Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Whisk Wednesdays—Merlans Colbert (Deep-fried Whiting with Tartar Sauce)

Merlans Colbert (Deep-fried Whiting with Tartar Sauce)This next class is all about sautéing and deep frying, and first up is good 'ol English-style fish 'n' chips (without the chips). Some call this England's national dish.
There are 8,500 Fish and Chip Shop Proprietors throughout the United Kingdom
— according to the National Federation of Fish Friers
In my experience, the best fish 'n' chips place is in the small, lakeside resort town of Regina Beach in Southern Saskatchewan at Butler's Fish & Chips. (Even though it's now called Bluebird Café, everyone still calls it Butler's.) You order at the take-out window and wait on the steps out front, watching the world go by (or someone hit a parked motorcycle), until they call your name. Then, you take your cardboard box of fried food across the street to the beach and gorge on "the best fish 'n' chips in the world". Normally, a beach, bathing suits and fried food shouldn't go together, but it's a decadent summertime tradition I've enjoyed many times growing up and try to make time for when I visit.

Butler's Fish 'n' ChipsThis recipe for deep-fried fish calls for Merlans, which is whiting, but my fishmonger didn't have that so I bought trout instead since that was listed as a substitution but is not white at all! Colbert turns out to be an influential finance minister under the rule of King Louis XIV but naming this dish after him is a mystery.

Turning Mayonnaise into Tartar Sauce

Tartar SauceThe first step for this recipe is to make tartar sauce, which is mayonnaise with the addition of finely chopped gherkins, capers, onions, and fresh chives. In this case, hard-boiled egg yolks are also mashed and added.

Here's the method I use to hard boil an egg: Place the egg in a pot and cover with one inch of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. After it starts to boil, remove the pot from the heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a bowl with ice water. Transfer the egg to the ice water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Peel and use as desired.

Anglaise Breading
Next up was breading "à l'anglaise" (English style). First, you dip the fish in flour (which dries the fish), then in a beaten egg mixture (that also contains a touch of water and oil) until coated and finally in fresh bread crumbs. (If you skip the breadcrumb step and stop at the egg wash, the breading is called "à la parisienne".) I always add salt and pepper to each stage of breading to add flavor. You can let the coated fish sit for about 20 minutes to make sure it's dry before deep frying.

As I learned at a cooking class one year, use one hand for the dry breading and one hand for the wet. The dry hand dips the fish into the flour and lifts it into the egg, and the wet hand lifts it from the egg into the breadcrumbs, and then the dry hand lifts it from the breadcrumbs into the hot oil (or use a pair of tongs at this point!).

Oil and water don't mix. Since there is moisture in food, the purpose of the breading is to act as a barrier between the food that's about to be deep-fried and the oil. The heat from the oil cooks the food by steaming the food inside and browns the outside. As well, the breading provides texture and flavor for a mild, lean type of meat such as fish.
A French expression: Faire des yeux de merlans frits
Translation: Make fried marlin eyes or Make goo-goo eyes
Deep Frying
Since no water is used, deep frying is considered a dry heat method of cooking. This is hard to grasp since the food is submerged in a liquid, but the liquid is not water so it's considered dry.

The oil should be deep enough to cover the fish (about 2-3 inches), but the pot should never be more than half full. You don't want it to boil over. It's important that you cook the fish when the oil is hot, between 350˚F and 375˚F.

Add fish to the oil one or two pieces at a time to keep the temperature of the oil constant and so that the oil can surround the food completely and cook it evenly. Keep watching the temperature and make sure it doesn't get below 325˚F or the oil will seep into the food because it takes too long to cook at this temperature. Also, check out these smoke points of different oils. If the oil is too hot, all the moisture in the food will be lost and the oil will move in. Also, the food may burn as the water is forced out of the food, making it dry and oily, according to this link. Fish cooks quickly when deep-fried and is cooked when the coating is brown. Once browned, keep the food warm in a 200˚F while cooking the remaining fish.

The moisture in the food repels the oil so the food should not be greasy. If food has been deep-fried properly, it should not have much oil on it. You can test this by measuring the oil before deep-frying and after the oil has cooled. You should have almost the same amount of oil after deep-frying.

Merlans Colbert (Deep-fried Whiting with Tartar Sauce) mise en placeYou can find the recipe for Merlans Colbert (Deep-fried Whiting with Tartar Sauce) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesdays group fared with this week's recipe, click here (or check out the sidebar) and then click on each blogger!

