Traveling the world through cuisine

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

St. Patrick's Day

Around the world this week, it’s a celebration of all things Irish. Gallons of green beer will be consumed, pub songs will be sang, and of course there will be plenty of sick calls to work the next day. Irish food will be in full Celtic swing in every pub all over the world, and many will consume corned beef despite any Lenten promises made.

While the actual St. Patrick is a figurehead in Irish history, the feast day celebrating him isn’t really a tribute to the man as it is to Irish Culture. While I’m not a heavy beer drinker, I still love the flavors of pub grub, and I wanted to bring out my own Irish roots with fish and chips.

Now fish and chips isn’t just an Irish dish, as it is more known to all parts of the United Kingdom. Originally Jewish merchants would fry and sell the combo of fish and potatoes all along the coast of the North Sea, and it was an Italian immigrant named Giuseppe Cervi brought it to Ireland.

The traditional preparation of fish and chips generally means covering a thick, meaty fillet of fish with a beer batter, then deep drying in beef drippings or lard. Can you feel your arteries hardening at that thought? The chips are nothing more than thick-cut steak fries deep-fried as well.

Since I’m currently in a quest to lose some stubborn holiday weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle, I searched all over the internet for ideas on how to healthy up the traditional dish. Found some great ideas and came up with a nice variation of fish and chips with sides of tartar sauce and curry sauce. I won’t say this is as healthy as a salad or broiled fish, but I will say the calories, fat, and sodium are drastically less.

Fish and chips with tartar and curry sauces

I have four recipes here for the four items on the plate. I’m going to take you through them in the order I personally suggest you make them. Part of the reason is you don’t want fried fish sitting there getting cold while you prepare the rest, and the two sauces taste much better if they’ve been allowed to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours to overnight.

Off to Ireland we go…

Tartar Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of fat-free or light mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp of sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tbsp of onion powder
  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp of dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Taste and add salt and/or pepper to your liking.
  3. Cover and leave in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.

Quick Notes

Be sure to use sweet relish, as dill relish might make the sauce a bit too savory or even salty.

The reason why you leave the sauce in the refrigerator for a few hours is so the flavors can meld together better. I’ve noticed when you make this sauce fresh, it’s not as ideal in flavor as when it’s been sitting for a while.

Variations

Feel free to add or omit the dill or lemon juice. Put in other flavors if you see fit.

Not every place will serve curry sauce with the chips, but I personally am a big fan of curry fries and will get them anytime I hit up a pub with authentic cuisine. The basis of this sauce came from the past recipe for curry chicken, only it’s a bit doctored up into a nice dipping sauce. If you ever end up even making the chicken, set aside some of the sauce and freeze it for days like today.

Curry Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp of curry powder
  • 1 tsp of onion powder
  • 1 tsp of garlic
  • 1/4 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp of paprika
  • 1/4 tsp of ginger
  • 1/2 tsp of sugar
  • 1/4 tsp of cumin
  • 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp of plain nonfat yogurt
  • 3 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup of water

Instructions

  1. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Add the yogurt, tomato paste, and oil
  3. Stir until the mixture becomes a thick paste.
  4. Slowly add the water and stir until you reach your desired thickness or thinness.
  5. Cover and leave in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.

Quick Notes

Be sure to taste test as you go. Even better is to test it with a bland cracker or a potato if you cooked them already. Adjust ingredients as you see fit. Your goal is a slightly sweet, but spicy sauce that leaves a little tingle in your mouth as an afterthought, and the curry flavor all over your palette.

Like the tartar sauce, it’s important to let the sauce sit in the refrigerator for a few hours to let the different flavors meld together. The day I made the dish I thought the sauce was “ok”, but then tasting the sauce the next day showed me it was perfect.

Variations

Some will grind up apple in a food processor and add it in, others will use chicken broth as opposed to water. It’s up to you. Just bear in mind the apple will sweeten things and the broth will add more salt to the flavor.

For the chips, I wanted to keep away from frying potatoes, and even experiment with other vegetables. Meeta of What’s For Lunch Honey? had a great idea for using parsnips and rutabaga with the potatoes. My own attempt went south because I could not find rutabega and I burned the parsnips. If you attempt it, be sure to cook the parsnips separately and pull them out earlier.

Roasted Potatoes aka "Chips"

Ingredients

  • 2-4 potatoes, peeled and sliced into wedges
  • 2-4 tbsp of olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450º.
  2. Place the potato wedges in a bowl and coat them with the olive oil.
  3. Arrange the potato wedges on a cookie sheet facing the same direction.
  4. Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, then flip them all and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

Quick Notes

There isn’t much that can go wrong. The high temperature is so the potatoes get roasted on the outside while being soft on the inside.

If you’re thinking of omitting the oil, please don’t. The oil makes the outside golden and crispy. It’s essential.

Variations

I did not season these potatoes because of the curry sauce, but if you’re choosing not to make the curry sauce, then try adding a little salt and pepper. Go further with some oregano and garlic, or even some cayenne pepper and paprika for a little flair.

The best practice is to put the potatoes in the oven and then cook the fish. You’re welcome to use any fish you like, but I suggest you stick to thick, meaty fillets. Some suggest tilapia, but I find it too thin. Cod is the traditional choice, but perch, sea bass, and salmon will work as well.

I’m using panko crumbs on the fish as opposed to flour and/or regular breadcrumbs. The reason is I love the crunch you get from the panko crumbs. If you wan to get more traditional then by all means use flour and breadcrumbs, but I would tell you to try panko just once and you’ll never want to go back.

Beer-Batter Panko Encrusted Cod

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup of brown or dark ale
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 lb of cod, sea bass, salmon, or whatever fish you choose
  • 1 cup of panko crumbs
  • 1 tbsp of granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp of dill
  • 1 tbsp of lemon pepper
  • 1/4 cup of canola oil
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, combine the ale with the egg whites. Stir fully.
  2. Slice the fish into strips, nuggets or leave whole if you desire it.
  3. Place the fish into the ale/egg white mixture and allow it to soak for a few minutes.
  4. In another bowl, combine the panko crumbs with the garlic, dill, lemon pepper, and salt if you desire.
  5. Pour the dry mixture into a shallow bowl or deep plate. Something you can place the fish in and coat it.
  6. Place the coated fish into the dry mixture and cover with the crumbs and seasonings. Press the crumbs a bit into the flesh so they will stay.
  7. In a saute pan, heat up the canola oil on high. Have a spatter guard ready as well as a plate with paper towel on it.
  8. When the oil is hot, carefully and gently place the fish into the oil.
  9. Cook the fish for 2-4 minutes per side.
  10. When finished, place the fish onto the paper towel and allow the excess oil to come off.

Quick Notes

The reason you heat the oil up on high is you want to quickly cook the fish and the breading without having the breading soak up too much of the oil. If the temperature is lower the breading will soak up the oil and thus you end up with greasy/soggy fish.

Variations

As I said before, if panko isn’t for you then coat the fish first with flour, then place in the ale/egg white mixture, then into regular breadcrumbs before cooking.

Feel free to season the breading any way you choose.

Tags: English, fish and chips, Irish, pub grub

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