Monday, May 7, 2007
I normally subsist mainly on lightly-cooked vegetables and esoteric grains supplemented with scavenged food from seminars. But once in a while, Patrick gets a craving for something deep-fried, and there are few pleasures quite like eating food straight out of the deep fryer. For those who champion the virtues of simple and natural flavors, few methods highlight the pure essense of ingredients like frying. The aesthetic joy alone makes my Delonghi deep fryer a worthy addition to my kitchen - serious frying can get very messy and time-consuming without one. A generously-sized fryer allows for temperature-controlled and splatter-guarded frying with minimal cleanup, and the oil can be reused many times. We love ours so much that we've given several away as gifts - I can't think of a better wedding present than a deep fryer and a few gallons of peanut oil.
Last weekend, I got some really nice broccoflower (green cauliflower with a little more flavor) at the haymarket for $.50 apiece, and today I made fried cauliflower for the first time. The results are amazing, with the mildness and creamy texture of the cauliflower creating a perfect foil for many different kinds of dips. They are especially good with Dragonfire ginger hot sauce, but I can imagine very tasty results with garlic and lemon juice, flavorful mustard, or horseradish.
I use one simple recipe and technique with basically everything I fry. It's really easy, relatively quick, and it has never failed me. The initial dusting of flour removes the time-consuming step of drying your ingredients thoroughly and primes them for the egg coating. An even layer of egg allows just the right amount of panko to stick to the batter, and the results are crispy, light, and delicious for vegetables, seafood, and almost anything else you can think of. The one thing I haven't tried yet is ice cream, but I'm sure I will eventually.
The only trick with this technique is to make sure you use one hand for tossing ingredients in the flour and eggs and one hand for coating them panko. You don't want to use the same hand for panko and eggs, or it could get messy. Also, it's important to fry the ingredients as soon as you've finished battering so they don't get soggy.
Eggs, beaten with a few teaspoons of water
Japanese bread crumbs (panko)
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the flour, eggs, and bread crumbs in three large bowls. Generously salt and pepper all three ingredients.
Wash your ingredients and chop to a desired size. Let air dry until no water is dripping off, but it is not necessary to dry completely.
Use one hand to place a few pieces at a time of your ingredients into the flour. With the same hand, gently toss the ingredients until coated with flour. Shake gently to remove the excess flour. Using the same hand, place the ingredients into the bowl of eggs. Gently rotate the pieces one at a time in the egg until evenly coated. Using the same hand, transfer the egg-coated pieces to the bowl of panko.
Using your other hand, toss panko onto the pieces and turn them gently until evenly coated.
Repeat the procedure until all of your ingredients have been battered. About 15 minutes before you finish battering, turn on the fryer to the desired temperature (350 works well for most things).
When you've finished battering and the deep fryer has reached the desired temperature, throw batches into the fryer basket, fry, and enjoy! Different ingredients of course take different amounts of time to cook, but the range is about 2-10 minutes for almost everything.
If desired, toss with some powdered spices such as curry or paprika while still hot from the fryer.