Tonight we're going to Jolly Old England…from the kitchen, at least…and having some fun deep frying a batch of fish and chips. And that means we get to bring out the Lodge Cast Iron fish fryer once again. Deep frying does take some work, but the end result is certainly worth it, especially when you end up with one of the United Kingdom's most famous dishes. Except that I never did understand why those folks there in London town insist on using "chips" for fried potatoes, when here in New England, we call them fries.But whatever you call them, if you've never had them then you should certainly give this a try.
Deep frying is a lot of fun, and while this may not be the most healthy dish in the world, it's certainly worth making as a treat once in a while. It also helps to keep the cast iron seasoned, and the deep pot helped to prevent the grease from splattering all over the place, so cleanup was easy as well. And that goes to show that when you want to make a traditional deep fried dish like fish and chips, the best way to do it is with the traditional method, by making it in cast iron.
For a batch of good fish and chips, it's important to know the "rule of two:"
Pans needed: A cast iron dutch oven or fryer, deep enough to fry this dish without creating a huge mess. A cast iron skillet can be used…but you'll have to clean up splashed grease from your entire stovetop. A spider, slotted spon, or other utensil for dipping and scooping the fish and chips in and out of the hot oil.
Before heating the oil, prepare the batter mix using the dry ingredients only: flour, corn starch, baking powder, salt, pepper and paprika. Corn starch is used in this mix to help coat the fish in the batter, without the coating falling off as it fries. However, if we coat the fish in the batter too early and let it sit too long, the batter will become thick and pasty. It's best to dip the fish in the wet batter immediately before adding it to the hot oil.
At this time, peel five or six potatoes, and cut them into the traditional shape for chips (or fries!): about two to three inches long and about half an inch wide. Place the sliced chips into a container and cover them with cold water. Let the chips soak in the water for about 15 minutes.
At this point you can add 2 to 3 quarts of oil to your cast iron pot. Heat it on the stovetop. When the oil reaches about 300 degrees Fahrenheit, it will be ready for the first batch of fries.
While the oil is heating, prepare the fish. Slice the fish into medium or large pieces. Place the fish pieces onto a place and dry them with paper towels. They don't have to be bone dry, but they should be dry enough so they don't soak your hands when holding them.
Drain the water from the container with the chips, and spread the fries out onto a baking sheet or tabletop. Pat the chips dry with paper towels. They should be as dry as possible, so they won't cause the oil to spit and spatter as they are frying.
Place the fish pieces into the flour and seasoning mixture, and coat them with the dry mix. Place the coated pieces on a rack until you're ready to fry them.
When the oil reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit, it's time to fry the chips. Place the chips into the hot oil and fry them for five minutes. Fry them in batches so they don't overcrowd the pot. We're not completely cooking the chips at this time. This is blanching the chips, and we'll be completely cooking them later when they're fried for thre second time. After five minutes, remove the chips from the oil and let them cool and drain on a rack.
Heat the oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. When the oil is starting to reach this temperature (at about 340 degrees or so), prepare the batter for the fish. Add about half the beer (5 to 6 ounces) the flour mixture, and begin stirring with a whisk. Add beer, a little at a time, to thin out the batter and bring it to the right consistency. The batter will be ready when ht drips from the whisk and doesn't have any lumps.
When the oil reaches 375 degrees, we're ready to fry the fish. Using a fork, place each piece of fish into the batter and cover it. Immediately take the fish piece out of the batter and place it in the hot oil. The fish pieces only need to fry for 4 to 5 minutes until they're done. It's likely the first pieces will be done almost immediately after you've finished putting last piece into the oil! When each piece is done, scoop them out and place them on a separate rack or platter with paper towels, to drain and cool off.
Reheat the oil to 375 degrees, and fry the chips for the second time. It's easy to tell when they're finished and ready: when the chips float in the oil, they're done. This will take about five to ten minutes. Remove the chips from the oil and set them on the rack once again, to cool and drain.
At this point, the fish and chips are ready to be served!