I first heard of this astonishing beer batter making technique from the old Galloping Gourmet TV show, hosted by Graham Kerr way back in the 70s. This beer batter recipe has remained in my family, with only slight modifications, for many decades. It makes the absolute best, crunchiest and crispest beer battered fish Ive ever tasted anywhere, and when used with shrimp, chicken planks (cut from the breast of the bird) or onion rings, its a culinary masterpiece. I guarantee itll outshine Long John Silvers.
The recipe is from a distinguished sourceMadame Pruniers in London, founded by the French chef George Prunier. The restaurant enjoyed great popularity for many years in France and moved to London, where economic times forced it to close in 1976, but their one great recipe lives on in my kitchen. And hopefully now it will live on in yours.
The recipe starts with the warming oven, because sometimes thats your best friend in the kitchen. You need to use a glass mixing bowl if at all possible, and warm the mixing bowl first in the oven. When its just right temperature-wise, take it out and sift in a cup of plain flour (white bleached is fine, but wheat unbleached gives a nicer texture and a nuttier crunch to the final product). Sift the flour into the mixing bowl with a fourth-tablespoon of salt (or just a dash if you dont like measuring). With a wooden spoon, make a well in the center of the flour, so you have the bowl with a ring of flour on the inside.
Now you place a teaspoon of active dry ear in the well, and add five tablespoons or so of warmed (in that handy oven) fish stock. Do make the fish stock yourself, because water doesnt impart the same delicious flavor to the batter, although its a good enough substitute if youre in a hurry (which you should NOT be when youre making this gastronomic masterpiece). Some grocery chains sell cartons of fish stock next to the chicken stock, and that chicken stock is also a good substitute if using for battered chicken. Whatever liquid you use, make sure its warm, to get the right response from the yeast.
Dissolve the yeast in the warm stock and then mix in the flour. Now you add 5 tablespoons of flat beer (or just pour in half a can if you dont want to wait for it to go flat, and drink the restnot enough of a buzz to interfere with cooking, but it may mellow you out and get rid of all that impatience). Add in a tablespoon of olive oil, and mix it all thoroughly.
Now the warming oven really gets a chance to shine. Set your glass bowl in the warming oven, cover it with a clean cloth and let it rise for 2 hours, preferably 4. The smell will be intoxicating, by the way, if youve done it right up to now.
When you remove your beer batter from the oven, whip an egg white until it forms soft peaks, not quite to meringue state. Fold it into the batter, and youre ready to fry some fish! (and do use it immediately, so the egg white doesnt separate).
Now, heres how to fry the fish.
Make sure youve soaked your fish fillets in milk for an hour, to enhance flavor and whiten the flesh. Dry them on paper towels, dredge them through the batter with tongs and then fry them in hot oil. Cook them in the deep fryer at 370 degrees Fahrenheit for four minutes, turning them once after two minutes.
Absolute deep-fried heaven, with the best beer batter around! Next time, Ill tell you how to do fries.