Citizens – few things in this (or any other) life are finer than the classic British meal of fried fish and chips! Nothing can even compare to the ultimate recipe for this wonderful meal, from 3 Michelin-starred English superchef Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck restaurant!
The triple-cooked chips are what first cemented his stellar reputation. Blumenthal began work upon the recipe in 1993, and eventually developed the three-stage cooking process for their preparation. The preparation process involves the chips first being simmered and then cooled and drained of water using a sous-vide technique or by freezing, deep fried at 130 °C (266 °F) and again cooled, and finally deep fried again at 180 °C (356 °F) The result is what Blumenthal calls “chips with a glass-like crust and a soft, fluffy centre”.
Blumenthal said he was “obsessed with the idea of the perfect chip”, and he went to great lengths to achieve this, researching the starch content of many different varieties of potato and experimenting with drying chips by microwaving, desiccating or even individually pinpricking them. Eventually Blumenthal developed the three-stage cooking process generally known as Triple Cooked Chips, which he identifies as “the first recipe I could call my own.”
As noted in an email from the Fat Duck’s research manager about the fish batter, he explained how vodka ended up in a beer batter.
The story with the fish batter was that we had developed a really fantastic batter recipe using special starches from National Starch. By using these, along with the siphon to create a very irregular foam structure (an idea that based on the work of Julian Vincent at Bath University and the mechanics of brittle fracture) we created a really outstanding batter that would cook fast enough so that the fish wasn’t over cooked, but stay crisp for a good 20+ minutes. The only downside to this was that no one could recreate this batter at home.
We mostly dealt with this “pickle” by waiting for divine inspiration. That occurred one afternoon at my house when I was reducing alcohol for a sauce and while I had my back turned it boiled away to nothing. I was reminded that alcohol takes far less energy to evaporate than water. I thought it might be possible to reduce the amount of water in the batter by replacing it with alcohol and creating a batter that would cook faster. The added bonus was that alcohol destabilizes the foam, which creates a more inhomogenous structure, which makes the batter crisper!
There was a bit of trial and error, because you do need some gluten or the batter just “blows” off the fish. It seems that a final alcohol content of around 20% seems about right.
Citizens, this is a phenomenal recipe and I urge you to gird your culinary loins to give it a go! Be sure and spray the pickled onion vinegar heavily on the chips!
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
Heston Blumenthal’s Beer & Vodka Battered Fish & Chips
- 200g plain flour
- 200g white rice flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp honey
- 300ml vodka
- 300ml lager
- 2–3 litres groundnut oil (for frying)
- 4 large turbot fillets, 2-3cm thick (ideally, get 1 whole turbot weighing 2.5kg and either fillet it yourself, or get the fishmonger to do it)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Thick slices of lemon for garnish
- For the Chips:
- 1.2kg Arran Victory or Maris Piper potatoes
- 2–3 litres groundnut (peanut) oil
- Table salt and sea salt
- pickling juice from a jar of pickled onions
- Tip the plain flour, rice flour and baking powder into a bowl. Put the honey and vodka into a jug, stir and add to the flour to create a batter mix. Stir the lager into the batter until just combined. It doesn’t matter if the consistency is a little lumpy. The most important thing is to open the lager just before stirring and transferring to the siphon, to retain as many bubbles as possible.
- Transfer the batter to a jug, then pour it into a syphon. Charge the syphon with three CO₂charges and put it in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- Put enough groundnut oil to cover the fish in a large pan or casserole. Heat it to 220°C, using a digital probe to check the temperature. (It’s best not to use a deep-fat fryer for this because the temperature fluctuates too much and has trouble reaching 220°C.)
- Rinse the turbot fillets and dry them with kitchen paper. Season well, then dust with rice flour. (This ensures the batter sticks to the fillets.) Shake off any extra flour.
- Shake the syphon vigorously, then squirt the batter into a medium-sized bowl, enough to cover a fillet. (Don’t squirt out too much: the batter begins to lose its bubbles as soon as it leaves the syphon.) Dip the fillet into the foamy batter. When it is completely coated, lower the fillet into the hot oil.
- As the fish fries, drizzle a little extra batter over it to give a lovely crusty exterior. When it has turned a light golden brown, turn the fillet over and drizzle more batter on top.
- Let the fish cook for another minute or so until it has coloured to a deeper golden brown, then remove it from the oil. Use a digital thermometer to check it is cooked: insert the probe into the thickest part of the fish – once it reads 40°C the fillet should be set aside so that the residual heat will cook it to a temperature of 45°C.
- Serve with lemon.
- For the chips:
- Wash and peel the potatoes, then cut them into chips about 1.5cm thick (don’t worry too much about making them all the same size: the variation will give a greater range of textures).
- Place them in a bowl under cold running water for 2-3 minutes to rinse off some of the starch, then drain.
- Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil (add 10g of salt per litre of water), add the chips, bring back to the boil and simmer until the chips have almost broken up (it’s the fissures that form as the potato breaks up that trap the fat, creating a crunchy crust). It is important to make sure the simmer is gentle so the potatoes don’t start to fall apart before they have cooked through.
- Using a slotted spoon, carefully lift the potatoes out of the water and place on a cake rack. Leave to cool, then put in the fridge until cold.
- Pour enough oil to cover the chips into a deep-fat fryer and heat to 130°C. Plunge in the chips and allow them to cook until they take on a dry appearance and are slightly coloured.
- Remove the chips and drain off the excess fat. Place them on a cake rack and allow to cool, then return to the fridge until cold.
- Reheat the oil to 190°C. Plunge in the chips and cook until golden brown.
- Drain the chips, season well with a mixture of table and sea salt, then pile next to the fish.
- To serve
- For that total chip shop experience, decant some pickling juice from a jar of pickled onions (or white-wine vinegar) into an atomiser and squirt it on the fish and chips
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