“Fish and Chips”
Ale-Battered Blowfish with Malt Vinegar Jam
Makes 6 servings
Malt Vinegar Jam
7 grams caraway seeds
225 grams malt vinegar, preferably Sarson’s
225 grams water
50 grams light brown sugar
1 gram fleur de sel
7 grams agar-agar
Split Pea and Ale Batter
30 grams dried split peas
250 grams Cup4Cup gluten-free flour
8 grams kosher salt
300 grams dark ale, plus more if needed
Canola oil, for deep-frying
6 cleaned blowfish tails, 2 to 3 ounces (55 to 85 grams) each
All-purpose flour, for dusting the fish
Freeze-dried peas, crushed between your fingers
Blanched fresh peas, warmed, for garnish
Mint leaves, preferably nepitella
Chamber vacuum sealer (optional)
Cast-iron deep-fry pan (optional)
Infrared thermometer gun (optional)
We have fun serving common dishes, such as this British middle-class staple—fish and chips with mushy peas—in unusual ways. This one is very straightforward: ale-battered fish, deep-fried, with a sweet-sour malt vinegar jam and a garnish of peas and fresh herbs. We get blowfish, caught off Georges Bank, from Wulf’s Fish, but you can use any firm white fish—cod, of course, is traditional and excellent. The tempura batter uses freeze-dried peas and gluten-free Cup4Cup flour, which creates a very crisp crust and holds that crispness longer. It’s a great flour for all such crispy batters. The vinegar jam is gelled with agar, and we like to finish the dish with nepitella, an Italian mint with a flavor that’s almost a cross between oregano and mint.
For the Malt Vinegar Jam
Lightly toast the caraway seeds in a small sauté pan over medium-low heat, continuously swirling the pan to ensure that the seeds are toasting evenly without burning, until fragrant. Let cool, then grind the toasted caraway seeds in a spice grinder until they are cracked but not ground to dust.
In a 1-quart (1-liter) saucepot, bring the vinegar, water, brown sugar, and fleur de sel to a boil over medium heat. Whisk in the agar-agar and boil gently, whisking continuously, for 1 minute to activate the agar-agar. Transfer to a bowl and nestle the bowl in an ice-water bath. Chill, undisturbed, until the jam base is completely firm and set.
Coarsely chop the jam base and transfer it to a blender. Beginning on low speed and gradually increasing to high, blend the jam until it is completely smooth, using the tamper to keep the jam moving. Pass the jam through a chinois into a container and season with the ground caraway.
If you have a chamber vacuum sealer, place the container, uncovered, in the sealer chamber. Run a complete cycle on full pressure to remove any air bubbles incorporated during blending. This will give the jam clarity and shine.
The jam can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
For the Split Pea and Ale Batter
Grind the split peas to a fine powder in a spice grinder. Transfer the pea powder to a bowl, add the flour and salt, and mix thoroughly. Whisk the ale into the dry mixture. If the batter is too thick, thin it with a bit more ale. The batter can be held at room temperature for up to 1 hour before frying the fish.
Fill a cast-iron deep-fry pot with about 4 inches (10 centimeters) of canola oil. (If you do not have a cast-iron deep-fry pot, use another heavy pot with sides at least 8 inches/20 centimeters high.) Heat the oil to 350°F (180°C).
Season the blowfish with salt and lightly coat with the flour. Holding the blowfish by the tail, dip it in the batter to fully coat the flesh, leaving the tail exposed. Carefully lower the blowfish into the hot oil and fry for 3 to 5 minutes, turning the fish once or twice, until the batter is evenly colored and crisp and the fish is just cooked through. Transfer the fish to a paper towel to drain.
Fill a disposable piping bag with the malt vinegar jam and pipe the jam into a small squeeze bottle.
Arrange the fried blowfish on serving plates and sprinkle with the crushed freeze-dried peas. Garnish the plate with beads of the malt vinegar jam, blanched fresh peas, and mint.
Excerpted from The French Laundry, Per Se by Thomas Keller (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2020. Photography by Deborah Jones.
Read the review
Buy this book
French Laundry, Per Se, The (Thomas Keller Library)