Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Fish and Chips are Not as British as You Think.

July 4, 1776, Independence Day, when the colonists of the New World (America) declared all ties cut from their mother country, Britain.  While the residents of this newly established country might have thought, “Well that’s all done with, time for tea and biscuits”, King George had a whole other thought.  Time for an American history refresher.

Tensions between America and Britain began on March 22, 1765, when British Parliament   passed the Stamp Act or Duties in American Colonies Act.  Colonists had to pay taxes on every page of printed paper they used which also included fees on playing cards, dice, and newspapers.  Britain continued to come up with other types of taxation, but the tax that put the colonists’ knickers in a tight twist was the one on tea.  Tea?  The all-day, every day beverage of every British citizen, young and old!  This tax was just another way to “help” Britain get out of some type of debt, and the colonists were seen as having more money than they needed.  This time, the tea tax was meant to be a bailout policy to get the British East India Company out of debt.  In retaliation, December 16, 1773, Boston Tea Party where 340 chests, of British East India Company Tea, weighing over 92,000 pounds, was dumped into the harbor.

Then Parliament tells the colonists, “Remember the French and Indian War in 1763, and how we defended and saved all your ass-ets?”, now we are upping taxes, so you can pay that off as well.

Tensions grew sky high until, finally, on April 19, 1775, local militiamen fought with British soldiers in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, in Massachusetts.  That famous line, “The shot heard round the world.” signified this engagement as the start of the Revolutionary War.

Ah, so remember when I wrote about Baked Beans (May 7, 2024 issue of the San Juan Record), and that the recipe did not come from Britain?  I am about to blow another recipe bubble up, and this time about a well-known traditional meal, Fish and Chips.  Whether you have been to the UK, watched any number of British based movies or television series, even read any novels, fish and chips is a staple of the British diet.  Cod and haddock have always been the main two species of fish to be used for this dish, but nowadays any firm white fish (cod, pollock, haddock, catfish, perch, or mahi-mahi) is acceptable. Main condiment used is malt vinegar, and an ample seasoning with salt.  The “chips” are not the crispy type that come in a bag for snacking.  No, they are potatoes that are cut either into round or short rectangular shapes, then deep fried to a golden crispness on the outside, but fluffy on the inside.  Oh, what do they call the snack bag type of potatoes?  Crisps…for an obvious reason.


Fish Used: Catfish, and Great for Making Fish Tacos As Well.

So, the true origin of fish and chips goes back, well, for England about the 15th century, but for Portugal, between the 8th and 12th centuries.  Basically, 20 percent of the population of Portugal, known then as Al-Andalus, was Jewish.  Since the Sabbath was on Saturday, and they were not allowed to cook, food was prepared on Friday afternoon that needed to last the next 24 hours. One very popular recipe consisted of white fish (cod or haddock) fried in a thin coating of flour or matzo meal. The batter preserved the fish so it could be eaten cold and still be quite flavorful.  Side note, with the recipe I will be giving, yes, the fish can be eaten cold, the batter is still crispy, not greasy, and the flavor is just as delicious as when it was served hot.

Jump to the 15th century, the Jewish population was driven out by the Spanish Inquisition

("Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" – Monty Python), driven into England and a cookbook from 1781 gives credit to “the Jews way of preserving and cooking fish”.  Fish and chips became such a popular dish in England, that it is even mentioned in Charles Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist, as “fried fish warehouses”.  Traditionally, the “serving container” was grease proof wax paper, then wrapped in newspaper as insulation.  Nowadays, wax paper plus unprinted paper is still used, but so are the typical “take-out”, or as they are called there, “take-away”, disposable containers of thick paper or styrofoam.

When I make the batter for the fish, I prefer to use ale; pale ale has a fruity flavor, offsets the use of malt vinegar and salt nicely, and combines with the white wine well.  Do not flinch at the use of alcohol, as it burns off during the frying process.  The whole idea is to go for flavor, not make your fish so drunk it is singing a naughty British pub tune.  However, what you do in the privacy of your own home is no one else’s business (“Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean, aye?” – Monty Python)





By the way, having left over batter, I cut up a couple of chicken breasts and did the same cooking process for them.  Oh my!  The most delicious fried chicken pieces we have ever had; going back to my old ways of doing it will be difficult indeed.  So, carry on, pip-pip and all that rot.




