Fish and Chips

    Fish and Chips

    “…there was about fish-and-chips a sound democratic touch that no other food possessed; the poorest person could shop alongside the poshest…You were all one in the kingdom of fish-and-chips.”
    Bill Naughton, Saintly Billy: a Catholic Boyhood

    “It was the smell of their childhood: the smell of fish and chips. Every Saturday night their parents had sent them out for five packets and they’d carried them back, warm as puppies, through the lamplit streets.
    ‘Do you remember the batter, all sizzled and gold?’ asked Lily.
    ‘And the soft whiteness when you got through to the fish?’ said Violet.
    ‘The way the chips went soggy when you doused them with vinegar?’ said Rose.
    And as they stood there, they thought they would die if they didn’t just once more taste the glory that was fish and chips.”
    Eva Ibbotson, The Secret of Platform 13

    Here it is: the recipe you’ve all been waiting for. Ask an American to name one British dish, and the answer will almost always be, “fish and chips.” So iconic is this meal that you may be tempted to think that it is as old as Britannia herself. Not so. It wasn’t until the 1850s that Brits began to cut potatoes into strips and fry them, and 20 years later that they came to be known as “chips.” First cooked to accompany steak, chips were soon paired with fried fish, which was so plentiful and cheap that the meal became a staple of the working class, wrapped in newspaper and eaten by hand.

    These days, every high street worth its salt has a local “chippie” and even fine dining establishments offer elevated takes on the national treasure. Making this dish at home requires a little extra effort, but it is well worth it. In the UK, cod, haddock, halibut, plaice and sole are favorites, but feel free to use any firm, white-fleshed fish. Tilapia is a good, inexpensive option, and fries nicely. For potatoes, I would go with the versatile and easily available Yukon Gold.

    You do not need a deep fat fryer to make fish and chips. A saucepan, wok or Dutch oven will work. I recommend peanut oil for the frying; it has a high smoke point, a neutral taste and is low in saturated fat. For a truly authentic touch, make sure you have malt vinegar on hand for liberal sprinkling. Other traditional accompaniments include bread and butter and gherkins.

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