Saturday, March 17, 2012

Beer-Battered Fish & Chips with Homemade Tartar Sauce and Hushpuppies

Last year, I went ALL out on cooking for St. Patrick's Day. I made corned beef with cabbage & colcannon,  and a Guinness cottage pie. This year, I decided to scale down a bit and go with a classic fish & chips. Or, as the Irish often refer to it, "one and one". 

Fish & chips is usually thought of to be more of a UK thing, though pretty much every Irish pub I've ever been to offers this classic on the menu. I won't lie, either. I DO love me some Captain D's, though it always gives me THE worst heartburn ever. However, making fish & chips from scratch, though a little bit labor intensive and messy, is WAY worth it. 

The fish, typically whitefish, cod or haddock, is deep-fried in a flour and water batter, with baking soda added for extra effervescence (aka, bubbles!). Beer is often substituted for the water, and I think it lends a better flavor to the batter. Some folks use lager, but I prefer a brown ale, which, ironically, is one of my LEAST favorite beers to drink, but one of my favorite beers to cook with, coming in second only to Budweiser. Served with malt vinegar and tartar sauce, fish & chips remains really popular as a Friday meal for Roman Catholics, in accordance with the long-standing tradition (especially during Lent) of abstaining from meat on Fridays. 

The chips are thicker-cut, what we here in the US would call "home fries" or "steak fries". You can buy frozen ones in just about any store, but it's cheaper to just make your own since you already have oil for frying the fish. Plus, homemade ALWAYS tastes better. 

I HAD to add SOMETHING Southern to this meal, so I opted to throw in some hushpuppies. Legend has it that the name originates from the Civil War, when Union soldiers would toss leftover fried cornbread to Confederate dogs to stop their barking. Whether or not this is true, we'll probably never know. All hushpuppies are is a mix of cornmeal and spices, moistened into a thick batter and deep-fried. So simple, yet SO good. 

Note: Fry your fish LAST; if you are planning on using the same oil for the fries & hushpuppies, you probably don't want them tasting all fishy and gross. 

Tartar Sauce


1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp dill or sweet relish (I prefer dill)
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp garlic salt
Dash of paprika

Combine all ingredients and chill until needed. I like to make this a few hours ahead of time to let the flavors meld.


adapted from Las Vegas Food Adventures


2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp finely minced parsley
1/4 cup minced onion 
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 egg, room temperature
Oil for frying
Heat the oil to 350 degrees. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, parsley and onion.

Combine the buttermilk and egg; whisk to combine. Add 1 cup of this mixture to the dry batter and mix to form a stiff batter. Add the rest of the milk if the batter is too dry; if too thin, add more cornmeal. The batter should be moistened, but scoopable (holds a rounded shape on a spoon).

Using a scoop, form a ball of batter and slide into the hot oil. Fry for 5 minutes or until golden brown, then drain on paper towels. Keep warm in oven until ready to serve.

British "Chips"
adapted from The Best Mom on the Block

8 medium Russet potatoes, peeled & cut into thick fries

Heat oil in a deep fryer to the fish setting (320 degrees). Pat the potatoes dry, then blanch fries in hot oil for 2 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Increase the heat to the french fry setting (375 degrees). Return the blanched fries to the oil and cook until golden brown.

Remove from oil and let drain; sprinkle lightly with salt.

Beer-Battered Fish
2 quarts vegetable oil for frying
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
Pinch black pepper
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 lbs cod or haddock filet, 1" thick and cut into eight 3oz pieces
12oz dark beer, COLD

Whisk the flour, cornstarch, salt, cayenne, paprika & black pepper together in a large mixing bowl. Transfer 3/4 cup to a rimmed baking sheet. Add the baking powder to the mixture still in the bowl and whisk to combine. 

Heat the oil in a deep fryer or heavy-bottomed pot to 375 degrees. 

Pat the fish dry with paper towels and dredge in the flour mixture on the baking sheet. Transfer the floured fish to a wire rack and shake off the excess flour. 

Add 1 1/4 cups of beer to the flour mixture in the bowl and stir until the batter is JUST combined; it should be lumpy, like pancake batter. Add the remaining beer, about 1 Tbsp at a time, whisking after each addition, until the batter thins and falls from the whisk in a thin stream, leaving a faint trail on the batter's surface. 

Dip the fish into the batter, one piece at a time, and let the excess batter run off, shaking gently. Place the battered fish BACK into the baking sheet flour mixture and coat both sides. Repeat until all of the fish has been battered and re-floured. 

*Flouring AFTER battering will help prevent the batter from sliding off when cooking. 

Gently add the fish to the hot oil, shaking off any excess flour. Use tongs to slide the fish into the oil and then fry until golden brown, about 7-8 minutes. Transfer the cooked fish to a wire rack set atop a rimmed baking sheet to let drain. 

DO NOT cover the fish with foil or place in the oven to keep warm; they will become soggy. Since the fish will be the last item fried, your chips and hushpuppies should already be ready to eat. 

Serve with tartar sauce, malt vinegar & lemon wedges. 


  1. Good heavens woman! These look amazing! 2 things:

    1. When we went to Ireland for our honeymoon, I ordered fish and chips 8 out of the 11 meals we ate out. I couldn't stop

    2. Captain D's is my total guilty pleasure. And damnit, it gives me heartburn too.


    1. I lovvvvve the captain! I also ate a TON of fish and chips when we went to England for a school trip YEARS ago!

  2. My favorite food color. Golden Brown. Looks delicious :)

    1. Thanks, Brian! As Anne Burrell says, "brown food tastes good".