Multiple birds need fear my stone after this Lenten Friday/Cookbook entry. There are few things more pleasing than fried fish. Doctors promote fish as a source of protein. It has omega 3 fatty acids that strengthen the heart and lift the spirits. They have healthy fats that help lower cholesterol. You did not read that last sentence wrong (unless you read it as “Goats sell stocks for record profit.”) Fish is undeniably good for you. That is why frying it is so appealing.
Image a placid pond. You sit on the edge, hearing only the songs of birds and buzzing of bees in the flowers. The scent of honeysuckle drifts by on a breeze. You’re reading a collection of Victorian poems and sipping a nice rosé. Now imagine your brat little brother doing a cannonball right smack in the center of the water, sending sheets of the stuff into the air and eventually soaking you and your book. That’s frying fish. Despoiling the ideal.
Mix 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of beer (I like it with stout), and 3 heaping teaspoons of baking powder in a bowl. It’s been a while since I made this and my notes say “Needs at least 2 cups of beer,” so you may need to add a little more, but I doubt it. You want the batter to stick to and coat the fish thickly so don’t add so much beer that it’s runny. Salt and pepper the fish and lightly dust with flour and then dip them in the batter. At this point you are probably wondering why you made all that batter to coat a couple of filets of fish. If you aren’t feeding at least four, you may want to cut back on the mix. In the meantime, heat enough oil to submerge the fish to 375°F. Cook the fish until the batter is crisp, about four minutes.
I’ve already written a post about making french fries, so do that and serve with homemade ketchup from this month’s cookbook. The standard disclaimer: No. You cannot copyright a recipe. But no, I will not be giving the measurements from any recipe in the cookbook of the month because a nod toward intellectual property is character building. They did some work. They should make some money.
To make ketchup put a lot of tomatoes and a surprising amount of onion in a pot (again, Dutch ovens are perfect and preferred) with olive oil and cook, stirring now and then, over a medium heat for forty minutes. Set aside and let cool. At this point, use a ho hum food processor or a super manly immersion blender and puree. Add water, sugar, and red wine vinegar. Heat at low for thirty more minutes, sieve, and let cool. Now you have fantaisie ketchup.*
I’ve extolled the virtues of A-1 Sauce with fried fish before. It’s not quite the “brown sauce” that is popular in British pubs, but it has tamarind, the same root flavor and will do in a pinch. HP makes a brown sauce that is occasionally available in the states and A-1 also puts out a London Pub Sauce, but I haven’t tried it yet. (UPDATE: I just tried the London Pub Sauce and it wins. The slight heat at the end puts it over the top. I’ll take it over HP’s brown sauce any day.)
One way to get that “I’m in England” feeling: wrap your fish in newspaper like they do for “take away” orders. Of course these days newspapers are failing left and right so it may be hard to find any real newspaper. Rather than getting your iPad all greasy, I suggest going here and printing a few pages.
*This is my first footnote so I’m a little nervous. Bear with me. According to the recipe the ketchup will keep in the fridge for a month. THIS IS NOT PRESERVED. If you are into canning and know the steps necessary to preserve this recipe, by all means take them but do so at your own risk. Don’t come crying to me about botulism. Enjoy.