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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fry Me To The Moon

I'll deep fry just about anything.

Confession: I used to have a mack daddy deep fryer. It was a beauty, complete with a programable thermostat and the ability to auomatically drain cooled cooking oil through a fine meshed filter into a well, assuring me of clean oil for each use. Spiffy. What it took up in counter space, it made up for with outstanding  productivity and usefullness.   I loved it. I adored it.

CUI (cooking under the influence..of wine) can have its drawbacks and pitfalls in the home kitchen.  Given enough time, the odds of things going wrong are pretty strong. Trust me.  Stuff happens. Several months ago, during a slap-happy CUI evening, I cranked the deepr fryer to a ridiculous high temperature without refilling the cooking well with oil, causing the heating element to burn out. Bad move.  The fryer was dead.  Kaput.  Cooked.  I killed Kenny.

I've been stove-top deep frying since that night. Although I've gotten used to it, watching the mercury rise and fall through the looking glass of a thick teetering candy thermometer (while trying to retain a constant temperature)  hasn't been as fun as setting the temperature gauge and waiting for the green light to pop on.

It was a happy day when Michael surprised me with a smaller more compact  version of our old mack daddy deep fryer. Back in business. A few nights ago,  I decided to christen our new kitchen countertop toy with an all out  fry fest. I fried everything we had on hand. Literally.

There's nothing genius about frying food.  Culinary clouds don't part with thunder claps.  It's simply fun. A lot of fun. Period.

Using Weisenberger Mill seasoned flour, I double battered chicken wings by dredging them in the seasoned flour, egg wash, and additional flour before carefully lowering them into the smoking hot fryer oil. I covered the basket with a filtered lid to calm the usual messy spattering and let the chicken rip until it was crackingly crisp. After pulling the chicken to drain, I slid the pieces into the oven to keep warm while I fried everything else.

I sliced a huge onion into thick rings,  leafy celery into 4 inch batons, and market peppers into thick strips, and lemons into wheels.  While the chicken warmed in the oven, I brought the oil back to temperature and whipped together a very loose tempura-like beer batter with the seasoned flour, fresh herbs, and light beer.

After blanching the celery to soften it, I battered the batons, dropped them into the hot oil  to fry until golden brown, pulled them drain, and repeated the process with lightly battered  onions rings, pepper strips, and lemon wheels.

When the last lemon caramelized from the heat of the oil, I pulled the chicken from the oven and tossed it in a combination of floral wild flower honey, salty dark soy sauce, and fiery Sriracha sauce.

I finished the sticky chicken wings with a sprinkling of white sesame seeds and chives,  tumbling them onto our plates alongside the batter-fried vegetables. After filling small individual ramekins with stilten dressing and citrus-based ponzu sauce for dipping, I nestled little stacks of sliced fresh jicama sticks on the far edges of our plates for the slightest nod to freshness.

Happy dance. 

Although crisp and light, the batter-fried peppers and onions were fairly predictable. The fried celery, on the other hand, was a revelation with tiny bursts  of sweetness squirting through the crunchy coating. I mistakingly relegated the batter-fried lemon wheels to garnish status. They were bittersweet with soft tart undertones. Crazy good with the ponzu sauce. 

 The fried chicken was insane with juicy moist meat oozing through the crispy skin dripping in honey, soy sauce, and Sriracha? Are you kidding me? Crunchy sweet salty fire. Oh, my.  Heaven.  

 Fry me to the moon.

And back...for more.

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