Saturday, January 21, 2012

First Frying

My parents went out of town for the weekend. This is only the second time they've been gone since my mom's cat passed away, and it still feels odd to not go check on her when they're gone. I always used to stop by their house when they were on vacation to spend some time with Marble.

Now that I don't need to be the responsible daughter taking care of the cat, their empty house and their forays north of the Canadian border brought out my wild side. I snuck in using the secret key and foraged around in the depths of the kitchen cabinets to find... no, not dad's expensive, not mom's fancy Godiva chocolates that she tucks away where only she knows about, and leaves the Hershey's for the rest of us... no, not even a bottle of hootch... but the fry baby! Way in the very back, wrapped neatly and discreetly and scentlessly in two tidy layers of plastic bags just like a teenager would do with a contraband package of cigarettes or condoms. This is what Will and I get up to when mom and dad take a weekend out of the country.

I've never deep-fried anything. The closest I've come was 5 years ago for Will's birthday, my mom and I co-hosted a Cuban-themed dinner party and she made fried plantains. I was there while it was happening, but she was in charge. I'm pretty sure that's the most recent time Fry Baby was out of his plastic bag. It hard seems fair for him to go so long without fresh grease, no? Enter Will & Allie, friends to all those artery-clogging and blood-pressure raising fats and salts.

It was snowing out. It was Saturday evening of a 3-day weekend. We'd had a nice lunch with friends, but no plans for the rest of the weekened except to check in with grandma. What better way to snuggle-down in our snowy winter wonderland than to fry up a smorgesbord of starches and gnash in?

We started out with wedges of whole-wheat flour tortilla (above). Oh yum!! Next I tried fingers of russet potato, and sweet potato. Even with a twice-fried method, I couldn't really get them very crispy, even though they were cooked all the way through. I read a couple different articles and watched some online videos for French fries to no avail, but the best was yet to come, so I moved on. I even tried some cubes of rich sweet potato bread I'd made last week before the crowning glory.... tempura onion rings.

It was utterly beyond our comprehension how amazing these were. In fact, the tempura batter was so delicious that I started skipping onion and just drizzling a stream of batter straight into the oil to fry up into crispy little puffs of salty, peppery clouds that literally dissolve in the mouth. The batter was so easy, and coated the sliced onions evenly. It would be perfect for coating any number of ingredients.

Tempura Batterfrom Joy of Cooking
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1 egg
1 cup carbonated water

Mix together the dry ingredients. Mix together the egg and water. Blend the wet and dry ingredients together quickly and without overmixing. Use immediately.

Joy of Cooking also says to make onion rings, you soak the sliced onions in a 1:1 water/milk mixture for an hour before draining and coating. I'm not sure what this step does for the process, but mine were incredibly delicious without that extra hassle. I'm also not sure why you need to use the batter right away. I saved half over night in the fridge, and it separated, but I remixed it and fried the dough on its own (not as a coating) and it tasted just as good to me. Using carbonated water was my own idea - I'd heard it sometime ages ago, and it just seemed like a fun way to make the coating extra light and crispy. I didn't do a control recipe, so I'm not sure if it made any difference, but it couldn't have hurt, because it was amazing.

I'm not ashamed to say that we also dipped slices of smoked mozzarella in the tempura and were rewarded with the most exalted melty salty crispy pillow of heaven imaginable.

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