Monday, 16 March 2009
I know I resolved to cook meat at the end of my last post but the Whitstable Mackerel from a few posts back have been burning a hole in my pocket (metaphorically of course as they have literally been frozen solid in the freezer). So, on Saturday I decided to cook two of them and very delicous (and huge) they turned out to be.
I defrosted the fish and then made some deep incisions into the flesh and marinated them for a while with a mixture of fresh herbs and lemon juice. Then I baked them in a fairly hot oven for 25 minutes wrapped loosely in foil parcels which I opened for the last 5 minutes of the cooking time.
Mackerel being an oily fish, I decided to serve it with a fennel and blood orange salad (nothing more than finely sliced fennel and segments of blood orange with a little olive oil, blood orange juice, salt and pepper as a dressing). The aniseedy sharpness of the salad worked very well with the fish.
To accompany the fish and the salad I wanted to make some fat chips. Now, I have to confess that I cannot remember the last time that I tried to deep fry food - that kind of thing is reserved very much for treats whilst eating out. I, therefore, had absolutely no idea how to cook a fat chip.
This is doubly shocking when I think back to the omnipresent chip pan that was a major part of my childhood and adolescence. It would be kept ready charged in the pantry with its milky contents of solidified lard (no poncey vegetable oil for us hardy Valleys folk) and would be brought into use at least two or three times per week. I have happy memories of chips being cooked by my mother on Summer evenings and then handed out to me and my friends (who would inevitably be playing on the street somewhere nearby) wrapped in newspaper and liberally sprinkled with biting salt and stinging vinegar to create the authentic chip shop experience (at presumably a fraction of the price).
Notwithstanding this impeccable pedigree on the chip front, I have lapsed I regret to say. These days I take my (well diluted) chippy pleasure at home from oven chips or microwave chips. In relation to this last category I limit myself to the thin chips that come individually packaged in a little grid within a box. My standards have not slipped so low as to countenance the microchips that come in a box with a lid you have to leave ajar whilst a series of microwave blasts, interspersed with frantic shaking of the box, result in a soggy pallid excuse for a chip.
I was not therefore wildly optimistic about my fat chip experiment. This pessimism was well founded I regret to say. I opted for the twice cooked method (which I assumed would give me the crispy, crunchy exterior and fluffy interior of a good, home cooked chip). I peeled the potaoes and cut the chips, which I then let soak for 10 minutes or so in cold water. I then drained the chips and heated about 3" of vegetable oil to 170 degrees and cooked the chips for 10 minutes or so. Then I drained them and let them cool. When the fish and salad were ready I put the (now cold) chips back into very hot oil (200 degrees) for about another 3 minutes. They browned very quickly and my hopes were high! The end result, whilst being cooked and looking not too bad, had nothing of the crispy exterior to it that is the hallmark of a fine chip.
If anybody out there can spot my (no doubt obvious) error in preparing and cooking these chips I would be grateful to hear from you because, if I am going to the trouble of cooking real chips (with the resultant cost in terms of calories and fat intake), they need to be perfect. Any suggestions gratefully received.
Posted by TonyM at 11:58