What's for Dinner: Spicy Pub Fish and Chips

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Sunday's long-awaited season 3 premiere of "Downton Abbey" on PBS got me thinking about British food. And that, of course, made me hungry for fish and chips, a classic British dish that dates back to the 1800s.

Being aristocrats, the Crawley family probably wouldn't have dined at "chippies," the shops specializing in battered cod and fries that started popping up in London in the mid-19th century. But it is likely that Lord Grantham's valet, Mr. Bates, "partook in a version of this dish in the pub where he hid out for a few days," notes Emily Ansara Baines in "The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook."

The original recipe calls for pairing the fried cod with homemade fries, but I'm no Mrs. Patmore -- I took the easy way out and substituted Ore-Ida Sweet Potato Fries. Don't forget the malt vinegar. It'll brighten the taste of the fish.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper

  • Dash cayenne pepper

  • 1 bottle dark beer, such as Sierra Nevada Brown Ale

  • Dash Tabasco sauce

  • 2 to 3 quarts vegetable oil for frying

  • 1 1/2 pounds firm-flesh fish such as cod, cut into 1-ounce strips

  • Cornstarch for dredging

  • Malt vinegar for serving

Make batter: Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, lemon pepper and cayenne pepper. Slowly whisk in beer and Tabasco sauce until batter is smooth and free of lumps. This may take a while; just keep whisking. If batter feels too thick, thin with water. Refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes.

Heat oil in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven over high heat until it reaches 350 degrees.

Remove batter from fridge.

Dredge fish strips in cornstarch, then again, working in small batches, dip fish into batter and immerse in hot oil. When batter is set, turn pieces of fish over and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Drain fish on roasting rack or paper towel.

Serve with malt vinegar and salt, and crispy hot french fries.

Serves 4.

-- "The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook" by Emily Ansara Baines (Adams Media, 2012, $21.95)

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Gretchen McKay: gmckay@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.


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