Try This 25-Minute Bar Favorite: Fish and Chips Sticks

Inviting some pals over to hang out can quickly turn stressful when you realize they’re going to expect some food. Before you reach for your phone to order delivery, take a few deep breaths. Homemade eats don’t have to be difficult. With original recipes from our Everyday Appetizers series, you can pull off showstopping starters without losing your cool. 

A basket perfectly cooked fish wrapped in a crispy crust, golden fries, and a creamy tartar sauce is the meal we all hope to get when ordering fish and chips. What you usually end up with is a soggy mess that makes you wish you had eaten before coming to the pub. This week, we’re rescuing fish and chips from this sad fate with a version that’s so much better and remarkably easy.

About this recipe

plate of potato chip crusted, beer -battered fish with dill tartar sauce

Source: Christine Skopec/The Cheat Sheet

When it comes to crispy fish, there’s no substitute for frying. You’ll see tons of recipes for breaded, baked fish, but it’s really not the same thing. No type of fancy oven technique can recreate the light, crisp exterior you get with a battered and fried fillet. Don’t fight it. And because we can’t leave good enough alone, we rolled the fish sticks in crushed potato chips just before frying so you get double the crunch and don’t have to bother with cooking a separate batch of fries.

Tartar sauce can be made with any combination of mayonnaise and pickle-like ingredients. Recipes often use fancy French pickles and capers, but really any type of pickle will work. We used a dill variety because they’re readily available, taste great, and are one of our favorites for snacking. Even if you have to buy a whole jar to make this tartar sauce, you’re a lot more likely to use up the extras than if you had bought cornichons. To boost the herb flavor even more, we tossed in a little bit of fresh dill. If you’re a spice fan, try the same method with pickled peppers and parsley.

Before you even get to cutting the cod into sticks, check for pin bones. Some fishmongers remove them, but many don’t. They’re a serious choking hazard, so they really do need to come out. Although you can buy specialty tweezers for the job, there’s no need. A basic set of needle-nose pliers works just fine. To remove the bones, firmly grip the end with the pliers, then pull the bone in the direction it’s pointing. It should slide without too much effort. Make sure to clean the pliers well both before and after using them.

Once the fish is cut into sticks, season them with salt, then whisk the beer and flour to make a batter. Set up an assembly line with the fish on one side, then the batter, then a shallow dish filled with crushed potato chips, and end with a baking sheet. Working with a few pieces of fish at a time, pass through the batter to coat, roll in the chips, then transfer to the sheet tray. The best method is to use one hand for dipping in batter and one for rolling in chips so you don’t end up breading your fingers.

Because the chips have already been fried once and the fish is cut into relatively small pieces, the actual cooking goes really fast. In about 90 seconds, the first batch will be done. Immediately hit the fish sticks with a generous sprinkling of salt, repeat with all the rest of the fish, then serve them with the tartar sauce.

You may have seen articles suggesting matching fried foods, particularly fries, with Champagne and thought it sounded strange. There’s actually a lot of wisdom to this combination. The effervescence and crispness of a dry, sparkling wine helps cut the fattiness of fried food. This is a perfect chance to try it out if you typically reach for white wine. Don’t feel like you need to spend a fortune, though. A dry Cava or Prosecco will also work wonderfully.

White wine is really the best option with fried fish. If you must do red, keep it on the lighter side. Wine experts Susie Barrie and Peter Richards suggested a Pinot Noir with some cherry flavors.

Since you already used a lager to make the batter, the same brew will do for a good pairing. You can also go for a pilsner. If you want something with a bit more character, CraftBeer.com suggested a pale ale.

Black tea is a pretty classic non-alcoholic beverage to pair with fish and chips, so a tea-based cocktail would be a fantastic choice here. Try Food Network’s tea drink with cardamom and ginger or go for The Kitchn’s hot cocktail with spices.

Fish and Chips Sticks with Dill Tartar Sauce

close up of potato chip-crusted, beer battered fish dipped in dill tartar sauce

Source: Christine Skopec/The Cheat Sheet

This dish is best served right away, so make sure everyone’s ready to eat before you start frying. You’ll have enough crispy fish to feed 4 people.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped dill pickles
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
  • 3 quarts canola or vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup lager beer
  • 1 (7-ounce) bag potato chips, finely crushed
  • 1 pound cod, cut into sticks that are 1 inch wide on both sides and 3 inches long
  • Salt

Directions: Preheat oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a deep, heavy pot set over medium heat. In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, pickles, lemon juice, and dill. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Meanwhile, whisk beer and flour in a medium bowl until smooth. Mixture should be the consistency of pancake batter. Add additional beer, if needed. Place crushed potato chips in a shallow dish. Season fish all over with salt.

Working in batches, dip fish pieces in batter to coat, allowing excess to drip back into the bowl. Transfer to dish with potato chips and turn to coat evenly. Transfer to a baking sheet and repeat with remaining fish.

Working with 6 to 7 fish pieces at a time, fry until golden and crisp on the outside and fish is fully cooked, about 1½ to 2 minutes, adjusting heat to maintain temperature and using a slotted spoon or spider to gently move fish around as it cooks. Remove fish to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and immediately season with salt. Repeat with remaining fish.

Serve fish sticks with tartar sauce.

See you back here next week.

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