Merlans Colbert (Deep-fried Whiting with Tartar Sauce)Tasting Notes
These were the best fish sticks I've had. They were crunchy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside. And the homemade tartar sauce was delicious too, although altogether it was very rich. Two fish sticks were all I could handle. Even though these were delicious, nothing compares to the fish 'n' chips at Butler's.
There was a fight at the chip shop last night…the fish got battered.
Next Week (October 22)
• Sole Belle Meunière (Pan-fried Sole with Nut-brown butter and Mushrooms) pages 65-66

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Running total: $784.68 + $3.06 (tartar sauce) + $12.17 (fish) + $2.39 (breading) = $802.30

Butter used so far: 7 pounds, 27 tablespoons

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::Whisk Wednesdays::
We're cooking our way through a cooking school curriculum using the Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook. The "classes" are based on the Le Cordon Bleu curriculum found online and used as a guideline. Not all the items in the curriculum are in the cookbook, but most are. Where the items are not in the book, we try to find a suitable substitution. Find out more here.


Lynda said...

I love the fish and chips at Butler's too. Yours look like they are not so greasy. I am impressed with how tasty they look.

Mary Ann said...

Looks delicious. My family would absolutely love this.

Irene said...

Fish and chips are my favorite. Sadly, I've never made them at home because deep fying just freaks me out! It's best enjoyed at the beach anyway, notwithstanding bathing suits!! :D

NKP said...

Looking at yours makes me want them all over again. I made mine with tilapia - glad I wasn't the only one to use fillets.
I agree they were the best homemade fried fish I have ever made.
(my ww post is behind the halloween one)

Anonymous said...

OMW...those look divine. I was hoping to get to this, but no go today...I am headed out of state early, read that VERY EARLY, tomorrow a.m. and not able to fit one more thing into today. Except looking at your post while I wait for dinner to cook. I will try to get to this on a rewind as I have never deep fried fish in my life...EVER...I am not a fan of fried foods, but maybe this could be something I would like from your description. Yours look very, photos, food, all of it. You are a star! Every single week!

tara said...

Never thought I would say this, but these are the prettiest fish fingers I have ever seen. The texture on the coating looks spot on. Thanks for such an informative post!

vibi said...

AH! Man... this is the first time in my life I'll say (or write) these words: "Your post looks so good, I wish I liked fish!"
There it is... I said it.
On another note, I hate fish. I loooooove your blog and the Whisk Wednesdays' genius ideas... but I hate fish. LOL
My favorite has to be the grease stains on the brown paper bag, though!

Chocolate Shavings said...

Those look absolutely delicious - crispy on the outside, and I'm sure tender within!

Jaime said...

you are making me crave fish n chips now!

Deborah said...

It's hard to find good fish and chips here where I live - so I should try this out and make my own!

Cathy said...

This would be a huge hit around here. And you've somehow managed to make fish sticks pretty! I didn't know that was possible.

thecelticcookinshanghai said...

Can't beat the flavour of good fried fish. It's not so difficult but why do so many places get it so wrong? Doing it at home is best.

Jacque said...

It looks so tasty! and your post is so informative too. Thanks :)

Nikki @ NikSnacks said...

Luckily, in school, we got to use the mayonnaise made from the day before for the tartar sauce. I'm not a gherkin fan, so I remember not eating this with the fish. I was in charge of the french fries, too. Mine were soggy. But my fish was crispy. Every Southern girl knows how to fry fish!

Anonymous said...

wow. not only are those pictures beautiful, that tartar sauce looks heavenly and i can almost taste and feel the crunch of that fish!

Anonymous said...

Oh yummy!! I can't wait! I'm doing this recipe with cod tonight, and I may even do the chips to go with!!

Shari said...

lynda - They were tasty, but not as good as Butler's!

mary ann - It's easier than you think, but not as easy as fish sticks from a box!

irene - I've had a scare with deep frying, but I'm a lot more careful now.

natashya - Your tilapia ones look great too!

kayte - Deep-fried fish or deep-fried potatoes -- same technique. Hope you have time to give it a go someday!

tara - Thanks for such a compliment! They were crunchy!

vibi - Too bad you don't like fish, but I can see why you don't. These weren't "fishy" so were ok.

chocolate shavings - They were very crispy! They also re-heated well. I heated them in the microwave for 2-3 minutes and then broiled them in the oven for 4-5 minutes. They were still crunchy.

jaime - Indulge!

deborah - It's not too hard to make at home!

cathy - I couldn't get my kids to like them, but they are very very picky!!

jacqui - Hope you give it a try!

jacque - Thanks!

nikki - Thanks for giving us a behind-the-scenes take on this class!!

we are never full- Thanks!

cantbelieveweate - Good luck with your deep frying!

Thanks, everyone, for dropping by and leaving a comment!


Anonymous said...

Delicious looking fish fingers! I've looked for whiting before as well but I've only ever found them in Australia.

gaga said...

Those look beautiful. I can't believe you made tartar sauce from scratch too. Impressive!