Oh, heaven help me.
Aside from the occasional pan frying, loading up a vat of hot oil and submerging food till it’s golden and crunchy is a feat better left for the professionals. In my experience it’s always been too messy, too greasy, and that smell of friedness always makes me queasy after about an hour.
That is, unless, you own a fryer.
This past Friday, that busiest day of the American shopping year, we braved the crowds and hostile consumers to take advantage of a local cookware store’s 10% off promotion. Get there early, shop like a madman, and you too can get a discount! So we did. Aside from a few small kitchen trinkets we were financially reserved, but Adam had his eye on something I tried to pretend I didn’t want.
And as luck would have it, I gave in. Twist my arm, will ya?
It’s not that I don’t go absolutely nuts over fried foods. I do, I really do. I can’t think of anything I’ve ever tasted that didn’t taste better fried–and that includes candy bars, pickles, quail, venison, gizzards, tempura veggies, Khai Luuk Kheuy, twinkies, foie gras, pie, I could go on. But if there’s ever a moment where I try to exercise any type of physical restraint (which isn’t very often, I assure you) it’s with those foods that are fried. I don’t need to explain why, we all know that frying isn’t the healthiest way to prepare food. But damnit if it’s not one of the most pleasurable ways!
Even though the researchers are out on the topic of exactly how bad it is for you, I still must limit the amount of fried foods I eat, opting for portion control and baking things that might otherwise be fried. And most of the time I’m happy, save for a few moments where I crave that crunch and grease.
And this past weekend it was definitely Fried Fest 2006.
Using the excuse that we were “testing” our new fryer, we armed ourselves with a few gallons of oil, a selection of assorted foods, panko and breadcrumbs and got busy. Although our new fryer is a smaller capacity than the big boys, it still heats and maintains the proper heat for frying. If you’ve tried to do this on a stovetop it can be a royal pain in the ass, but with the right gadget it made frying quick and easy (which depending on how you look at it can be a good thing or a very, very, very bad thing!) Things went into the oil and came out perfectly crunchy, and as I loaded up on chips I told myself that frying at home is better for me because:
1) I can use fresh, healthier oils and omit anything hydrogenated;
2) I can fry quickly based on the right temperature;
3) Rationalization suits me well, really really well.
After our weekend of experimenting with our new gadget it will go back into the box and be put away so that I’m not tempted to put everything in batter and fry it. Of course that will have to happen later than sooner – I still have panko left!
Smoked Spanish paprika, known as Pimenton, is the essence of Spanish cooking, and thanks to Spain’s current popularity it’s never been easier to find. This stuff, in both the hot and sweet versions, is always used in my kitchen – I’m absolutely crazy about it and will probably carry a few containers with me into my grave. How’s that for a morbid yet fanatical thought?
Adding a bit of salt and sugar to the Pimenton gives these potato chips another dimension, and the secret is frying the potatoes twice.
1 large russet potato, peeled and sliced thin
1 teaspoon Pimenton
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
oil, for frying
Using a mandoline or slicer, slice the potato thinly and dry on a towel. Excess water can cause the oil to splatter. Fry the potato for 3 minutes at 350° F then remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Heat the oil to 375° F and fry the potato slices again for 1 minute. Depending on the thickness you’ll need to keep an eye on them during this crucial step as this is where the crunch comes in. Once cooked, drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with the sugar, salt and Pimenton mixture. Grab a beer and enjoy.