We rarely deep fry. But this is worth it. I’ve never had a better version in any restaurant. And next time, homemade potato chips. Serves 4, broadly adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook
Follow a few simple tips for success. What we learned:
- Completely submerge the fish in oil to cook. This is meant to be deep frying. A half recipe could work in a medium-size deep pot, or use a larger 7-quart Dutch oven, as this recipe recommends, to hold 2 quarts of oil and allow cooking of all pieces at once.
- Use the right oil. For flavor and high heat tolerance, use all peanut oil or a combination of peanut and canola oil.
- Follow the recipe. We cook a lot, usually just “stirring up some groceries,” as Maya Angelou says in “Hallelujah Table.” But we were glad we followed this recipe. The quantities, times, techniques and ingredients for the fish and the fries are spot on.
- However, there’s room to improvise with the tartar sauce and sides, such as green apple Waldorf Salad ~ a very acceptable substitute for cole slaw if you forget to put cabbage on the grocery list (!)
- Select a good beer. More about that in the ingredients list.
3 pounds of potatoes. We used red skin potatoes, unpeeled, cut lengthwise into long ½-inch-square sticks, ends squared off. The original recipe calls for russets, peeled.
3 quarts plus ¼ cup peanut oil or canola oil, less needed if you cook your fish in stages. BUT, this requires careful temperature management so the second batch of fish isn’t cooked in scorched oil with floating burned bits of batter and potatoes.
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
Dash ground black pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ pounds cod or other thick whitefish fillets cut into eight 3-ounce pieces about 1-inch thick
1 ½ cups (12 ounces) cold beer. Choose beer you would like to drink or, as in my case, on the recommendation of someone who knows something about beer. The better the beer, the better the batter! We used Paulaner Hefe-Weizen.
For the ATK tartar sauce
Stir together, cover, and refrigerate: ¾ cup mayonnaise; 2 tablespoons drained, minced capers; 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish, 1 small minced shallot, 1 ½ teaspoons white vinegar, ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper.
Before cooking. This meal is best served immediately.
- Set out your dishes, silverware, and napkins.
- Chill your beverages.
- Set the table, or buffet, or TV trays
- Make and chill the tartar sauce and any other cold sides; unless this is as team event, there won’t be time while you’re cooking.
- Clean up your kitchen before you even turn on the stove. This meal is not difficult, but it seems to take a lot of spaceandtraysandtoolsanddripsetc. Start with a nice clean space and, at the end, when it’s all cooled grease and smeared ketchup (sorry, you know what I mean—that’s why I’m saying it in the beginning, so we can move on!) cleanup will be a lot less daunting.
1. Start the potatoes — Place the cut fries in a large microwave-safe bowl, toss with ¼ cup of the oil, and cover with a plate. Microwave on high power 6-8 minutes, tossing lightly after about 3 minutes, until the potatoes are partially translucent and pliable but not soft. Carefully (to avoid scalding yourself) remove the plate and pour potatoes into a mesh strainer set over the sink. Rinse well under cold running water. Spread the potatoes on a few clean kitchen towels, pat to dry, let rest until cooled to room temperature.
2. Begin heating 2 quarts of the oil over medium heat in Dutch oven. Use a clip-on candy thermometer to heat oil to 350 degrees.
3. Make the flour coating — While the fries cool, whisk the flour, cornstarch, Cayenne and black peppers, paprika, and 2 teaspoons of salt in a large mixing bowl.
4. Make the batter — Transfer 3/4 cup of the mixture to a rimmed baking sheet. Add the baking powder to the bowl, whisk to combine, and add 1 ¼ cups beer to the mixture. Stir until the batter is just combined but still lumpy. Add the remaining beer as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition, until the batter falls from the whisk in a thin, steady stream.
5. Coat the fish — Thoroughly dry the fish with paper towels. Dredge each piece in the flour mixture on the baking sheet, then in the batter, then in the flour again and place back on the baking sheet in a single layer to rest for a few minutes while you begin frying the potatoes.
6. Fry the potatoes for the first time — When the oil has reached 350 degrees, add fries and increase burner temperature to medium-high or high. Fry, occasionally stirring gently (not so much stirring as just lifting the potatoes at the bottom to the top) with a mesh spider or slotted spoon, until potatoes turn light golden brown and just begin to brown on the corners. Time will vary according to your burner heat, but this will take approximately 6-9 minutes. Transfer the fries to a thick paper bag or paper towels to drain.
7. Cook the fish. — With the burner set on medium-high, add the remaining 1 quart of oil and heat to 375 degrees. Then, turn the heat to high and, using tongs, add the battered fish to the oil. Deep fry, stirring occasionally, until fish is golden brown, 7-8 minutes. Transfer the fish to a thick paper bag or paper towels to drain.
8. Finish the fries — Allow the oil to return to 375 degrees. (Be sure to do this. A lower temperature will leave the fries greasy.) Add the fries back to the oil and fry until golden brown and crisp, 3-5 minutes. Season with salt to taste and serve immediately with the fish.