WILL IT FRY: An investigation (with recipes!)
If the increasingly anxious press releases from the American Heart Association can be believed, there is nothing people enjoy more than dipping foods in hot oil. Fried chicken? You know it. Potatoes: crinkled, curly, wedged and waffled. Fish, shrimp, oysters, beignets—it seems our best foods are awash in a vast sea of Wesson and Mazola. Elsewhere in this issue, I sneaked the recipe for fried Snickers into a story, but I hate half measures. You want to fry, reader? Grab the Crisco and buckle up. That atherosclerosis isn’t going to build itself.
Fried chicken is perhaps the cornerstone of le panthéon de la friture. Hungry for a bird’s leg and chest, but don’t feel like getting in the car? I’m here to help. My two-sentence fried chicken recipe is as follows: Season raw chicken with salt, pepper and spices, dunk it in a bowl of beaten eggs, and coat the seasoned, eggy mess with flour. Drop it gently into oil that’s been heated to 350 F and fry for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on the size of the poor bird’s parts).
If beasts of the land aren’t your thing, but you still long for crispy, breaded animal protein, consider the catfish. Though they are horrible to look at and worse to touch, just about any of God’s fin-bearing creatures is improved with a coating of carbs and spices and a bath in hot canola. This recipe is a little different from chicken, because the secret to fried catfish is to make it taste like anything but catfish. (Incidentally, you can make any other fish this way and it, too, will achieve its peak deliciousness.) For the wet part, beat some buttermilk in with the eggs. For the dry part, use three parts cornmeal to one part flour, and add your seasonings to the mix (salt, pepper, Old Bay, Tony’s—whatever makes you happy). Let your fish soak for a few minutes in the egg and buttermilk, and then drag it through the cornmeal mix. Some people like to let it rest afterward in the fridge for 15 minutes, which is fine. But who’s got time for that? Fry it at 350 F for 7 to 10 minutes, and then let it cool and drain on a rack.
If you want a side with that, why not French fries? Peel, rinse, and cut your potatoes into the shape of French fries. Let them soak overnight in water. The next day, pat dry your fry-shaped potatoes, and fry them at 300 F for 5 minutes. YOU ARE NOT FINISHED YET. While your post-hot-oil-bathed potato sticks are resting on a paper towel, crank up the oil to 400 F. It’s about to get real. Once the oil is hot, surprise the potatoes by frying them yet again for 5 more minutes. They will never see it coming. Sprinkle with salt and eat your newly made French fries. (If you want to do this the right way, don’t ever let your lovingly prepared potatoes meet ketchup. Malt vinegar is a good option if salt alone doesn’t satisfy.)
By now you’re in the frying spirit. It should feel a lot like the Christmas spirit, but with a much greater chance of third-degree burns. Chicken. Fish. Fries. Let’s up the ante. What about a hamburger? No, I’m not talking about frying hamburger meat. That’s just chicken fried hamburger steak (the poor man’s chicken fried steak). What if we fry the whole hamburger, bun and all?
It can be done. No. It must be done. To make a deep-fried hamburger—this is an actual recipe—first, go ahead and make a regular hamburger. Ground beef on the stovetop, buns dressed as you like (lettuce, onion, tomatoes, cheese), assemble burger. If you don’t know how to do that part, you really shouldn’t be frying anything.
Meanwhile, you’re going to make your batter. For this, you’ll need a half-cup of milk, a half-cup of water, a cup of flour, a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of baking powder, and whatever other spices make you smile. No one cares how you season your food in the privacy of your home. First mix the dry, then add the wet until you get a batter. (Don’t overmix!) Done. LEVEL TWO: Are you ready for this, reader? I mean, look. Your heart has two arteries. Do you really want to take both of them to the grave? Heat your oil to 350 F. Squish up that burger until it feels solid (skewer it if you’d like, though use bamboo and not plastic). Dunk your burger in batter. Add your battered burger to the deep fryer. Five minutes later, extract, let rest on a rack (the poor burger has been through a lot), and eat.
