I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to jump into the frying pan (so to speak). Growing up, a family barbeque was never complete without my dad’s deep fried roast potatoes, cooked in a wok of oil on a burner next to the hotplate (soooo good). Maybe it was that very effective ad from my childhood about Don’t Leave Fat Unattended (“oh my god! The Chips!!” **); or the yearly fire training I had to do through work which always talked about house fires in such vivid detail (which is why I bought a fire blanket for my kitchen). Plus, deep frying food is very bad for your health isn’t it?? The only person that I knew who had a deep fryer in their house (and used it to fry up chips as a snack) was not someone whose dietary advice I would generally take. And there are always horror stories about children being burned after pulling down saucepans from cooktops; didn’t they used to pour boiling oil from the ramparts of castles in the Middle Ages?? And what do you do with the oil afterwards?? Seems like such a waste to throw it out, and do you put it in the bin or down the sink or buried in the backyard – eeeek!!!
You can kind of see what type of knot I was tying myself into.But it was beginning to restrict my culinary experimentation. It just started as the odd recipe here and there for, say salt and pepper calamari that I passed on. Then Delicious had a cover recipe for deep-fried ravioli that Hubby expressed a desire for me to cook (it did look amazing). And of course Jamie’s America had a whole heap of Southern Fried food – chicken of course, but also hush puppies (little savoury donuts) and churros. Then this was compounded with the Lonely Planet Street Food cookbook which also has loads of fried Asian found as well as every culture's take on The Doughnut.
So what was a scared little cook to do?Luckily, salvation was close at hand, even closer than I had realised. Having dinner with Brother 1 and Sister-in-Law, he cooked Turkish delight doughnuts for dessert – and did it all while I was watching.
The kitchen didn’t catch on fire.
He wasn’t hideously scarred.
He was able to talk and chat while it was going on.
And they tasted delicious. Nay, amazing.So this got me thinking that, really, how hard could it be??. Brother 1 used to work on the fryer during his days as a chef/cook type-person, so he did have a bit of experience when it came to the Oil and the Cooking. We chatted about the How To’s and such, before he dropped this pearl of wisdom: “…. and you’ve got an electric cooktop, so there’s no chance of the vapour catching on fire”.
Suddenly this was becoming something that was easily achievable, as well as a bit exciting. New foods to cook and experiment with – huzzar!!!
First stop was the purchase of a liquid thermometer to check the oil temperature; I always found the “drop in a piece of bread/potato and if it browns in 30 seconds it’s the right temperature” a bit faffy to my scientific brain. Then a litre of (heart tick approved) canola oil. I already had a wok skimmer from my pretzel making, so I was set
But what to cook? The First of anything should be memorable (if possible, and for good reasons not bad). As there was already the request for deep friend ravioli, I thought we would start with that. And then the main course came about through another story.
During Hubby’s recent time-off-work, he took himself on an Adventure into the Queen Victoria Market. He had become a connoisseur of our local Farmer’s Markets, trying cheeses and other yummy bits and pieces. So the deli hall was a bit of a Mecca for him. Apart from some amazing French soft cheeses, and an ultra-grainy multigrain bread, he also spent some time at one of the game meat sellers, who could have given him rabbit, goat and venison if he chose. He chose crocodile, which he has tried before, but not on the BBQ. He was only able to get some tail, which is apparently not the best part of the croc, but luckily it was exactly the cut suggested in Jamie Oliver’s Popcorn Gator (Jamie’s America). Double prizes!
So at the weekend, I barred the kitchen door (to stop little children running through the kitchen) and put my oil onto heat up. The deep friend ravioli was very simple; cheese ravioli dipped in buttermilk, dipped in panko breadcrumbs. I think I had the oil up a bit hot as they cooked fairly quickly, but I had it right for the last batch, where the ravioli puffed up just like if would in boiling water. (I learnt that if you have your electric cooktop up flat chat to heat up a pot of oil, it does take a while to stabilise at the right temperature once you drop the heat back).
And then onto the popcorn croc/gator. Again, ridiculously easy to prepare – drop chunks of croc in some seasoned flour, into buttermilk, then back into the flour. I heated the oil up more slowly this time and they took the required 2-3 minutes to cook through. Then drained them on some paper towel, sprinkled with some Murray river salt and served with a quinoa salad! (I thought we should balance out all the frying with a good helping of healthy greens).
And the result? Delicious. Crocodile tastes like chicken (doesn’t everything) but a little bit tougher. But the covering was light and reminded me of mini chicken bites. (in fact, it reminded me of Popplers for any of you Futurama fans out there. Perhaps that’s not such a good thing…)
So yum and so quick! No burnt cook, no burnt kitchens and one very happy Hubby. Bit if a mess to clean up where the oil had spattered, but nothing worse than a usual fry up with sausages or bacon. And I strained the oil through a tea strainer to use, maybe once or twice more before throwing out and buying more! Tick, tick, tick!
So two big thumbs up for my first Fry Off. I got over my fear as well as creating a great new summer dish with the Wow factor for barbecues.
The only problem now is which churro recipe to try next?? (I decided not to follow our meal with churros for dessert; too much fry can not always be a good thing). As I only tried churros and hot chocolate for the first time a few months back, I was enthused about creating them at home. I have a Lonely Planet and a Jamie’s America recipe to choose from. Hmmm – maybe I’ll decide which hot chocolate will taste nicer and go from there (and then go forma big run around the block) Fabuloso!
** In my quest for Blog Integrity, I had a look for the ad, and it was actually for an insurance company! For those who didn’t grow up in the 1980’s, this is probably a good reason and to why I was so hesitant to fry! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mduR6SOcdY
In other culinary adventures, I made bagels at the weekend.
At one of my previous addresses, we lived near Glicks’ bakery, home of about 10 different types of bagels. I used to drop in there every few weeks and stock up on a bagful of sesame seed or poppy seed bagels for lunches, as well as the odd blueberry or cinnamon and raisin for breakfast. They were always super fresh and super yummy. But since moving away, the bagels have been few and far between. We found a baker at one of our Farmer’s Market who sold lovely small ones which were perfect for Son 1’s school lunch, but otherwise, we were lumped with the expensive intermittent supply from a deli at Chadstone.
Until I popped into Thomas Dux the other week to get some spice supplies (to make Chai tea from scratch, but more about that when I’ve sourced all of the spices!). Sitting in a tub at the front were bags of Glick’s bagels, just waiting to take home and slather with cream cheese. O Joy! O Rapture! They were happily devoured by the Family, which got me thinking – I have made pretzels successfully, surely bagels can’t be that more difficult? In fact they are possibly easier due to their no-twist shape. So after a quick Google search I found a recipe (http://www.sophisticatedgourmet.com/2009/10/new-york-style-bagel-recipe) and with a quiet Saturday in my hands, I gave them a go.
And I was right – just as easy as making pretzels, but without the rolling-twisting. And she was right, they tasted Ah-mazing out of the oven. So I very much look forward to putting together some of my own cinnamon and raisin bagels for those I Don’t Want Cereal But Can’t Be Bothered Cooking Something breakfasts. Exxxxcellent
Straight out of the oven and ready to eat - yum!