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By the Book: Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton’s Fried Fish and Tarter Sauce

June 18th 03:06pm, 2013


Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, authors of Canal House Cooks Every Day, met while working at Saveur. Hirsheimer is the magazine’s founding editor; Hamilton was the director of the Saveur test kitchen. They left magazine life to open The Canal House, a place where they develop recipes and photograph food. As the title of the book implies, Canal House Cooks Every Day is a log of all the things they cooked every day over the course of one year. Their motivation was to figure out great recipes that are seasonal and that can be pulled together quickly.

The chapters of the cookbook are organized by month. Each recipe has notations – including the day that the recipe was created, what the weather was like that day and what inspired the dish – just like a diary. And the photography: it’s beautiful, it’s delicious, it’s real. Canal House Cooks Every Day makes you want to get in the kitchen and make something, although it’s so beautiful that it is as fit for a coffee table as it is for a kitchen counter.



I decided to make Hirsheimer and Hamilton’s version of fish and chips with tartar sauce. The recipe, like most in the book, is pretty straightforward, devoid of many steps and complicated sides. (I did not prepare the chips since the authors just tell you to fry up your favorite frozen french fries.) The fish fried up with a light and flaky crust, and the tartar sauce was nice too. Once everything got a fresh hit of lemon juice it was an effortless summer meal.



Fried Fish & French-Fried Potatoes
4 to 6 servings

Canola oil
One 2-pound bag frozen french fries
1 ½ cups milk
2 pounds cod filet, cut into 8 equal pieces
1 ½ cups all-purpose flower
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Tartar sauce (Recipe follows)
1 lemon cut into wedges

•Add enough oil to a heavy-medium pot to reach a depth of 3 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat until it is hot but not smoking (350 degrees on a candy thermometer). As you fry, adjust the heat to maintain the temperature.
• Working in batches, carefully slip the frozen French fries into the hot oil. Fry until pale golden but still limp, about 2 minutes. Transfer the fries with a slotted spatula to a wire rack set over paper towels to drain. When they all have been fried, fry them for a second time in batches, starting with the first batch fried, until deep golden and crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the fries to the rack to the drain. Season with salt.
• Pour the milk into a shallow pan. Add the fish to the milk, turning the pieces until they are drenched. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together onto a platter, then dredge the pieces of fish in the flour, making sure to coat all sides.
• Increase the heat slightly so the oil temperature reaches 360 degrees. Working in batches, carefully slip the fish into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning the fish over halfway through. Transfer fish with a slotted spatula to the rack. Season with salt. Serve hot with tartar sauce, the wedges of lemon and the french fries.



Tartar sauce
Makes 1 ½ cups

1 ¼ cups mayonnaise
5 chopped cornichons
1 Tbsp. chopped capers, with a splash of their pickling brine
4 sprigs fresh parsley, finely chopped
4 sprigs fresh dill, finely chopped
4 springs fresh tarragon, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

• In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, cornichons, chopped capers with prickling brine and fresh herbs. Stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator up to 1 week.


Which restaurant makes your favorite fish and chips? Tell us in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of  Canal House Cooks Every Day. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Erin, whose Facebook comment on last week’s  By the Book has won her a copy of True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simply, Pure. Erin, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.



By Meera Nagarajan

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7 Responses to “By the Book: Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton’s Fried Fish and Tarter Sauce”

  1. Luke Says:
    June 18th, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    The Scottish Arms has awesome fish and chips.

  2. Meara Says:
    June 18th, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    I love the fish and child at the Boathouse.

  3. Meara Says:
    June 18th, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    *chips. I don’t think children are on the menu at the Boathouse!

  4. Terry Says:
    June 19th, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    Like Luke said, the Scottish Arms has great fish & chips. Barristers’ can be good, too.

  5. frances Says:
    June 20th, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    My friends from Europe love the fish & chips at Square One – every time they visit me we have to go to Square One for their fish and chips! Most of them have lived in the UK at some time in their lives so I like to think they have a lot of “experience” eating fish&chips…!

  6. Joe Says:
    June 23rd, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    I am partial to O’Connell’s fish and chips

  7. Ian Says:
    June 24th, 2013 at 12:05 am

    I really like the fish and chips @ Schlafly’s tap room – they are deliciously crispy! And they have an annual cod& cask festival you can’t miss – fried fish and delicious beer- a win-win in my book!

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