I swear we really don’t eat fried foods that often but I’ve been having a craving for fish and chips and when I found fresh, never frozen halibut cheeks at the fishmonger’s I took it as a sign. If you’ve never had fish cheeks, they’re considered a prized delicacy cuz they contain a lot of flavor and some would even call them sweet. In sushi circles, the kama or collar cut, which wraps around the neck and includes some of the cheek, is a buttery delicacy that used to be offered to the lucky few snuggled up to the counter partaking of お任せ omakase (literally to entrust a decision or action to someone, like your favorite sushi chef) but the word has gotten out and many restaurants now offer it as part of the menu. Even if you don’t have access to halibut cheeks any firm-fleshed fish will do like cod, tilapia, or even salmon will taste great cuz frying gives you a crispy outside with a moist inside. This batter is more of a light tempura batter than a heavier, traditional batter. Using rice flour creates a light, crispy shell but the carbonation from the beer also really helps. How? Those little bubbles create little air pockets in your batter leaving it airy (hehe) and crispety. Crispety gluten-free batter 🙂 As always, minimizing your oil absorption by not crowding the skillet so the oil temperature doesn’t drop (lower temp, longer time to cook, more oil soaked into your food 😦 ) will also give you that crunchy shell we all love. Adding spices to the batter gives it a savory kick that the hubby liked so much he even forwent his usual malt vinegar although he couldn’t resist a little dip in sauce américaine also known as (French) fry sauce in the US and was meant to be used for the sweet potato fries but … c’est la vie, n’est-ce pas?
Today’s tips were brought to you by the number zero 😉
Okay, just one to appease the hubster. If you want some tangy creamy spicy sauce américaine to accompany whatever’s on your plate (I’m not judging you 😉 ), mix together 1/4 c ketchup, 1 tbsp aïoli (I used Lemonaise), and 1-2 tsp Harissa chili paste (or you favorite non-vinegared hot sauce like sambal oelek, Crystal, or sriracha) depending on how spicy you like it.
1 c rice flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt
2/3 c cold beer (I used an amber ale)
8 oz halibut cheeks or 2 4-oz fillets, skin and pin bones removed
Canola oil for frying
In a large mixing bowl whisk together rice flour, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt. Stir in beer till just combined (you don’t want to break up all those lovely crunch-making bubbles). Add halibut to batter and refrigerate till oil is ready for frying.
In a large, deep skillet (I used my cast iron skillet) pour enough oil to cover the bottom by ~1/2-3/4 inches. Heat over med-hi heat. When a drop of batter immediately floats to the surface the oil is ~340-360F, the perfect temperature for frying battered fish 🙂 Fry fish making sure not to crowd the skillet.
When the part of the batter that’s submerged in the oil is golden brown, flip and fry the other side till golden brown. Place fish on a cooling rack covered with paper towels to drain or a paper towel covered plate in a warming drawer or warm oven to keep them from steaming and turning your crispy batter soggy 😦 Makes 2 servings. Vive la joue!