I have major issues when we vacation in Maine in the summer. Most of the problem has to do with applying enough sunscreen so as to ensure I don’t broiler like a lobster. The rest of the problem has to do with lobster itself. See, when I’m in Maine, I have this obsession about ensuring that I’m getting my fair share of this glorious sea creature…that in the few short days that we’re there I’m eating enough to satisfy my cravings for the rest of the year. Because even though I live in New England coastal state where we do have great access to “local” lobster, there is nothing like Maine lobster. Nothing.
It’s kind of a sick thing…but not so sick when breakfast involves poached eggs, hollandaise, and lobster, right? Anyway, this lobster obsession also leads to another problem. My love for fried clams. And, ummm, fried fish. Especially beer batter-fried cod. Oh man!! Seriously, there aren’t enough meals in a long weekend to ease this angst! How can I possibly pass up fresh cod right off the docks? The truth is however, I can always manage to squeeze a fish and chips meal in amongst the lobster fest. It’s hard work, people.
But frankly, I’m tired of waiting all year for great beer-battered fish so I decided it was high time to make it at home. I’m pretty shocked myself that we have yet to make fried fish at home but it’s not all that surprising considering we never had a kitchen vent that properly vented outside until we moved in this house. This fish though…ahhmazing. Awesome. Insane. I almost cried when it was gone.
Making it was no more difficult than breading and frying chicken breasts for chicken parm but there’s just no comparison otherwise. The cornstarch in this batter keeps the batter light, crispy, and crackly and when fried at the proper temperature, the fish doesn’t get all greasy and gross, like some fried fish definitely can be. If frying food wasn’t so damn bad for us, we would without question make this beer-battered fish more often, but for now we’ll keep it to just a couple times a year when the cravings for summer get to be too much to handle. Like when March doesn’t seem to want to end.
source: adapted from The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook
We made a batch of shoestring fries to go along with this fried fish but these baked oven fries would be a great alternative if you want to go all-out homemade here. We were simply running short on time and decided to go with frozen fries instead.
- 2 1/2 quarts vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- Table salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 lb 1-inch-thick cod fillet (or other thick white fish, such as hake or haddock) cut into fried-fish-like strips (about 3oz each)
- 12 oz beer, cold
- Heat oil in a large dutch oven (at least 6 or 7 quart-capacity) over medium-high heat until it reaches 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a triple-layer of paper towels and set aside. Set a wire rack over another baking sheet and set aside.
- While the oil heats, whisk the flour, cornstarch, cayenne, paprika, black pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt together in a large bowl. Transfer 3/4 cup of the flour mixture to a rimmed baking sheet. Add the baking powder to the bowl and whisk it into the flour.
- Dry the fish then roll it in the flour on the baking sheet, tapping off the excess flour before letting the pieces rest on the wire rack. Stir in about 3/4 of the beer into the bowl with the flour mixture until it is just combined – it should be lumpy. Add more beer, a tablespoon at a time and whisking after each addition, until the batter runs from the whisk in a thin stream and leaves a faint trail across the top of the batter.
- Dip each piece of fish in the batter to coat completely, allow the excess to drip off, then roll them again in the flour on the baking sheet. The fish should be completely covered in flour.
- Fry the fish in two batches so as to not over-crowd the pot. You’ll probably need to turn the heat up to high in order to keep the temperature up – it will drop fast after you start frying the first batch. Fry the fish for 6 to 8 minutes until golden brown. Transfer the cooked fish to the baking sheet with the paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining fish.