By Elizabeth Gracen:
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I started this series a couple of weeks ago just as we began a much-needed kitchen renovation. I am an avid home cook, so it’s hard for me to eat too much take-out, and I’ve spoiled my husband and teenaged daughter by cooking for them almost every night since she was born. Thankfully, I view cooking as a creative endeavor (most of the time), and I love to read cookbooks and cooking magazines, and I'm not afraid to experiment on friends and family by trying new recipes. So now that the renovation is in full swing, we’ve set up a pretty functional hillbilly temp kitchen outside, and I feel confident enough to try just about anything.
When I cleaned out the fridge to move it out of the kitchen and into our dining room, I found a lovely piece of halibut in the freezer from the last time I made this recipe, along with a package of frozen batter that I'd saved because the recipe made twice as much as I needed for two people the last time around. I bought potatoes today, so I’m ready to try Fish and Chips—Tucci style!
This recipe comes from my new favorite cookbook, The Tucci Table by Stanley Tucci with Felicity Blunt. I purchased it after I saw his “Negroni” Instagram video posted by his wife last year. I’m also a huge fan of Tucci’s ultimate food film, Big Night, with Tony Shaloub and a cast of fabulous actors. I even made the famous Timpano alla Big Night featured in the film for a New Year’s dinner several years ago. And, of course, during the pandemic I found respite from the lockdown by watching his CNN series, Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy. Do I sound obsessed? Maybe, but I don’t care! I’ve tried a handful of the recipes in this beautifully designed cookbook, full of lovely stories, food photos, and shots of the Tucci/Blunt clan. This recipe, so far, is my favorite.
I had never made Fish and Chips before, but it just sounded so good when I read the recipe—even though I knew it would be nothing like the first time I ever had fish and chips in London in the late eighties. I loved the idea of blanching the potatoes in hot oil and refrying them before serving. It sounded perfect for a party, and I was right. I’ve made the "chips" part of this recipe a couple of times in the past month for my family, and twice for small bbq gatherings this summer. They go fast, and there are never any leftovers.
I followed the Tucci recipe for the most part, but I changed up a few things. I don’t have a deep fryer, so I added a couple inches of vegetable oil to my wok for the fry up. It worked well, but you have to watch closely and be careful with that hot oil. Instead of malt vinegar, I make a homemade tartar sauce instead. You’ll find the recipe below.
It’s time to peel potatoes, thaw some fish, and get out to my hillbilly kitchen!
The following recipe is adapted from from The Tucci Table by Stanley Tucci with Felicity Blunt, Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., Copyright 2014
Fish and Chips
For the Chips:
*The original recipe suggests that to remove starch from the potatoes before frying, you should soak the potatoes in cold water for an hour before cooking, or simply run the potatoes under cold water if you don’t have time. To be completely honest, I didn’t do either, and it all turned out just fine.
2 lbs. large potatoes—or as many as you like if you are just preparing the "chips" part of the recipe. You can fry as many potatoes as you can peel and cut into ½-inch thick pieces. You could actually cut the fries into almost any size and shape. It all fries up nicely!
Oil for deep-frying—I used olive oil and saved it to use again for the next time I decided to make chips.
Salt—I used flake salt because that is what I had in the pantry. The original recipe calls for Kosher salt.
*The original recipe suggests that to make a perfect batter for the fish, you should chill the flour and beer at least 30 minutes before you make the batter. When I made the batter, I neglected to chill the flour, but the beer was cold. It worked perfectly.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, chilled
2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups beer, chilled
½ to 1 tsp. kosher salt
4 cod or haddock steaks (5–6 oz. each), no more than 1” thick
*The market didn’t have either of these fish, but they had a nice selection
of halibut steaks—it was delicious.
Malt vinegar OR Tartar Sauce
Make sure and dry your “chips” as much as possible before you fry them.
Heat the oil to 190° F. You’ll work in batches to “blanch” the chips in the oil for 8–12 minutes. They should be slightly golden and cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to remove them to drain on paper towels and cool. The original recipe states that you can actually refrigerate them at this point if you need to.
Turn up the heat to bring the oil temperature to 350° F.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the cold beer to whisk and create a smooth batter.
Dip the fish in the cold batter so that it's well-coated. Allow any excess to drip off.
When the oil temperature reaches 350° F, fry the fish in the hot oil for 5–8 minutes until crisp and golden. Don’t crowd the skillet with too many pieces at a time; you want to keep the oil hot.
Remove the fish and set aside to drain on paper towels.
It’s time to finish the chips!
Bring the heat down again before you add your batches of chips back to the oil. When they’re done, remove with slotted spoon or tongs and drain them on fresh paper towels. Season with salt.
Serve with malt vinegar or tartar sauce.
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