“Oh how I crave for fish ‘n chips, our fine cuisine of world renown. I dined on such a subtle dish when QEII received her crown. Oh how I yearn for fish ‘n chips, all poshly wrapped in the Daily Star, then caked and drowned in salt ‘n vinegar and stinking out my brand new car!” -Mark R. Slaughter
I just realized that 1995 was a definitive Year in Food for me, when some of my favorite firsts occurred. That to-die-for risotto in Rome, the best burger in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and a life-changing bite of fish ‘n chips in London, England. Although Blowing Rock no longer has that killer burger place, they do have Six Pence Pub. It’s pretty close to what you’d find in the Island Nation, so authenticated by The Taste Tester, who knows a thing or two about British watering holes. Their food is quite good (forget the bad English food jokes) and, ironically, they even make a decent burger of all things. But what really shines on their menu is the fish ‘n chips. They’re almost as good as what I had in London. Almost.
Let me tell you a little about that trip. And just for fun, I’ll even throw a few bits of British colloquialisms [with the English translation in brackets]. You know, in case you want to scarper [escape really fast] over the big pond for a visit.
When: June 1995. Where: London. Who: Two jammy beggars [lucky people]. Since Adam and I didn’t want to be useless knobs [lazy people], we decided to see the sights by walking around the city. Adam, looking rather dashing sporting his camera, and I, with my ruck sack [back pack], were chuffed as nuts [extremely pleased] to be having this lovely holiday, revisiting his old stomping grounds. We decided to pop in [stop by] Harrods for a look ‘round the world’s most luxurious department store and to get something cool to drink. I was gobsmacked [astonished] by the endless square footage of the place (ahem, not to mention the prices). We walked for what seemed like donkey’s years [a really long time], checking out that store and other various shops before finally enjoying a long, romantic stroll through Kensington Park. Then, off to Wilton Arms, since we were both desperate for a good nosh [bite to eat].
Of course, there was no question as to what we fancied [desired] for lunch – we had to have the iconic British dish of fish ‘n chips. I ordered a Shandy (okay, maybe several) and took a long frothy swig of the beer and lemon drink. Once off my feet, I realized after all that walking, I was totally zonked [tired, exhausted]. I drank in the pub’s surroundings while I drained my mug (er, mugs) – the tin signs, the phone booths, the thoroughly English décor and thought it to be the Bee’s Knees [most excellent]. When the waiter brought our meal in newspaper cones with a side of malt vinegar and mushy peas, Adam gave me that warning look to not order ketchup for my “fries” or they would think I was completely mental [crazy] and peg me as a grockle [tourist]. Taking a cue from my husband, I sprinkled some of the tangy vinegar on the golden fried fish and took my first crunchy bite of England’s national treasure. Crispy and light, despite being oil-fried, the cod was perfectly cooked – tender, ultimately fresh. I understood why the Brits love their “chippies” so much. It was utterly divine and everything was all tickety boo [copasetic]. Tickety boo, tickey boo. Oh, how I love to say tickety boo.
Back home and full of beans [energetic], I decided to give fish and chips a whirl. Cod fillets cut into chunky pieces, dipped in a tempura-style beer batter and fried until golden brown. Oven baked fries for the chips part. And a nice dollop of homemade tartar sauce to go with. So fantastic. Clearly more American with the baked fries, of course, but still jolly good [hey, you know that one, right?]. So, if you need a fish ‘n chips fix (yes, please!), you know, to tide you over until the next time London’s calling, give this a go [give it a try!].
And…Bob’s your uncle [there you have it]. Cheerio!
Fish and Chips
- 4 large russet potatoes
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dredging
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground red cayenne pepper
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer
- Two 8-ounce cod fillets
- Make the chips: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Scrub the potatoes, rinse and pat dry. Cut them in half lengthwise, then cut each half into three or four long wedges, depending on the size of the potato. Place the potatoes on a large, rimmed baking sheet, drizzle over some olive oil and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Toss well and spread the potatoes in a single layer, cut side down. Bake the potatoes, flipping once to evenly brown both sides, until they’re cooked on the inside and golden brown, about 35 minutes. Season to taste with more salt while the potatoes are still warm.
- For the fish: Heat 3 inches of oil in a deep pot to 360 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and egg. Pour in the beer and whisk into a smooth batter. Let the batter rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Lay the cod on a cutting board; season both sides of the fish with a little salt and pepper. Cut into pieces (about 2-inches by 3-inches). Spread some flour on a plate. Dredge the fish pieces in the flour, shake off the excess and dip each fillet into the batter, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl.
- Carefully slide the fish into the hot oil, a few pieces at a time. (Don’t crowd the hot tub!) Fry the fish, turning to cook both sides, until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove any bits of batter that separate from the fillets with a strainer or spider (they’ll just burn). Adjust the heat to maintain the oil’s temperature (between 360 and 375 degrees).
- Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with some salt while the fillets are still warm. Serve the fish with the chips.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: The fish will keep hot in a 200 degree oven on a baking sheet lined with paper towels for about 20 minutes.
Product Purity: You can find Cross and Blackwell Old English Fish and Chip Vinegar alongside other vinegars at most supermarkets.
Presentation: Serve wrapped in newspaper cones with the “chips” and ice cold beer. Your friends and family will think you’re abso-bloody-lutely brill [maximum brilliance].