Proper Fish Bites & Chips

Matt has pretty high standards when it comes to his favorite foods from back home. According to him, the chips in American restaurants never come out quite right. Or restaurants choose to serve fries, which are NOT chips. He took me to a proper chip shop in Durham, England over Christmas last year. I couldn't understand how the employees were not all wearing face masks. The shop was tiny and hot. The air was so thick with oil and the smell of fried food. It was nauseating. The shop dressed our fish and chips with malt vinegar, then they wrapped it up in newspapers and we made our way back to his parents house. When we unwrapped the not so little parcels, I found a mound of chips and a piece of fish as long as my forearm. The outside of the fish was golden and crispy. The inside was plump and flakey. The chips were a bit soft and tasted tangy from the malt vinegar. It was totally worth almost suffocating at the chip shop. This meal was incredible but it ended up being too much food for the both of us. We should have shared one serving.

I decided to experiment with one of the recipes from a book that Matt's mom gave me for Christmas, Tom Kerridge's Proper Pub Food.  Kerridge is an English Michelin-starred chef. This recipe is adapted from his. Matt likes his chips a little soft, I like my chips extra crunchy. Kerridge boils, then fries his potatoes twice to achieve this. When we made this recipe, we blanched the potatoes for a few minutes (although Matt insisted we didn't need to) and we only fried them once. If you prefer crispy chips like I do, blanch, then fry twice as the recipe states below.

Adapted from Tom Kerridge's Proper Pub Food
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/fish_and_chips_with_39006

For the chips

  • 8 large potatoes
  • vegetable oil, for deep frying
  • salt
  • malt vinegar, for serving

For the battered fish

  • 2 egg whites
  • 12 oz self raising flour, plus a little extra for dusting
  • large pinch of baking soda
  • 12 oz sparkling soda (or beer if you prefer)
  • 2 large cod, haddock or halibut filets
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the chips, cut into thick wedges. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the chips for a few minutes until soft but still holding their shape. Remove the chips with a slotted spoon and let them drain on a wire rack or paper towels. Preheat the oven to 190F. You will place the fried batches of fish and chips in the oven to keep them warm and crispy until all of the batches are cooked. Drain each batch on paper towels before putting them into the oven.

Fill a deep fryer or dutch oven with vegetable oil and preheat the oil to 300F. Cook the blanched chips for approximately 8-10 minutes. This will need to be done in small batches unless you have a large fryer. Strain on a wire rack or a plate lined with paper towels. Then fry them again until golden and extra crispy and place in the oven to keep warm.

For the battered fish, beat the egg whites until very soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt, baking soda and sparking water together. Gently stir in the egg white mixture. Mix just to combine, but don't overwork (a few lumps are fine). Set aside in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oil in the deep fryer to 350F.  Pour some flour onto a shallow plate. If you have a small fryer, cut the fish into about 3 inch pieces. Dust the fish with a thin layer of flour, dip in the batter and deep fry until the batter is golden-brown and crisp. Make sure you don't add too much fish at a time. This will decrease the temperature of the oil and the fish will take longer to cook and it will make it much harder to turn golden brown.

Sprinkle the fish and chips with coarse salt. Serve with malt vinegar, tartar sauce and ketchup and mushy peas.

Chicken & Mushroom Pie

chickenmushroompie.jpg

The last time we flew to England, Matt and I binge watched Heston Blumenthal's show Heston's Great British Food on the plane. He is an amazing  Michelin-starred English chef who is like a mad scientist in the kitchen. He has wacky ideas like reimagining fish and chips into a dessert using green frozen yogurt instead of mushy peas and chocolate pieces cut to look like real chips. He once sent a potato into space to see if he could change the flavor.

In one episode, he explained the history of pies. Originally, the crust of a pie was not edible, it was more like a paper mache made of flour and water. The crust was only used as a portable vessel for meat and the juices to stay fresh. You could think of the crust acting like a modern day plastic lidded container. Many years later, fat was added to the flour and water mixture and pastry was born. You can find savory pies everywhere in England and they come with hundreds of different fillings.  Chicken and mushroom pie happens to be one of Matt's favorites.

I had never eaten a chicken and mushroom pie but I assumed it was somewhat like a chicken pot pie. I used creme fraiche instead of milk which makes this pie sinfully rich. I also used puff pastry instead of pie dough for some crunch to contrast the creamy filling. You can make one big pie or four 8oz ramekins. I prefer the ramekins so we each get a nice piece of the crispy top :)

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 medium sized carrots
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 8 green onions
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 20 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 2tbsp chopped parsley
  • 8oz of button mushrooms
  • 1/4 of a whole nutmeg, microplaned
  • 8oz of creme fraiche
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 box of frozen puff pastry
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg

Take your puff pastry out of the freezer and allow to defrost for about 45 minutes. Cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil into a heavy bottom pan. Sear the pieces of chicken for 5 minutes, but do not cook them all the way through. Take them out of the pan and set aside. Dice celery, carrots, and green onion and toss them in pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the leaves from the thyme sprigs and minced rosemary. Coarsely chop the garlic and parsley and add to the mixture once the vegetables are mostly cooked but still have a little bite to them. Add the chicken back into the mixture, sliced mushrooms, creme fraiche, chicken stock, 2 tbsp of flour and allow it to reduce. If your mixture looks too thick, add a splash more chicken stock and let it cook on medium low. If your mixture is too thin, add 1/2 tablespoon of flour and cook for a few minutes. Repeat until your desired thickness.

Once the puff pastry has thawed, roll it out and gently place it in the pie pan. Trim the edges. Line it with parchment paper and then add rice or lentils to weigh the pastry down while you blind bake it for 10 minutes at 400 degrees in the oven. The lentils/rice will keep the pastry from puffing, and the blind baking will keep the crust on the bottom from being under cooked or soggy later.

Remove the pie shell from the oven. Carefully add the chicken and mushroom filling to the pie pan. Roll out the top layer for the crust and place it on top of the filling. Seal the edges of the raw dough with the edge of the pie dish with a fork. Brush the top of the pie with an egg wash. Make sure your pie has a little slit in the top crust as a vent. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and puffed to perfection.