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Pub Grub: Jewish-style

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Pub Grub: Jewish-style photo 

In celebration of the Royal Wedding, I offer a true Jewish recipe. A trip to London or anywhere in the UK cannot be complete without a pint of beer and a platter of fish and chips.

But, did you know that fish and chips is actually a Jewish dish? The battered and fried fish recipe was brought to England in the 1500s by Portuguese Sephardic Jews who had come to Britain to escape persecution. The crispy fish was called Pescado Frito. The history of the addition of fried potatoes is a bit blurry and may be credited to the Belgian recipe for fried potatoes. By the Victorian era, eating fried fish was very popular throughout the UK and was referred to in a Dickens novel and other popular fiction.

The first fish and chips shop opened in London in 1860 and was owned by Joseph Malin. The fish was fried in oil in “the Jewish fashion” and served with potato wedges that were rounded and resembled the fin of a fish.
Fish and chips is a delicious and crispy treat. While the recipe is easy to prepare, the timing can be tricky.

Have all of your ingredients measured and prepared and your hungry diners assembled. Once the fish is fried, it should be served immediately so that the crispy batter does not get soggy.

Fish and chips—in the Jewish style  

6 cups neutral flavored oil (I use canola or safflower)
2 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch thick wedges
1 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup dark beer (I like Guinness)
2 egg whites, whisked until they at soft peaks
Salt and pepper
4 6-ounce fish filets, be sure to use firm, thick fish such as cod or halibut
Malt vinegar

1. Heat the oil to 275 in a large, heavy pan. Blanch the potatoes in the oil until they are opaque and soft (about 3-5 minutes). Transfer the potatoes to a sheet pan lined with paper towels and allow them to cool completely. (this will allow the starch to crystallize and ensure a crispy chip)

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, Old Bay, cayenne and beer. Fold in the egg whites. Place the bowl inside a large bowl that is filled with ice water. This will help the batter stay crispy and delicate.

3. Pat dry the fish filets, dredge them in the batter and place them into the heated oil. Cook until they are crispy and brown (about 3-5 minutes). Transfer to a pan lined with paper towels. Add the blanched chips to the hot oil and fry until the chips are golden brown (about 3 minutes).

4. Serve the fish and chips with malt vinegar, tartare sauce, horseradish sauce or your favorite condiment. 

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