Granted, fried foods probably won't make the top 10 of healthy food recommendations by the USDA, but if I had my druthers and/or if I had to choose a last meal due to a looming apocalypse on the horizon, then I'd definitely want to indulge in some kind of unctuous, comfort food concoction, a la fried chicken, crab cakes, a Philadelphia cheese steak sandwich from Pat's or Geno's (I'm game for either), spring rolls, chicken fried steak, Spanish croquetas, or a really, really good fish & chips. Speaking of fish & chips, the best versions I've tried have, hands down, always been around our coastal locales, e.g., Morro Bay, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Ventura or San Diego, where using the fresh catch of the day is de rigueur.
So after some trial and error, here's my version of fish and chips, with a beer batter adapted from a recipe in Lynette Rohrer Shirk's The Everything Tapas and Small Plates Cookbook. My fish of choice is cod, and my beer of choice for the batter is Newcastle Brown Ale. The tartar sauce is my own recipe, incorporating mayonnaise, sweet gherkins, scallions, cilantro, lime zest & lime juice.
4 lbs. of cod or other firm white fish (Albertson's or Trader Joe's have the frozen stuff, perfectly portioned for this recipe), defrosted & patted dry with paper towels
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. baking powder
12 oz. amber beer (Newcastle works well)
2/3 cup whole milk
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks
2 cups all purpose flour
6 cups vegetable oil
Lime & Cilantro Tartar Sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise (regular or light Best Foods)
2 sweet gherkins, finely chopped
2 scallions, chopped
2 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of half a lime
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. gherkin juice
2 lbs. Russet potatoes, peeled & cut into 2" x 1/2" thick slices
1. Combine all tartar sauce ingredients into a bowl, mix well, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Place sliced potatoes in a bowl of cool water (this will keep them from oxidizing and turning brown).
3. Combine all batter ingredients together in a medium bowl (except for the egg whites). Beat egg whites in a separate bowl to stiff peaks. Fold egg whites into the batter and set aside.
4. Place flour in a shallow baking dish. Season cod pieces lightly with kosher salt.
5. Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat to 325F. Drain the potatoes and blot dry with paper towels. Place them into the hot oil and fry for 8-10 minutes. Potatoes should not be browned, but just precooked until tender. Remove to a paper towel-lined dish or tray & set aside (potatoes can be kept at room temp for a few hours before the second frying).
6. Heat oil up to 375F. Add the fried potatoes to the pot and fry until crispy and golden (3-5 minutes). Remove to a paper towel-lined baking sheet, season with some kosher salt and set aside.
7. Heat oil up to 365F. Dredge the cod pieces in the flour, dip into the batter, then add to the hot oil. Do this in batches as you don't want the crowd the pot. Fry the fish for about 5 minutes or until cooked through. Remove fish to a paper towel-lined dish or baking sheet. Repeat until all the fish pieces have been fried.
8. Place a few of the fish on a paper towel-lined serving plate/basket, along with some "chips" (fries), lemon wedges and tartar sauce on the side. A few shots of malt vinegar on the chips make them to die for.
NOTE: Fish and chips can be reheated the next day by putting them on a foil-lined baking tray in a conventional or toaster oven at 375F for about 15 minutes.