From America's Test Kitchen Season 7: Fish and Chips at Home
The fish and chips served at most American pubs are mediocre at best. But the alternative—deep-frying fish at home—can be a hassle and a mess. Plus, by the time the fries finish frying, the fish is cold. We wanted fish with a light, crisp crust and moist interior, and we wanted to serve both the fish and the fries at their prime.
Our first challenge was to come up with a batter that not only would protect the fish as it cooked (allowing it to steam gently) but would also provide the fish with a nicely crisp contrast. We discovered that a wet batter was the most effective way to coat and protect the fish. We liked beer—the traditional choice—as the liquid component. What was the best way to keep the coating crisp? The answer was a 3-1 ratio of flour to cornstarch, along with a teaspoon of baking powder. Still, the coating was so tender it puffed away from the fish as it cooked. A final coating of flour on top of the battered fish solved the problem.
To solve the second challenge—delivering the fish and fries while both are still hot—we cooked them alternately. First, we precooked the fries in the microwave, which not only lessened cooking time but removed excess moisture that could dilute the oil and diminish crisping. Then we gave the fries their first, quick fry in hot oil. While the potatoes were draining, we battered and fried the fish. Then, as the fish drained, we gave the fries a quick final fry.
Ask your fishmonger to remove the thin tail portions of the fish. For safety, use a Dutch oven with at least a 7-quart capacity. Any beer will work in this recipe, even nonalcoholic beer, with the exception of dark stouts and ales. Serve with traditional malt vinegar or with tartar sauce.