Ready for more? The day is young, after all, and you have a mighty hunger that can only be sated with hot oil. Do you ever get annoyed at foods that are “good” for you? Like the soft-boiled egg, for example. Have you ever met a smugger food, with its integrated wrapper and perfect calorie-to-protein ratio? Maybe it’s time to take the egg down to our level.
Step one is to soft boil the egg. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and add your eggs. Lid and simmer four minutes, tops. After, submerge them in ice water for 20 minutes. Peel, but very gently—the yolk should still be runny inside, and we are trying to do something special here. Meanwhile, beat two eggs. That’s right: We are going to coat our soft-boiled eggs in other, rawer eggs. (A gruesome recipe this is, dear reader.) Roll the traumatized eggs in flour, and then roll them in breadcrumbs. Submerge the egg in oil and let it cook for about one minute. When you see a color you like, you’re done, but don’t go too long or you’ll overcook the egg yolk.
If you like this recipe but wish it had more ground pork, wrap that soft-boiled egg in your favorite breakfast sausage before giving it the breading treatment. Fry at 350 F for 3 to 5 minutes, transfer to a heated 375 F oven for another 10 to 12 minutes, and you’ve got the classic Scotch egg.
If you like this recipe but wish it had more knives and were somehow less healthy, after hard boiling eggs but before frying, slice the egg in half, extract the yellow, and deep fry only the white halves using the same method as above. Then take the yolks and mix them with mayo and relish. Add them to the fried egg whites, and you have just made deep fried deviled eggs. Is there nothing oil can’t do?
How about dessert? You’ve probably had fried ice cream before, so there’s no sense in retreading that boring terrain. But have you ever had a fried ice cream sandwich? Fear not: I am here to give your life meaning. Step one is to buy a box of ice cream sandwiches. (You didn’t think we were going to make them from scratch, did you? This is a free magazine—you have to pay for that kind of content!) Once you get home, eat half of the ice cream sandwiches in the box. That is how I usually do it. Like, I eat one, and then I think, “You know I burned a lot of calories shopping today so the first one was free, which makes the second one my ‘normal’ daily ice cream sandwich.” And then after I eat that one, I say: “Well, if I were going to have a ‘cheat’ ice cream sandwich on a typical day, this would be that one.” And so, I eat a third but tell myself it was my second. And then, once the post-serotonin ice cream sandwich high fades, I look in the freezer and say: “I just ate three ice cream sandwiches. What difference will a fourth make at this point?” and eat it while weeping quietly and alone.
When you’ve completed the weeping portion of this show, set your frying oil to 350 F yet again, and while it heats, get going on the batter. For that you’ll need a cup each of flour and milk, one egg, a flat teaspoon of baking soda, a half teaspoon of baking powder, an eighth cup of sugar, and a dash of salt. Whisk until it looks like something you’d dip an ice cream sandwich in before deep frying it. Because the next step is to dip your ice cream sandwich into it, and then, dunk the whole thing in the oil. (Note that you want your ice cream sandwiches very frozen before doing any of this.) You are putting a freezing thing into a hot thing, and the hot is going to win if you aren’t careful, so the key here is to stay on it. The moment that batter looks crispy and golden, extract and plate. Eat immediately, because it’s still ice cream and we’re making delicious fried frozen heart attacks, not performing magic.
At this point in our day of frying, you should hate yourself plenty and be ready to cool down your oil. But your adventure isn’t ended. There is an entire grocery store of things that would be terrible ideas to fry! If you doubt me, google “fried” and the least fry-worthy foods you can think of. You will find a recipe for it.
Deep fried frozen waffles? Yes. Deep fried salad? Yes, though it looks more like a battered green ball, and not whatever you are picturing. Deep fried stick butter? Yes, but come on. Deep fried Skittles? Skittles are the catfish of the candy world, and as such, are suitable candidates for the almost-complete disguise afforded through batter and heat. The point is: Reader, do not limit yourself. We are all going to die eventually. When I clutch my chest and fall to the floor, I don’t want my last thoughts to be, “I knew I should have tried the deep-fried hamburger.” No. At my funeral, I want someone behind a wrinkled program to stage-whisper, “With the way he ate, I’m surprised he lasted so long.”
Happy frying, and see you in the ICU.