Happy Friday, Foodies!
We thought we’d cover a classic today, because the classics can’t be beat. It may be less well known as a ‘tradition’ in the States, but in the UK, Friday means Fish and Chips and a trot over to your local chippy for an order of cod or plaice with what you hope will be incredibly good chips. What does it take to get incredibly good chips? The latest thing in Britain is ‘triple cooked’ chips — not for the faint of heart (literally), but on the rare occasion that you indulge in something this saturated in fat, this is the way to do it.
By now you’ve read through some of my own blog posts about food; we have a number of people writing about food here at Forq but I tend to be the most outspoken. I’m an American living in Britain, and so I enjoy that eccentric viewpoint of getting really inside the traditions of a culture that is basically foreign to me, and seeing it with fresh, usually amazed eyes. One of the things I have most enjoyed about my food life here in Britain is how much the public, by and large, share a sense of rhythm about what they eat and when they eat it. Fish and chips on Friday. Roast dinner with the family on Sunday. Leftovers from the roast on Monday. You could argue the public has moved past these traditions, but I see them in practice time and again in homes all over Britain and it’s comforting to have routines that you share with your neighbors — routines that help new people, foreigners, become part of the culture.
And so Fish and Chips are more than just a meal. They are a way to participate in British-ness and I thoroughly revel in it. We enjoy living in a small village in the English countryside, right next door The Bell Inn, a village pub which has recently added ‘gourmet fish and chips takeout’ to its Friday menu. This is an *incredible* development as we can now walk 100 steps to the pub, get our Friday Fish and Chips and either enjoy them there with a casual half pint of lager, or take them home and let Friday settle around us with a fire and a good movie. These are the things of magic, the moments of routine so enjoyable in their predictability and yet so full of the unexpected that I understand fully why they become tradition.
While we’re speaking on tradition, it’s worth noting that the long tradition of the English country pub has been under threat, with pubs closing a the rate of 26/week in Britain (this according to the BBC). In answer to that, professional chefs are renovating and opening ‘gastro pubs’ — with the pub decor and the menu completely reconceived and modernized for today’s pub-goers. The pub I mentioned here, The Bell Inn, was recently featured on a BBC series for being one of these pubs that are modernizing and keeping the village pub tradition alive. These aren’t just bars, as they may be thought of in the States. They are community centers for conversation and companionship and they have long been the lifeblood of the English country village. The work that is being undertaken to save and revitalize these pubs is really an important chapter for foodies everywhere on how vital the experience of food is to all of us, and how we balance tradition with changing tastes and habits. It’s a delicate act to get right and watching these pubs fight for their future is inspiring. You can watch a brief clip from that show at BBC2: The Restaurant Man.
For those of you who can’t just pop over to your local pub — we sympathize! We’re hooking you up today with a killer fish and chips recipe to kickstart your Friday night. Fish and chips, beer, and good company. We’ve got your food plan; the good company is up to you!
For the french fries / chips:
4 pints vegetable oil
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large french-fry / chips
For the batter:
3/4 cup plain flour
1 cup beer
2 egg whites, whipped to soft peaks
4 fillets cod, skin on, and pin boned
- Pour the vegetable oil into a deep fat fryer or a large stock pot; heat to 300 degrees F. Blanch the potatoes in the oil until soft but not colored, about 4 minutes. Remove and drain.
- Mix together the flour and the beer, then fold in the egg whites.
- Turn up the heat of the oil to 350 degrees F. Dip the fish in the batter and fry for a few minutes with the chips until golden brown. It’s important that the fish is entirely covered in batter as the batter, searing in the hot oil, forms a protective seal around the fish and keeps it from getting soggy.
- Drain all on kitchen paper and serve with bread and butter, mushy peas, and pickled eggs. Yes, pickled eggs. And if you’re really interested, go look up Wally’s. But we won’t expect you to find them. 😉