Today I woke up from my oh-so-comfortable bed to hear the splattering of rain drops outside the window. Was it just rain? No, it sounded like a rain/hail mix. Lovely. No matter, I dressed myself up in my full rain suit and gumboots and headed out the door. Walking to work today gave me a very deja vu feeling of, and yearning for, my time in London.
Me, Pottering Around at Platform 9 3/4
Despite the prevailing idea that all it does is rain there, it probably only sprinkled one day a week in the whole five months I lived there, with maybe a few exceptions. The feeling lingered throughout the day, and I wanted nothing more when three o’clock rolled around than a cup of earl grey with a side of chocolate biscuits. The biscuits were not to be had, my cuppa was perfection. Given my mood, is only appropriate that my planned return to London in the kitchen happened today, so tonight I present you with Fish and Chips with a side of pea puree.
I didn’t really eat fish and chips all that much in England. Maybe twice, once upon request when Yam visited. I did, however, eat them what seems like quite a lot growing up. I have three very distinct food memories from the summers my family and I spent at my grandparents’ house in the small town of Fort Erie, Canada, just across the border from Buffalo, New York; (1) Turtle Sundaes from the Avondale Dairy Bar (Now that I think about it, this may be the reason that I consider a hot fudge sundae the best dessert of all time. EVER); (2)Peach upside-down cake on grandma’s back porch to celebrate my and my brother’s birthdays (they are two weeks apart); and (3) driving 40 miles to a special chip shop in St. Catherine’s, Ontario to sit on picnic table and eat fish and chips out of a newspaper wrapped basket, malt vinegar instead of catsup, please.
While it’s impossible to recreate that feeling at that time in my life, I’m going to try my best to recreate the taste, with one exception. Baked, not fried. I know, blasphemy. You may ask, “why are you going to half-ass this?” Well, two reasons: 1) my metabolism is not that of an 8 year old anymore and 2) I’m actually afraid of frying things. Hot oil scares me, and so I avoid frying. Plus, the ventilation in my apartment is pretty crap, and so I’d rather not burn the house down. Not to worry, I’ve done what I deem to be thorough research on the “bake, not fry” technique, and I feel confident that my meal will be more than acceptable. On to the task.
The techniques and recipes I used for the fish and chips came from Cooks Illustrated‘’s Best International Recipes. The pea puree I borrowed from an infamous episode of Top Chef. Love that show.
1 really large or 2 medium sized russet potatoes, peeled if desired, and cut into whatever size you want your fries
¾ cup flour
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ tsp cayenne
¼ tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
¾ cup (or half) of a cold beer
¾ pounds cod, cut into three ounce pieces
For the pea puree:
1 bag frozen peas
¼ cup sour cream
5 mint leaves
Salt and pepper
1. Toss the potatoes in enough olive oil to coat. Place in a large microwave safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave on high until potatoes are partially translucent and pliable but still offer some resistance when pierced with a fork, about 4-6 minutes, tossing them halfway through cooking.
2. Rinse the potatoes under cold water and drain in a mesh srainer. Spread them on a clean, dry kitchen towel and pat dry. Let them cool about 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, cornstarch, cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Transfer about ½ cup of that mixture to a rimmed baking sheet. Whisk the baking powder into the original bowl. Set aside.
4. Preheat the oven to 400F. Place two cookie sheets into the oven while it is preheating. I learned this tip from Tyler Florence. This way, when you put the food on them when the oven is done, it creates a nice sear.
5. While the oven is heating, prepare the fish. Dredge the fish in the flour mixture on the baking sheet, shaking off any excess. Whisk the beer into the bowl with the baking soda, a little at a time until the batter falls from the whisk in a thin, steady stream. Dip the floured fish into this batter, letting the excess drip off.
6. When everything is ready, place the fish and chips on separate baking sheets. Bake for about 30 minutes until the fish flakes and the potatoes are crispy, turning on about halfway through the cooking process.
7. Meanwhile, make the pea puree. Thaw the peas in the microwave, about 4 minutes. Add to a food processor, along with the sour cream, salt, pepper and mint. Puree to desired consistency.
8. Serve everything immediately. With malt vinegar. Newspaper optional.