English Bitter Ale Fish and Chips

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A pub classic gets reinvented for the home chef with this inspired recipe from Christian DeBenedetti’s and Andrea Slonecker’s Beer Bites.

4 large Russet potatoes (about 2 lbs.)
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1½ cups cold English bitter ale, plus more as needed
About 2 quarts peanut oil or vegetable oil
Fine sea salt
1½ lbs. cod, pollock, haddock, halibut or other white flaky fish fillets, cut into 4-in. pieces
¾ cup cornstarch
4-6 fresh parsley sprigs
Lemon wedges, malt vinegar and tartar sauce (recipe follows) for serving

Peel the potatoes, but leave the skin intact on each end. Cut the potatoes lengthwise into 3/8-in. batons using a sharp chef’s knife or a mandoline. Put the potatoes in a large bowl of cold water as you cut them. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, or up to 24 hours. Drain the potatoes and transfer to a clean kitchen towel. Blot very dry. Set aside for about 10 minutes to dry further.

To make the beer batter: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Pour in the ale, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Refrigerate the batter for at least 15 minutes, or up to 1 hour.

Pour peanut oil into a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot to a depth of 2 in. Make sure there is at least 3 in. of space between the top of the oil and the top of the pot, to prevent boiling over when the potatoes are added (they cause the oil to bubble up quite a bit). Heat the oil over medium heat to 320 degrees F. Have ready a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

Add the potatoes to the hot oil in handful-size batches. It’s very important not to overcrowd the pot so that the chips fry evenly and the oil doesn’t boil over. Fry until the edges are just starting to color, 2 to 3 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain the oil temperature. Transfer the chips to the prepared baking sheet to drain, using a slotted spoon or skimmer. Repeat to fry the remaining potatoes. Set the chips aside at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F, and set a wire rack on a large rimmed baking sheet to hold the finished chips. Raise the heat to bring the oil temperature to 375 degrees F. Again working in batches, re-fry the potatoes until crisp and lightly browned, 2-4 minutes per batch. (Since much of the water has been drawn out during the first fry, you can now fry them in slightly larger batches without overflowing the oil.) Transfer the chips to the wire rack as they come out of the oil and sprinkle them generously with salt. When all of the chips are done, transfer the baking sheet to the oven to keep them warm while you fry the fish. Keep the oil at 375 degrees F.

Set up another baking sheet lined with paper towels. Season the fish generously with salt. Stir the batter. (If it seems a little thick after resting, stir in another splash of beer. A slightly thinner batter yields a crisper crust, while a thicker batter yields a more doughy crust.) Put the cornstarch in a medium bowl. Toss a few of the fish pieces in the cornstarch to coat lightly and shake off the excess, then dip them in the batter to coat well. Slowly lower the coated fish pieces one at a time into the hot oil, still being careful not to overcrowd the pot. Fry, turning once or twice, until golden brown and crisp, 5-7 minutes. Transfer each batch of fried fish to the paper towels to drain as they are finished. Repeat to fry the remaining fillets. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven to keep warm with the chips. Keep the oil hot for the garnish.

Dip the parsley sprigs in the leftover batter and fry them in the hot oil until crisp, about 2 minutes.

Pile the chips on a large platter and top with the fried fish. Garnish with the fried parsley sprigs and the lemon wedges and serve immediately, with the malt vinegar and tartar sauce on the side. Serves 4 to 6.

Tartar Sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
5 cornichons or 10 dill pickle slices, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. capers, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Dash of hot sauce

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times until the parsley, pickles, and capers are finely minced and the sauce is well blended but not puréed. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days. Makes about 1 cup.

Reprinted with permission from Beer Bites: Tasty Recipes and Perfect Pairings for Brew Lovers by Christian DeBenedetti and Andrea Slonecker. Published by Chronicle Books.