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.
There are 8,500 Fish and Chip Shop Proprietors throughout the United Kingdom — according to the National Federation of Fish Friers
This 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
The 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.
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
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.
You 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!
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.
Next Week (October 22)
There was a fight at the chip shop last night…the fish got battered.
• 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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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.