English Style Fish and Chips



2 cups flour, divided in half (1 cup for batter, 1 cup for dredging)

2 eggs

¾ cup beer or ale

¾ cup milk

¾ cup white wine

½ tsp. cream of tartar

½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. each salt and pepper

peanut oil

6 large potatoes (red skinned or golden yellow), cut roughly into 1” pieces

2 lbs. cod, or any other white meat fish (pollock, flounder), cut into 4” pieces


In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of flour, eggs, beer, milk, wine, cream of tartar, baking powder, salt and pepper. Mix well, cover and chill for 1 hour.





Fill deep fryer to maximum line, or large skillet ½ way up, with canola oil; heat to 375-400F. Cook potatoes until just lightly browned; drain on paper towels; season with salt; transfer to cookie sheet. When done frying, place potatoes in oven (set at 200F) to keep warm.





Remix batter; dredge fish pieces into remaining 1 cup of flour; dip into batter and place in hot oil (3-4 pieces at a time). When batter turns golden brown and begins to puff, drain on paper towels.

Cod Portions

Dredge in Flour


Dredged in Flour, Ready for Batter


Coat in Batter

Cod Coated in Batter


Sizzling in Oil
Flip Portions Over to Complete Frying








Serve fish and chips with tartar sauce, malt vinegar or any other desired condiment.

Makes 4 servings.

Mary Cokenour



Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Breakfast In and Around San Juan County, Utah.


Traveling around San Juan County, UT, is having adventures throughout a living museum.  Red rocks, arches, hoodoos, sand dunes, ancient carvings and paintings, mountains, forest, desert, wildlife, and sage brush as far as the eyes can see.  That is just the landscape, in general, then there are the small towns harboring museums, shops, welcome centers and restaurants.

Locals, whether born and raised, or moved from other states, have respect for this area blessed by nature; and learn its ins and outs like the backs of their own hands.  Tourists come here all year round, many well informed, many others winging it.  The welcome centers provide various documents of information, and the employees are looked upon as extensions of internet search engines.  I should know that well, as I was one of those workers for over six years.

So, an adventure is in the works, early morning rise, and where to and what to do.  Before starting any great adventure, a good, hearty breakfast is called for, and many restaurants in and around the county provide just that.  Imagine, you are seated, order placed, and the 2024 edition of the San Juan Record’s 101 Ways to Experience San Juan County is opened up.  The oohs and aahs, the “I want to see that!” and “I need to do that!” uttered repeatedly.  Then breakfast arrives…

You might now be asking, “Where are these breakfast places?”, and I am going to tell you of our own dining adventures.  Please note, if your personal favorite is not listed, sorry, but there was, more than likely, a very good reason why they were bypassed.

San Juan County, UT




High Desert Café

516 North Main St. (Hwy 191)

(435) 210-4441

Open Wed thru Mon, 8am to 2pm; Closed Tues.


Offerings are Bagel Sandwiches, Egg Platters and Sweets such as pancakes and French toast.  Smoothies are available, and freshly roasted coffee.


A big seller, and my personal favorite, is the Breakfast Panini consisting of 2 eggs, choice of meat (bacon is thick and crisp), cheddar cheese on grilled sourdough.







Ja-Roen Thai & Sushi

380 South Main St. (Hwy 191)

(435) 587-4000

Open Mon thru Sun, 7am to 10pm


Do not let the name fool you, even though they have excellent Thai and Japanese menus for lunch and dinner, this local restaurant offers American style breakfasts plus two Thai meals.  The chefs went through a lot of training to learn how to prepare all the dishes quickly and correctly.



Western Omelet


Personal favorite is the Eggs Benedict consisting of two poached eggs, grilled ham and luscious Hollandaise sauce.  The potato side is cut into fan-like shapes that are crisp on the outside, but fluffy inside.  The coffee is strong, so you will be very wide awake for adventuring.






The Over Bite

133 East Center St. (Hwy 491)

(435) 777-2749

Open Mon thru Sat, 7am to 8pm; Sun 9am to 8pm


Offerings are Breakfast Toasts, Bagel Sandwiches and Bagels and Spreads; there is a huge variety under each heading, so basically something for anyone’s tastes.


