - or as RONW called it; "the MahiMahi of the Ala Wai......

Barefoot Plumies said...

Hey Kirk! I really like the results with mochiko when trying for a *lighter* fry (if there's such a thing).

Yeah, not a big fan of tilapia, really. It tastes like a milder version of catfish, which I'm not a fan of at all.

lol! I used to play in Ala Wai back in the days when we lived in an apartment complex next to it. I didn't go swimming or anything in it but used to hang out with all the older kids and trying to catch *critters*. I still remember falling into it one day with my new birthday dress. Boy, was my Mom mad, hehe. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can still smell the Canal...