If you read Dennis Zimmermann’s article last week on ice fishing and combined it with the weather in Whitehorse this weekend, you may well have grabbed your auger and hightailed it down to Pumphouse.
Or maybe, like us, you still have a freezer full of fish from last summer’s amazing season and got inspired to whip up some beer-battered fish and chips.
Either way, we are here to put a little beer in your dish, and of course in your hand, while you channel your inner Jamie Oliver.
The trick to the best beer batter in the entire world is very cold batter and very hot oil. Beyond that, it is one of the simplest batters to prepare, and uses only two ingredients: a fine beer and self-rising flour.
You genuinely can make beer batter with any beer that you want, and for many chefs, their choice will depend on the fish they are serving.
For Yukon during ice fishing season, a high quality English-style ale is going to work wonders with the fish that are biting. It is the veritable Wills and Kate of beer batter and fish combinations.
So, first things first, a trip to your local purveyors of beer. We picked up two bottles (very important) of St. Peter’s Organic Ale, but feel free to give your meal a full Yukon theme by using Yukon Brewing’s Gold. Brewed in the English style, it would be another excellent choice.
The following recipe is a combination of about six different ‘family secrets’ from loose-lipped friends (whose definition of ‘secrecy’ seems flexible), and we would now never batter any other way.
We have done all the testing, tasting and tweaking … all you have to do is debone your catch and grab a bottle opener.
400g of fish
2 tsps of salt for a dry rub
1/4 cup of flour for coating your fish
1 cup of a fine English-style ale
1 cup of self-rising flour (if you only have all purpose, thoroughly mix 1-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the flour)
2 cups of canola oil (or any other vegetable oil) for frying
As we said, a cold batter is paramount for good results, so make it ahead of time. Put your cup of flour in a deep mixing bowl and open the bottle of St. Peter’s. Put aside one cup of the good stuff, pour yourself a glass, and take a good sniff.
Now have a sip and move the beer around your mouth. Notice the sweetness of the grain and the cracker-like maltiness.
Swallow and take another sip, this time gently breathing in air (through your mouth) at the same time. This action kicks your sense of smell into high gear and greatly increases your ability to taste a variety of flavours.
Put the glass aside, you have done some great work here.
Pour the beer from the cup measure into the flour a little at a time, mixing it (with a fork, whisk or wooden spoon – it isn’t picky) to combine the two.
When you have combined all the beer with the flour, the mixture should resemble a slightly thicker, slightly lumpier version of pancake batter. Cover it, and put it in your fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.
After your batter is chilled, rub your fillets with the salt and let them sit for about five minutes before cutting. (Our pieces are usually 1/2″ thick, and 3″x3″, so we have used that as the benchmark for this recipe.)
For 400g of pike, we use a 2-quart saucepan, as this allows us to use only (ha!) two cups of oil and have it be deep enough for the fish to float and the batter not to stick to the bottom of the pan.
Using a candy thermometer, heat your oil to 170 degrees C. It may smoke a wee bit … an extraction fan doesn’t go amiss with this dish.
While your oil is heating, liberally coat both sides of your fish in the set-aside flour. This will allow the batter to stick to the fish.
Once coated, lay your fish in the chilled batter, wiggle it around a bit, flip it over and make sure it is coated completely on both sides (we use two forks to do this bit). Pick it up with some tongs and lay it carefully in the hot oil.
Your batter will puff immediately and your kitchen will smell divine. After about a minute and a half, flip your fish and cook the other side. (If you are cooking two pieces at a time, make sure that they don’t stick together, and move them around the pan so that they do not stick to the bottom.)
The genius of the high heat is that you will get a crisp outside, a light-as-air fluffy inside, and flaky, moist fish cooked to perfection. Also, your pieces don’t absorb as much oil, as they are in the fat for a shorter time.
When your pieces are golden brown, take them out and lay them on a wire rack to drain.
If you are cooking a lot of smaller pieces in batches, you may want to keep them warm in a heated oven (95 degrees C) until you are ready to plate them with some oven-roasted Yukon Golds, a tossed salad, and the remaining bottle of the St. Peters.
With regard to your beer pairing for beer-battered fish, our idol Garrett Oliver says, “Everything works here – the bitterness in the beer cuts through the fat while the malt flavours find a friend in the batter coating and light up the flavour of the fish itself.”
Seriously. We really wished that we lived with him.
Now, if you want to really blow your mind, try to get your hands on some of Sunny Patch and Chris Dixon’s whisky cranberry sauce. This is an excellent addition to your Yukon-themed meal, and we are pretty sure that cranberry sauce may very well be the new tartar. You heard it here first.
If you have any batter left, don’t panic. As long as you do it straight away (Beer Cache is Food Safe), slice up some onions, batter and fry them. Beer-battered onion rings are … well, you be the judge.
And remember, while frying obviously isn’t something that you want to do every week, great and simple beer recipes that pair perfectly with English ales play a very important part in a balanced diet.
Please enjoy this article responsibly.