Monday, February 27, 2006

The Frying Game

So, somehow it's all my fault.

My fault that storebought ricotta was not good enough any more.

My fault that we needed then to make our own ricotta, necessitating a trip to San Francisco Brewcraft for a packet of citric acid.
My fault that this somehow revived a latent beer-making inclination -- much like the reincarnation of some long dormant Egyptian demon in a Saturday-afternoon, schlock sci-fi, made-for-tv movie.

"Because of her, ENGLISH PALE ALE rises to walk the earth again."

And now it's my fault that everyone is stuffed with fish and chips, cheesecake and beer, and dragging about like overstuffed sea lions.

To celebrate Eric's first foray into beer(or ale) -making, we made a dinner over at the Linwood Brewery, as it has been dubbed. Check out the step by step (plus some unsubstantiated allegations about my invovement in this process) on his blog...

Of course, the cheesecake was made the day before so it had time to chill. (The original recipe is here.)

It's always a little startling to me how much cream cheese you need to start out with. Here's my hunka-hunka burning cream cheese.

And here is the mass of cream cheese being made more creamy by the addition of sour cream. All that is going into an 8" cake pan. Woo-hoo!

Then we lick the beaters and the bowl -- Woo-hoo!

The real key though, is the yummy pecan and graham cracker crust. A bit of sugar, a bit of butter -- perfect!

And we eat the remainder of the crust crumbs. Woo-hoo!

Ahem. Anyhow, back to the fish and chips...

So for this little adventure, we actually purchased an electric skillet. That way I could be far away from the roiling boiling ale-god procedure happening near the stove and make my own little messes over by the kitchen table. I have to say, we don't have space for a lot of fancy appliances, but I like this little jobbie, a Black and Decker fryer that will go up to 400F. Good enough for me. We tested it out and made some braised short ribs in it. It wasn't as good as you can produce over a stove, but it was easy to get going, one-pot and quite acceptably tasty.

On Sunday it did triple duty, frying up Beer Battered fish (Dover sole and Rock Cod) along with onion rings and french fries.

Beer Battered Fish, Onion Rings & French Fries
  • 1 medium sized cod fillet per person
  • 1 cup AP flour plus extra for dusting
  • 1 cup self rising flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 pt dark beer (Guinness or porter)
  • 1 tbsp of oil
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Water
Combine the flours and salt in a medium bowl. Add in the beer, oil and egg yolk, then stir till blended. Let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes (it is definitely better after it's rested and the glutens have a chance to relax.)

Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and whip into stiff peaks. Then fold these into the rested batter. Add a little more beer if the consistency of the batter is too thick. It should coat the back of a spoon.

Salt and pepper the fish and then dust with flour.

Heat about a quart of vegetable or peanut oil in the fryer (enough to make at least 1 in deep layer), until it gets to 360 F.

When the oil is hot enough, dip a fish fillet into the batter using tongs and coat completely. Let excess batter drip off and lay it in the oil. Be careful not to splatter yourself. After 3 or 4 minutes, turned the fish fillets over to get the other side crisped. Let cook another couple of minutes, then remove and allow it to drain on a rack over paper towels.

We used the same process for the onion rings. All you have to do is slice an onion into 1/4" thick slices, pop them into single rings, dip into the batter and fry away.

To make the French fries, use russets or some nice baking type potato. Cut the potatoes into french fries by slicing them into 1/4" thick planks, then slicing crosswise into 1/4" fries. You can either peel or not peel them -- either works fine. The best procedure we found for French Fries was to do a first fry in oil that's at 325F. Cook the potatoes until they're limp and cooked through, then pull them out and drain. Then crank the heat up until the oil is at 375F and do a second fry until they are golden brown and crispy. Trust me -- you get lovely tasty fries that are creamy on the inside and crisp and flavorful on the outside. That -- some roasted garlic aioli -- oh, there was no turning back.

As usual, the food was mostly gone by the time I remembered to grab the camera and take a picture ... of the last lonely piece of cheesecake.

And here was the raspberry sauce that went around it. Shavings of El Rey 71% cacao chocolate on top.

No, we don't live a spoiled life.

... And the beer? Well, let's just say that in a closet somewhere in Oakland, there's a bucket of beer huddling in a closet.

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