Forget the hassle of battering and frying. Grilled or broiled ‘naked’ cod lets the freshness of the fish shine. Image source: Flickr CC user Mike McCune
I love fish and chips. Yes, frying battered fish in oil isn’t the most healthy way to eat, but it’s just delicious, especially with tartar sauce and a few dashes of malt vinegar.
I actually like fish and chips so much, I once decided to cook them at home for a dinner party. I only did this once. That’s because between all that batter and what seemed like half a gallon of oil spattering all over the kitchen, I was cleaning up for days. And because I cooked the fish in a pot instead of deep fryer (who has a deep fryer?) the fish doesn’t quite get crisp enough. Worse, deep-frying fish in oil usually means you’ll be smelling what you eat for dinner the next morning over breakfast. I know I did.
Better than Battered
All this is why I’ve come up with a better alternative: grilled fish and chips. It may not fly in London, but made with super fresh cod, grilled fish and chips is a take on the classic that’s both much healthier and much more home kitchen-friendly.
The absolute best fish to use here is cod, the traditional choice for fish and chips. Chances are, if you eat fish and chips in your local fish fry house, it’s cod. The mild, firm fish holds up well in the fryer (and the leanness and large flakes of meat are a good compliment to the batter), but when you eat traditional fried fish you’re not really tasting the fish. You’re tasting the batter (and whatever seasonings may be in it) and a lot of oil.
Grilling cod is a much better way to showcase one of the world’s most beloved and versatile fish. But while deep frying may be able to cover up less-than-fresh fish, grilling requires impeccably fresh fish. You’ll the taste the difference either way. Get ahold of the fresh stuff for this recipe, and I promise it will be like tasting cod for the first time.
Good to Eat, Good for the Sea
Perhaps because it is now again plentiful in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, I’ve noticed cod seems to be considered an ordinary or less “special” fish than some trendier fish. But don’t be fooled by its humble reputation. Cod is delicious and has a sweet, non-fishy flavor that’s easy to love, making it perfect for those who think they don’t like fish.
Cod is also a great choice because it’s a sustainable choice. To make sure you’re choosing cod that is harvested in a way that is safe for the environment, buy fish that is sourced from Alaskan fishermen that use bottom trawl and bottom longline methods that don’t impact other species.
Time to Cook
But the main reason to eat cod is for the taste. Grilling it over the coals is my favorite way to showcase good cod, but if it’s getting too cold to fire up the barbie, broiling it in the oven works, too. Either method is fast and easy.
It’s so fast, in fact, that you’ll need to start the potatoes first, only instead of frying I suggest roasting them. Here’s how:
Roasted Potato ‘Chips’
Slice the potatoes in half, or quarters if they are large (quarters or smaller is nice for more of a traditional ‘chips’ feel) and place them in a big bowl. Add the olive oil and salt and pepper and stir. Spread them out cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast at 400 degrees until the golden brown, about 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure all sides are browned. This makes about 4 servings.
Meanwhile, on to the fish. You’re most likely to find cod fillets for sale as opposed to steaks or whole fish, and that’s perfect, since these are best for our broiled version of cod and chips.
Broiled or Grilled Cod
Broiled version: Brush the fillets with oil, salt and pepper them, and place them on a cooking sheet or pan lined with aluminum foil. Stick this in the oven just a few inches from the broiler. Unless the fillets are very thick, they shouldn’t take more than about 6-7 minutes. I like to let them cook a couple minutes, then brush with plenty of melted butter (we’ve already skipped the batter and deep frying, so I like to think adding a little melted butter isn’t such a bad thing, but feel free to use olive oil instead), and then continue to cook until they’re browned on the top and it’s easy to separate the flakes of the fish. This makes enough for four.
Grill version: Brush the fish with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place over a hot grill. Two minutes a side ought to do it. When doing this on the grill, I also like to baste the fillets with melted butter once I’ve flipped them over.
If you really love malt vinegar, go ahead and use it on your broiled fish, but if not, stick with tartar sauce, as that goes better with un-battered fish anyway. No need to buy tartar sauce, just add a little sweet pickle relish, finely minced onions, lemon juice, and salt to mayonnaise to taste.
I say order fish and chips (occasionally) when you’re out to eat, but grill your fish and chips at home anytime for a faster, less messy, and far healthier meal. See what you’ve been missing underneath all that batter and order incredibly fresh Pacific cod from Daily Fresh Fish that’s guaranteed fresh and has never sat in a grocery store case. Order before 2 pm and you’ll have grill or oven-ready cod at your door the next day.