Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Visiting Victoria...and Grandpa Stan's Best Ever Battered Fish and Chips


I wrote the post that follows while visiting my family in Victoria, but somehow it just didn't feel right to share it then. We were caught in a whirlwind of emotions and it felt like we were losing our beloved Jim so much faster than any of us had been prepared for...

So I share this with you now, as I remember my treasured uncle, who has joined my Matriarchs in the world to come, and is now pain-free and at peace.


Grandpa Stan's Crispy Battered Fish and Chips 

I haven't been blogging or trying new recipes over the last few months...a lot has been happening in my world...we moved into a new home, we experienced the Great Ice Storm of 2013, and our family have been circling their wagons a little closer as one of our own has been battling cancer.

You know how you remember exactly what you were doing when Kennedy was shot, or when 9-11 happened, etc.?  I have a few more of those moments ingrained in my mind's eye, and finding out that Jimmy has cancer is one of them.

I've already told you about my beloved Uncle Jim in an earlier post about mun bagel.  It does not matter who you ask: Dad, Carlo, Davie, Sara, Becca, Lena, Abby, and of course - me, we will all tell you that Jim is one one of the kindest, purest souls we've ever known in our lifetimes.  He is a generous spirit and always puts others ahead of of himself.   I am so blessed to have him, and I know my life is so much better for it.

And so, we - Carol Joy's family - went to Victoria to spend a week with Jimmy and Barb (my aunt, and Jim's rock), their kids and Barb's parents, Stan and Rose.  And what a week it's been.  Lots of reminiscing and laughter interspersed with the occasional teardrop, and so many wonderful talks.

The view of the BC Parliament Building
 from just outside our hotel
Essentially it's just been about family...and for me this trip proved very spiritual and healing.  I feel so fortunate to have been given such a gift - to have spent my days with the people I love, cocooned and buoyed by the powerful bond we share.

When we first got the news that Jimmy wasn't well I told Carlo that I felt so helpless and lamented on the distance between us - if only we lived closer I would run right over with some chicken soup, etc.  Carlo stopped painting Becca's room, looked right at me and asked what was stopping me?  He said to "bake and ship".  Well, at that point we had no kitchen and were right in the middle of our move.  But I knew he was right.

When this trip came to fruition, out came Bubbie Lou and Mom's cookbooks.  My aunt Barb generously handed over her kitchen, even though she kept trying to make me relax instead of cook - although eventually she realized that cooking relaxes me .

And then the nicest thing happened...I discovered that Stan and Rose are foodies!  My cousin Jessica (aka Jessie) had been texting me about the delectable fish and chips that Grandpa Stan makes and promised that when I came to Victoria he would make them for me.  Well...he did one better...he let me be his sous chef, shared his recipe and gave me permission to blog about it!

I love fish and chips...it is the most delicious dish ever...but Sara is allergic so we do not eat it often - usually waiting until she is out for the evening.  This recipe for fish and chips is so easy, and so delicious.  You can use any fish - we ate cod, but you can use halibut, sole or salmon (apparently salmon fish and chips is all the rage), and this batter will also work well on seafood, chicken, or even onions to make onion rings! Whatever you like to batter and fry...go for it!

The Master directing his protegee
We spent a good hour and a half making homemade fries, fresh pacific halibut, homemade tartar and cocktail sauces.  What a wonderful time we had.  Stan was a patient and fun teacher.  I learned the secrets of deep frying - how to make sure the fish is pat dry before priming it with seasoned flour, then battering it and gently ease the fish into the hot oil so it doesn't stick to the bottom, how to touch the very tip of the fish when placing it in the oil so you don't end up with a batterless patch of fish...

I found my heavy heart lifting and remembered what Carlo said to me as he was driving me to the airport..."just cook and bake (for Jimmy) a lot Nomi - you'll feel better"...he knows me so well.

We all sat down to dinner together, our family of 9, and our table was filled with laughter, love and some pretty delicious food (if I say so myself!).  It was a night to remember - and I will...all my days.

I want to extend a special thanks to Grandpa Stan for graciously allowing me to share his recipe, and our cooking experience with you.

Stan and Rose's original
recipe card for Crispy Batter
From my treasured family to yours, I hope you will enjoy this fabulous fish and chips recipe as much as we did.  Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito.


Grandpa Stan's Best Ever Battered Fish 

Ingredients:

  • 1 package fish (cod, halibut, or any fish, chicken of your choosing) 
"Primer" Ingredients (Seasoned Flour Base):
  • 1C flour (all purpose is fine)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
Crispy Batter Ingredients:
  • 1C flour 
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt 
  • 1 tbsp canola oil 
  • 1C water

Method:
  1. If you are using frozen fish, let it thaw completely.  Remove fish from packaging, drain excess liquid, cut into individual portions (approximately the size of your hand) and pat dry.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients that make up the "primer" coating in a large Ziploc bag.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients for the crispy batter, blending well, forming a well in the middle.  In a measuring cup combine the water and oil, then slowly add the liquid to dry ingredients, blending well with a whisk.    
  4. Fill large stock pot to the ½-way mark with oil and heat until the occasional bubble rises to the surface - do not allow the oil to reach a gentle boil.    
  5. Preheat oven to 175°.  Line a baking dish (or Pyrex) with paper towel for blotting
  6. While oil is heating coat the individual pieces of fish.  Dredge the primed fish through the batter, holding the fish by the tip.  Don't be afraid to get your fingers battered!
  7. Before the oil has reached a gentle rolling boil, gently ease the fish into the oil.  It should pop up to the surface within 10 seconds.  Do not place too many pieces of fish in the pot at one time, it reduces the temperature of the oil (5 or 6 pieces at most).  Watch the pot, and turn when the batter appears a golden brown.  
  8. Remove each piece as it reaches a golden brown colour, and place on paper towel-lined baking dish, then put in oven.  The paper towel will not burn provided your oven is set to 175°. Once all the fish is removed, allow the oil to warm up before adding the next batch of fish.  Repeat until all fish is prepared.