Battered fish fillets frying. (Photo by Patty Schied)

Battered fish fillets frying. (Photo by Patty Schied)

Cooking for Pleasure: Fish and chips with homemade tartar sauce

For years I struggled with different fish batter recipes, usually with lousy luck. The resultant deep-fried fish would be raw in the center, or the batter would result in a thick, bready topping that guests were inclined to scrape off. I tried beer batter and tempura. None of them gave me that satisfying golden crust. And anyway, they were often a pain to make, sometimes requiring hours to make ahead.

Then a few years ago after scouring the internet for options, I found this very simple recipe that produces a perfectly golden crisp fried fish. How I wish I had known about this recipe decades ago.

But before I give you the recipe, please go to your cupboard, dig out your baking powder and check the expiration date. You probably didn’t know this, but opened baking powder is only good for three to six months. After that it loses its potency. Who would have thought? For those of you who are bakers and have lately gnashed your teeth over poorly rising cakes or muffins, check the date on the bottom of the can. If you are like me, you may have thoughtlessly kept it in the cupboard for months blithely assuming that it’s fine. Now you know.

Have you ever made your own tartar sauce? If not, please give it a try. Not only is it cheaper than the bottled kind you get at your local grocer’s, it won’t have all those preservatives necessary to stay on the store’s shelves for months.

Tartar sauce can be made a day ahead and is best made at least an hour or two before you plan to serve dinner. Go ahead and vary the ingredients to suit your own taste. Those listed below you probably already have in your refrigerator.

Tartar sauce (for four people)

1 cup of mayonnaise

1 finely minced tablespoon each of:

Green onion

Parsley

Green olives with pimento

Sweet or dill pickle

Optional: capers and/or fresh chives if you are lucky enough to have them in your garden. Some cooks like to add fresh dill

1 tsp mustard

1 tsp lemon juice or pickle juice

Mix all ingredients together in a small mixing bowl. Taste for seasoning, adding more of your favorite ingredients as you like. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Crispy fried ling cod using 1½ pounds of fish

Ingredients:

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder (I know it seem like a lot, but it is the right amount)

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup of very cold plain soda water or one cup of very cold beer of your choice

Step One: Pat dry fish and cut into approximately two-inch pieces, keeping each piece the same size as possible. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle lightly with flour.

Step Two: Stir the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Step Three: Heat approximately one to one and a half inches of plain vegetable oil in a large deep fry pan at medium-high heat. The oil should be heated to about 350 to 375 degrees. Any lower and the fish won’t crisp; if it is too hot the fish could burn.

Step Four: Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Put a cake rack on top of the baking sheet. Placing your fresh fried fish on a rack keeps it from getting soggy.

Step Five: Whisk in the cup of ice-cold beer or seltzer water. The batter will foam up. This is when the magic happens. Quickly dip a few pieces of fish in the batter to coat then carefully place into hot oil. After about a minute, turn the fish over to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Let the fish pieces cook until a deep golden brown Remove from pan and place on cooking rack. Repeat until all the fish is cooked.

After the fish pieces are all fried, use the remaining hot oil to fry your potatoes. The fish will stay nice and crispy while you are waiting for them to cook.

Serve hot with tartar sauce and your choice of side dishes such as a green salad and biscuits.

• Patty Schied is a longtime Juneau resident who studied at the Cordon Bleu in London, has cooked meals for both AWARE and the Glory Hall, and has written a cookbook. Cooking For Pleasure appears every other week in Capital City Weekly.

Chips after being cooked in the same oil as battered fish fillets. (Photo by Patty Schied)

Chips after being cooked in the same oil as battered fish fillets. (Photo by Patty Schied)

Fish cut up and ready for frying. (Photo by Patty Schied)

Fish cut up and ready for frying. (Photo by Patty Schied)

Covering fish with batter in preparation for frying. (Photo by Patty Schied)

Covering fish with batter in preparation for frying. (Photo by Patty Schied)

Fried fish fillets ready to serve. (Photo by Patty Schied)

Fried fish fillets ready to serve. (Photo by Patty Schied)

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