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Tempura Halibut with Garlic Aioli

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Tempura Halibut with Garlic Aioli

Tempura Halibut with Garlic Aioli

Hank Shaw
Fried fish can either be heavy or light -- it's all in the batter, And no batter is lighter than a Japanese tempura, which coats the fish in a gossamer layer of crunchy goodness. Done right, it is even low fat, because the tempura blocks fat from getting into the fish, which then steams within the crust. Tempura recipes cry out for a sauce, and in this case I use a garlic aioli, which is like a homemade mayonnaise. This recipe uses California halibut, but you can use any firm fish: cod, striped bass, tilefish, sturgeon, walleye, eels, grouper, snapper, rock cod -- I could go on and on. Firm flesh is the key here.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb firm white fish, such as halibut or cod or walleye, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Salt
  • --------------
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup ice cold sparkling water
  • 1/8 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 cup rice flour (you can use all-purpose wheat flour, too)
  • --------------
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 t. mustard
  • 1 t. salt
  • Olive oil
  • ---------------
  • Canola or other oil for frying

Preparation:

Make the aioli. Chop the garlic roughly and put into a mortar and pestle. Add the salt and the mustard and pound it into a paste. This will take a few minutes.

Slowly add the olive oil a little at time, stirring and pounding constantly. You are making an emulsion, so take your time and add oil slowly or it will break.

Keep adding oil until you have the consistency you want. I ususally use about 1/2 cup of oil.

Heat enough oil to cover the fish pieces in either a Dutch oven or a deep fryer. You will need about a half gallon. Don't worry, after you are finished, let the oil cool, strain it to get the bits out, then reuse it. You can reuse oil several times. Heat this oil until it is very hot -- about 370 degrees.

Salt the pieces of fish well on both sides.

Make the batter. While the oil is heating, make the batter. Tempura batter needs to be made and used quickly. This is very important.

Mix together the flour, corn starch, salt and baking soda in one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the ice cold water -- it must be ice cold or this will not work -- and the egg yolk.

When the oil is hot -- and not before -- add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk them together until just combined. Do not over mix.

Dip the fish pieces in the batter and into the oil. Shake off a little before you put them into the oil, but remember this batter is thin and runny. Do not overcrowd the pot.

Fry in batches, at about 2-3 minutes per batch. Drain on a rack set over a paper towel to catch the oil that drips off.

Serve at once with a dollop of the aioli alongside the fish. What to drink? A cold beer, of course. Not into beer? Then may I suggest that this is the time to bring out the champagne or the prosecco -- sparkling wine goes fabulously well with fried foods.

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