Personal favorite is the Bacon, Egg and Cheese on an everything bagel plus a Blended Coffee flavored with caramel syrup.  Just the correct amount of both to get the body moving, and aching for a good hike, climb, or both!









Cedar Shack Café

2625 US-191 (within the property of Bluff Dwellings Resort and Spa)

(435) 672-2319

Open Mon thru Sun, 7am to 9pm


Offerings are Omelets, Breakfast Burrito, Egg Platter, Avocado Toast, French Toast and Muffins.

As the name denotes, this is a simple building where ordering is done at the counter, and orders are picked up as they are ready.  This is the perfect place for either a sit-down breakfast, or a grab n’ go before heading out for a hike, climb, or boating down the San Juan River.


The Omelets come packed with meat (bacon is thick, crisp and plentiful) and cheese; the wheat toast has tiny seeds and chopped nuts for added texture and flavor.  Only issue we found was the hash browns were barely cooked, cold, liberally seasoned with black pepper and definitely not our style.  The omelets and wheat toast made up for that.  The coffee is delicious, so do not be surprised finding yourself purchasing another to-go.

Cow Canyon Coffee

163 Mission Rd. (Hwy 191 and 162, next to Cow Canyon Trading Post)

(435) 749-1036

Open Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri, 7am-1pm; Sat and Sun 8am-2pm. Closed Tues.


Besides a multitude of hot and iced coffees, hot teas, cocoa, cider, iced tea and lemonade are offered.  Baked goods of scones and muffins are baked up fresh, daily on premises. An egg dish and tofu scramble are also on the menu.  While this is a relatively new business in Bluff, owner Hannah is very happy, and appreciative, about the steady business given by local followers.


Personal favorite is the Strawberry Rhubarb Scone, crisp and sweet outside, fluffy inside packed with pieces of strawberry.  Yes, hubby and I did haggle over the crumbs.

Twin Rocks Café

913 East Navajo Twins Dr. (off Hwy 191)

(435) 672-2341

Open Fri to Tues, 8am to 3pm; Closed Wed and Thurs.


The breakfast menu here is extensive, with so many choices, it might take a few minutes to make a definite decision.  Omelets, burritos, sweet offerings of Peaches de Chelly or Navajo Blue Corn Pancakes, and a variety of egg platters.  Still cannot decide, then go for The Goat (eggs, meat, potatoes, frybread, butter and honey) or The Bluebird Special (eggs, meat, blue corn pancakes, butter and warm syrup).


No, we could not decide, so we ordered The Goat and The Bluebird Special.  While we each got the eggs cooked in the style we liked, and our favorite choice of meat, we shared samplings of the frybread, potatoes and blue corn pancakes together.  So good, so very good, and the coffee was fresh, hot and kept on coming!   Chef Frances does an excellent job, teaches her staff well, and is appreciated by both diners and staff.

The Bluebird Special


The Goat

Outside San Juan County, but Close Enough


Dove Creek, Colorado (only 20 minutes, along Hwy. 491 East, from Monticello)


Dove Creek Dinner Bell

546 US-491

(970) 677-2211

Open Tues to Fri, 7am to 7pm, Sat and Sun, 7am to 2pm, Closed Mon.


Dining at the Dinner Bell is similar to dining with family, even though not related, and basically strangers.  Everyone there greets everyone coming in, whether they know you or not.  It is not simply a place frequented by town locals, but by ranchers, farmers, truckers and folks from all walks of life.  It is definitely not fancy, but it is homey and welcoming, and that matters the most. 


Stick to the ribs breakfast platters are offered: Biscuits and Gravy, Country Fried Steak, Omelets, Egg Platters, Pancake Stacks, French Toast and a Smothered Burrito with, what else, a choice of red or green chili.


Hubby’s favorite is a Full Plate of Crap, yes, I said Crap.  You name the breakfast item and it is probably in the pile.  If you really need to know, just ask, and owner Charlotte will happily tell you. 






There you have it, our personal breakfast adventures.  Whether you reside in the area, just outside of it, or traveling a distance, definitely make the effort to have a breakfast experience in and around San Juan County, UT.

Mary Cokenour