So with a number of deep-frying successes safely in my repertoire, last night I attempted the ultimate: fish and chips. It was such a disaster that dinner had to be cancelled.
In my defense, a number of good things came out of it nonetheless. For one, in my typical fashion of doing too much research, I happened on this idea of making home-made crisps in the microwave. Following Fer’s suggestion, I soaked some paper thin (mandolin) slices of potato and sweet potato in vinegar for about an hour, then laid them out in a single layer in a lightly olive oiled dish, sprinkled with salt, and zapped them in the evil machine for about 4 mins (or just under). They looked like they were on the verge of shrivelling up into burnt nothingness, but having had the good fortune to be saved before that stage, they emerged as some pretty righteous crisps. Think kettle-fried, but without a kettle of oil. And they were super crispy, even two hours later. This is something to come back to: a world of thickness and flavours to experiment with (and, as the sailor pointed out, all manner of vegetables. Ginger crisps, I am onto you).
As for the actual frying, I couldn’t make up my mind between a good ol’ beer batter and the Old Bay Better Batter Mix I’ve been waiting to use since we got back from the US. So I reckoned I’d do some Old Bay onion rings and a beer batter for the fish. The onion rings actually turned out pretty well (clearly some very functional chemicals in the Better Batter Mix), but by the time I had gotten half way into the fish disaster (the batter wasn’t sticking, despite having floured the fish beforehand; it wasn’t puffing, or turning golden, and the fish was getting horribly overcooked) I was so fed up with it all that I abandoned the entire project, including part 2 of the real chips I had already par-fried.
I think I know what went wrong: I’ve gotten too confident. So confident that when frying for small numbers, I don’t bother with the big machine anymore (it’s a bitch to clean), which means that I can’t regulate the oil temperature properly. And I guess the beer batter I tried (no egg in this one) just wasn’t right. Anyway, that means I’ll have to keep trying, and it’s a useful lesson for control freaks like me to come up against my limits once in a while.
I had also, you see, spent most of the day doing other things which I am actually good at, like roasting my Swazi peanuts (family secret, that one), baking biscotti, and a nice seed loaf with the last of the Beaumont home-milled flour. So even though dinner didn’t turn out as planned, we didn’t go to bed hungry, because the sailor also brought round some home-brew limoncello which was the perfect biscotti dipper. Lesson? Sometimes you just have to stop trying to do too much. Fry the fish another day.