The 2020 Holidays Recipe Collection
How you doin’? Admittedly British cuisine is not on the top of anyone’s list aside for expats enjoying a touch of home to watch some football (not real football—just soccer). But there are a few things that do catch my attention—Sausage Rolls (if they’re really good), Bangers and Mash, Shepherd’s Pie and Fish & Chips. Fish & Chips are what the Brits do best. A good basket of Fish & Chips is a meal to die for.
But where were they invented? I’m sure the Greeks and Romans were frying fish log before they arrived in London. The tradition in the United Kingdom of fish battered and fried in oil may have come from Western Sephardic Jewish immigrants from Holland. Originating in Spain and Portugal and settling in England as early as the 16th century, they would have prepared fried fish in a manner similar to pescado frito, which is coated in flour then fried in oil. Fish fried for Shabbat dinner on Friday evenings could be eaten cold the following afternoon, palatable this way as liquid vegetable oil was used rather than a hard fat, such as butter. Charles Dickens called out "fried fish warehouses" in Oliver Twist (1838), and in 1845 Alexis Soyer in his first edition of A Shilling Cookery for the People, gives a recipe for fried fish, which is dipped in a batter of flour and water.
The exact location of the first Fish & Chips Shoppe is unclear. The earliest known shops were opened in the 1860s, in London by Joseph Malin and in Mossley, near Oldham, Lancashire, by John Lees. However, fried fish, as well as chips, had existed independently for at least fifty years, so the possibility that they had been combined at an earlier time cannot be ruled out.
Fish and chips became a stock meal among the working classes in England as a consequence of the rapid development of trawl fishing in the North Sea, and the development of railways which connected the ports to major industrial cities during the second half of the 19th century, so that fresh fish could be rapidly transported to the heavily populated areas.
The modern Fish & Chip Shoppe ("chippie" in modern British slang) originated in the UK, although outlets selling fried food occurred commonly throughout Europe. Early Fish & Chips shops had only very basic facilities. Usually these consisted principally of a large vat of hot cooking fat, heated by a coal fire. These later evolved into a standard format, with the food served in newspaper wrappings to queuing customers over a counter in front of the fryers.
One entrepreneur opened his Fish & Chip Shoppe across the street from a brewery. He swapped some fried fish for beer and had so much of it he substituted the water in the batter for the beer which made the batter lighter and with a malty flavor. He then matched the malty flavor with a splash of malt vinegar (an acid) which cut the fatty flavor and greasy mouth feel of the fish.
During World War I a priority: "The cabinet knew it was vital to keep families on the home front in good heart, unlike the German regime that failed to keep its people well fed.” During World War II, Fish & Chips remained one of the few foods in the United Kingdom not subject to rationing. The Prime Minister referred to the combination of fish and chips as "the good companions."
You might ask how did Fish become associated with Chips (fried potatoes)? Well, potatoes are the perfect shortening filter for removing fishy smells and tastes. It just so happens they are the BEST companions that make the perfect coupling.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Fry time: 8 to 10 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings
2 pounds frozen halibut or cod fillets, thawed
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup more to dredge
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1-1/2 teaspoons paprika
24 ounces very cold fresh beer
Peanut oil (for frying)
ChefSecret: We fry fish fillets in peanut oil at 375ºF because the oil doesn’t smoke, and it has a clean flavor. It is also reusable. Keep the batter as cold as possible as that will give the exterior an extra crispy texture.
Covid-19 Quip of the Day: “As many of you know, I have traveled to over 137 countries. I am usually on a plane 2 or 3 times a week. I told my suitcase this morning that there will be no more traveling until this whole pandemic thing is over. Now, I’m dealing with emotional baggage.”
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Here is wishing you the very best for the upcoming holidays. To you and everyone dear to you, be strong, be positive, stay well, stay safe and be kind welcoming in the holiday season. If you have a little extra in your pockets to share with others at this difficult time, please consider donating to Feeding America. Thanks for reading.
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