Oy, Guv’na – It’s Fish & Chips, Innit?

6 June 2009

The Stath likes his fish & chips with a healthy dose of malt vinegar and smoldering gaze.  P.S.  You're welcome, ladies (and The Chef's Prerogative's penis.)

The Stath likes his fish & chips with a healthy dose of malt vinegar and smoldering gaze. P.S. You're welcome, ladies (and The Chef's Prerogative's penis.)

When I was a wee lad I, like everyone else on the planet, read the book Angela’s Ashes. For those few among you who haven’t read it (or seen the movie I forgot that I saw, until just now), it tells the story of Angela, a secret agent in MI-6, and follows her through Europe as she exacts revenge for her murdered partner, one bad guy at a time, until she’s finally able to scatter her fallen comrade’s ashes in his hometown of Ankara.  At least that’s what I wish the book was about, because the actual novel was more depressing than an average Cincinnati Bengals season.  A well written book, it nonetheless made me feel sad every time I picked it up – perhaps so sad that I will one day write a harrowing memoir about me reading it, which will no doubt surpass the original in out-and-out depressing subject matter.  One thing the book definitely had going for it, though – aside for Frank McCourt’s writing – was his description of the hunger he and his siblings endured, as well as the attendant joy and sensory overload which accompanied the  occasional sussing-out of a real meal.  In particular, he glowingly describes how he would occasionally have the pleasure of fish & chips, that most iconic of British pub food.  And, man, does that motherfucker make fish & chips sound good.  Listen to this part, after our tiny, hungry, kleptomaniacal hero steals fish & chips from some courageous, passed-out drunk: “[I] thank the drunken man in my mind for drowning the fish and chips in vinegar and smothering them in salt and then I remember that if I die tonight I’m in a state of sin for stealing and I could go straight to hell stuffed with fish and chips but it’s Saturday and the priests [all right, that’s enough]…”  See, aren’t you craving some fish & chips, right now?  And commas?  I don’t know if I’d had fish & chips until I read this book, and I am eternally grateful to it for making the dish sound too irresistible not to try.  In other words, I guess I’m saying that Frank McCourt’s terrible, impoverished childhood was probably worth it.  I’m just glad he could pull himself up by the bootstraps and build enough wealth to finally buy the Los Angeles Dodgers.

I'm including this picture of Sohpie Howard because she comes from the land of fish & chips.  I'm also including it because I think it serves as a reminder of how disgusting the fur industry is.  The sexy, sexy fur industry.

I'm including this picture of Sophie Howard because, well, you ladies got The Stath, up there. I'm also including it because I think it serves as a reminder of how disgusting the fur industry is. The sexy, sexy fur industry.

I was recently looking at a map (of the world, no less) and discovered that true fish & chips are located very far away from me.  The British pubs around my neighborhood make delicious versions, sure, but it’s just not the same unless your meal is interrupted by some Man U fan hitting you in the face because he takes your blue jeans as a sign that you’re a Chelsea supporter.  I think those are soccer teams – did I do that right?  Good fish & chips, though, does not require a first-class ticket on a Virgin Airlines flight, a stay at the Savoy, or thinking Eddie Izzard is funny.  No, fish & chips can be made right in your very own home, after you’ve drunk eight pints of Guinness and four shots of Bushmill’s.  So let’s get to it, mate, an’ cook some chips, yeah?

Stuff To Put In Your Lorrie

Oil
Cod pieces (or, “cod fillets,” if you don’t want to be hilarious about it)
Flour
Spices
Potatoes
Other stuff I’ll list once I think you’re ready to read it

Fish

Fresh Fish!  Fresh Fish!  Fresh Fish!
Fresh Fish! Fresh Fish! Fresh Fish!
Cod has been the go-to fish for this meal ever since they signed an exclusivity contract with the dish in 1924.  I’m glad they did, because cod is a perfect counter-part to the richness of the batter and chips.  It’s light and flavourful, and more flaky than me when I promise that I’ll totally go see that play with you.  But the cod is only one part of what makes this meal great.  Like most things that are awesome, the best part comes from the batter.  In our case, the batter is made from flour, baking soda, salt, pepper, and glorious, wonderful beer.  Dredge the fish in the flour, dip in the batter, then gently submerge in a pot full of oil (heated to 160 degrees, Celsius.)  remove to drain while you’re finishing your chips and thinking how maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if the English had won the Revolutionary War, after all.  Sorry, General Washington!

Chips

Not pictured: jokes that aren't unfunny and obvious.  Also not pictured: not using double negatives.

Not pictured: jokes that aren't unfunny and obvious. Also not pictured: not using double negatives.

Oh, french fries, your temperamental nature reminds me of a woman.  Or a cat.  Or of a half-woman-half-cat vindictive beast, that I would still probably have sex with, even though I knew what I was getting myself into.  Why you seem to burn at a temperature just five degrees higher than that at which you’d cook perfectly vexes even the most patient of chefs.  That you are so delicious makes us forgive (and devour) you.  The bottom line is this: I could write a long instruction manual about how to make great fries from scratch, but I just don’t think it would do you any good.  Much like making a ten-foot putt to save par or staging a political or military coup in a country hostile to America’s pecuniary interests, making fries is much more about feel than academics.  For our purposes, cut your fries thicker than you think you should, fry them once at a low temperature, then let them rest while you fry your cod.  Cook them once more at a high temperature, remove to drain, and sprinkle with salt.
Heny Kissinger sez: "Coup?  What coup?  I have no idea what you're talking about.  Those chips sound good, though."

Heny Kissinger sez: "Coup? What coup? I have no idea what you're talking about. Those chips sound good, though."

Our Harrowing Conclusion
I would tell you to serve your fish & chips on a newspaper, in the traditional fashion, but because those don’t exist anymore, I guess you’ll have to serve it on your laptop while you display the online version of your favorite daily.  And, like the young Frank McCourt would say: “Oy, mate – serve ya fish & chips wit a noice helpin’ ‘a salt and mawlt vinega’.”  I like a side of tartar sauce, as well, but that’s mostly because I’m a fan of Eurasian ethnic groups.  However you serve your fish & chips, enjoy.  Then punch anyone in the face who dares to say that British cuisine is gross.  Unless they’re talking about haggis, in which case they may or may not be wrong.
New sous-chef, Ella Chairman Meow Who Dey, sez: "All your pants are belong to me.  Did I hear someone mention fish?"

New sous-chef, Ella Chairman Meow Who Dey, sez: "All your pants are belong to me. Did I hear someone mention fish?"

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