Where the Fish (and Chips) Are Plentiful
Living in the UK for a few years, I ate my more than my fair share of fish and chips. That crispy, golden goodness sustained my family and I through countless day trips, pub afternoons, and Now that I am home in the US, it’s a meal I only eat when I make it at home (that old Mickey D’s Filet-O-Fish just doesn’t cut it). It brings me immediately back to my time as an expat, when the fried fish was plentiful and there was a chip shop on every corner.
Now that I make my own, I am keenly aware of the fish that I cook with. I used to prefer Atlantic Cod–it was available in most restaurants or pubs, and it has a firm, white, and delicious flesh. When there was no cod, haddock was the second choice, less desired because of its flakiness.
However, I didn’t know how overfished Atlantic Cod is (Dan Barber’s book The Third Plate has an interesting section about this issue). But what type of fish should I use?
Websites abound that give suggestions for fish swaps, advising consumers on more sustainable fish to use in place of the most overfished stocks (Atlantic Cod being one of them).
The next problem you may encounter is: where do I get this sustainable fish? Unless you have an amazing fish market in your town or city (like I do), there can be slim pickings at the grocery store (and it’s not always practical to make a separate stop at the fish market).
Talk to the staff at your grocery store! I was lucky to find Alaskan Cod, a more sustainable alternative to the Atlantic version. But that was the only option available. Most stores choose stock because of demand–so demand it. Talk to the person behind the fish counter. Talk to the store manager. Bring your list of sustainable fish.
And if you’re really adventurous and particular about the flavor of your fish, take it to another level and buy your fish alive and perform Ike Jime.
The fish and chips recipe I use is adapted from Rick Stein’s, the guru of fish cooking in the UK.
Print Recipe Fish and Chips, Peas + Aioli
To make the batter, mix the flour, 1 tsp of salt, the baking powder, paprika, and garlic powder. Add the water until it is the consistency of yogurt. Keep cold. Use within 20 minutes of mixing.
Wash the potatoes thoroughly. I prefer to leave the peels on, but peel if you prefer. Cut the potatoes lengthwise into chip-length (fries) pieces. Heat the oil in a pot to 260°F. Fry half of the potatoes for about 5 minutes, until tender when pierced with a knife, but not colored. Remove and drain on paper towels to remove excess oil. Set aside.
To fry the fish, heat the oil to 320°F. Season the filets with salt and dip them in the batter. Immediately place in oil to fry, 2-3 pieces at a time, for approx. 10 minutes, until crispy, golden, brown, and delicious (GBD). Place on a paper towel lined tray to drain and set aside. Continue with the rest of the fish.
Raise the temperature of the oil to 375°F. Cook the potatoes in small batches for 3-4 minutes, until they are crispy and golden. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel lined plate or tray. Sprinkle with salt while they are fresh out of the oil.
Serve with peas and aioli.
I prefer to serve this dish with fresh peas with a bit of salt, but mushy peas are the classic.
I use this aioli recipe in place of the more traditional tartar sauce.