Beer Battered Fish With Wasabi Tartar Sauce And How To Make Good Fish & Chips...

(...without the chips this time.)

The Man loves fish and chips, and haddock happened to be on sale for $5 a pound last week, so I thought it a perfect opportunity to make him some fish minus chips (I allotted my empty but delicious calories to wine rather than chips for this meal) with a Wasabi Tartar Sauce for dipping and an improvised slaw on the side (because we must always have THE VEG).

People tell me from time to time that they have a hard time making a good fish batter. I find a few things always help a good fried fish batter along:

1) A MIXTURE OF FLOUR & STARCH - flour for body, starch for crisp

2) BUBBLY LIQUID - CO2 helps to aerate the batter and give lightness to the texture. If you don't have beer on hand, or can't use it for whatever reason, use some kind of sparkling water.

3) (REASONABLE) ROOM TEMP (AND PATTED DRY) FISH - Let your completely defrosted fish sit out on the counter, in a single layer, for at least 20 minutes in warm weather, up to 40 minutes in colder weather, to bring it up to a reasonable "room" temperature before frying. Any remnants of frost are going to create steam pockets while you're cooking, which not only hamper a crisp batter, but can release too much moisture from the flesh and turn delicate fish protein to rubber while it's cooking.

I find people are often concerned about bringing any kind of animal protein up to a reasonable room temp before cooking it for fear of foodborne illness. Among other scientific facts that I'm not going to go into right now, let's just say that if the protein you're going to cook is so contaminated that 30 to 45 minutes straight out of a cold fridge is going to awaken cooties that'll make you sick after a deep fry, you need to start shopping somewhere else.

(And by "reasonable," I mean that if you're experiencing triple digit weather at the moment, you don't want to let the protein sit out so long it's literally the same temp as the inferno that is the room that is your kitchen.)

Don't forget to pat your fish dry with a paper towel before seasoning.

4) COLD BATTER - there is some kind of magical crisping reaction that happens when cold batter hits hot oil that I can't better articulate for you at present, and it applies to other deep fry as well, like tempura and fried chicken.

5) HOT OIL - Your oil has to hover between 360 to 375 degrees. Lower than that, your batter won't form a crust quickly enough, and whatever you're frying will just absorb a bunch of oil while it's cooking. Higher than that, and you risk burning the batter before whatever's inside it cooks properly.

How do you know your oil's hot enough to start frying in without a thermometer? Throw a pinch of flour in there and see if it gently sizzles right away. Or throw a little piece of just about any dry food matter in there (watery things + hot oil = dangerous splatter) - and see if it gently sizzles and bubbles right away, and also gradually but steadily rises to the top.

How do you know if your oil's too hot without a thermometer? Well, aside from the oil smoking, if your batter is browning way too quickly, your oil's too hot. So for instance, a roughly 3/4-inch thick battered room temp fillet of fish should take roughly 3.5-ish minutes per side. If you've got a perfectly golden brown batter at minute 1, your oil's too hot. Not to fret. Just take fish out of the oil momentarily, take the oil off the heat for a minute or so, and put it back on a slightly lower heat at that point and resume frying.

Keep in mind that the volume of stuff being cooked will also alter the temperature, so as with pan frying or searing, best not to crowd the oil and dilute the heat too much.


This recipe will batter roughly 2 pounds of fish, which should feed 4 or 5 people. I used The Man's homebrewed Belgian Pale Ale, and it worked so beautifully for standalone battered fish (I like a lighter lager style for, say, tempura or fish tacos), that it'll probably be my standard for a while.

If you can make the batter in advance and let it rest for an hour or a few in the fridge, you'll have an even better result. But if you're going to use the batter right away, I suggest making the batter, sticking it in the freezer if you can, or the fridge if you don't have freezer space, and then prepping your fish while the batter chills.

By the way, you can use most kinds of beer, but I prefer not to go too dark or hoppy.

- 2/3 cup + 1 to 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour, depending on how thick a crust you like on your fish
- 1/4 cup corn or potato starch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 1+1/4 cup cold beer without foam

Sift all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl (or if you don't have a sifter, just put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and give them a good whisking - maybe 10 strokes or so - to aerate them), then add the egg and beer and whisk just until smooth.

I like to cut the fish into roughly 2 inch wide, 4 to 5 inch long strips, season to taste with salt and pepper and give a light dusting on one side with flour, then flip and repeat on the other side, before battering. The flour will help the batter adhere to the fish.

Serves 4

- 1/2 cup mayo (or 1/4 cup mayo + 1/4 cup sour cream if you have it)
- 3 Tablespoons minced onion or shallot
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons sweet pickle relish
- 2 Tablespoons minced dill pickle
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest (remember to zest your lemon before you squeeze it. :P)
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 to 2 teaspoons wasabi paste (or horseradish if you don't have wasabi on hand)
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine ingredients in a bowl and stir until thoroughly incorporated.

The improvised Savoy Cabbage, Cucumber and Red Bell Pepper slaw with a soy sauce, lemon, and pickled ginger dressing we enjoyed with our fish on Friday.

Hope you enjoy your crispydelicious fish! :)




Popular Posts