Two weeks ago I was helping a friend move out of his house, packing up his kitchen, when we came across his mini fryer he rarely ever used. "Do you want this?" ::my brain screams YES!YES!YES!:: My mouth says " I have no where to put that, no you keep it". His reply unfortunately sealed the deal. "If you don't want it I'm just going to throw it away". A perfectly good, working, barely used mini fryer. In the trash! Uuuuggghhhhh.... " Put it by the door I'll think about it". This is kind of like when I carry something around a store that I know I want but I shouldn't have or I don't really need. It's the debate with myself, trying to be reasonable, "how much are you going to use it? really? like really really?" Now usually in a store the issue is cost, but this was free. My issue was I live in a small apartment with a galley kitchen and basically nowhere to keep things. This is the sole reason I don't have a standing Kitchen aid mixer. Because I basically have to move to keep one. Needless to say by the end of the night it came home with me. Along with a sweet Puma leather bag his girlfriend had left behind. It was a really productive move.
It took about a week for me to gather my wits and my friends to take on the fryer. It's a nice little piece of Hampton Beach machinery, about a foot long , 10 or so inches tall and 6 or 7 inches wide. It has a temperature control as well as timer on the top, a vented cover and a basket with a handle to lower and raise items out of the oil. I already had a brand new 750 mL bottle of canola oil at home that I figured would be adequate. I figured wrong. After pouring in the entire bottle it barely covered the heating apparatus at the bottom. Apparently this required the big jug. I made a quick run to Lucky's for more oil and papertowls (we were gonna have a lot of absorbing to do) before the girls arrived. On the menu: Brussel Sprout chips (a la Marlowe) , Sweet Potato Fries, Tempura battered Green Beans, and an Apple Dessert that I made up on the fly.
I have been trying for a few weeks to perfect brussel sprout chips at home with out a fryer but by baking them in the oven. I'd been having some relative success but it was hard to get an even crunch on all of them and many on the edges of the sheet pan would end up burned. I was really excited to fry them and get that great even crispness. As this was the first experiment with the fryer we were kinda winging it in terms of technique and heat. What we realized quickly with the sprout leaves was that there was enough internal water to make the oil spit for a second when they first hit the surface. On our first small batch I went with a...."tossing" method of just throwing a few at a time in the oil.... not really the most effective for avoiding spit back. Abbie was smart enough to suggest filling the basket out of the oil and lowering it in, much more successful but we still got some spit back. Finally we were able to refine the technique. Fill a layer in the basket, as soon as you lower it in put the vented lid on for a few seconds till it calms down then you can take it off. Each batch took 2- 3 minutes to fry to the right hint of golden brown and let me tell you they were delicious! Tossed with some sea salt they had the perfect crispy nutty flavor I was looking for. And they are so light it's hard, similar to popcorn, to not keep munching on handful after handful! We justified doing just that with the fact that they are a green vegetable and therefore full of good vitamins right?
Next up were the sweet potato fries. I'm embarrassed to admit that I had a confusing moment at the grocery store when picking up whole potatoes to be sliced for the fries. I have always had a fuzzy understanding that Yams and Sweet Potatoes were the same thing or if not exactly the same, pretty close. When I order sweet potato fries at a restaurant- they are orange. when I got to Lucky's they had yams, which looking like I expected, but they also had what they labelled as sweet potatoes....that were white. Uh oh. Maybe they were orange on the inside? (They were not) To err on the side of safety I bought one of each. Turns out they tasted almost the same so in the end who really knows what's right and whats wrong in the sweet potato world. In a recipe I'd read for the purpose of research they had said to boil the potatoes first the peel and slice them. That seemed a little unnecessary so we decided instead to peel and slice away but to follow another technique that I had read about when making fries which is to soak them in ice water first before frying (this way they soak up water instead of oil which helps the inside cook soft and the outside crunchy. An important technique note I learned from reading the initial recipe was that you actually have to fry them twice letting them rest in between because on the first round they will come out too soft. It seemed to work! I made a quick dipping sauce with mayo, paprika, garlic powder, and red pepper powder to enjoy with them and we set to devouring the first batch. I must say I was impressed! They had a nice crisp texture and great sweet potato flavor. I think next time I'll cut them a little thicker but for a first run they came out quite well.
Actually coating something in batter was the next adventure. I found a great easy tempura recipe that was literally just a cup of flour and a cup of beer that worked perfectly for our needs. Since the batter was wet we couldn't put them in the basket then in the oil because the basket would end up covered in cooked batter. As it was we realized after the first few that if we just dropped them straight in they would sink quickly to the bottom and get stuck in the mesh. They came out easily however and for the next few Abbie developed a "sliding' technique that keep them buoyant. As these came out we realized that salting them quickly was a must as they were a little bland however they tasted great with some more of the spicy mayo dipping sauce I whipped up earlier. The batter really poofed up (even more than i expected) and the green beans inside cooked to a nice warm but firm texture. With the batter covering them I found I couldn't eat quite as many but they were still really yummy. And you know, another green vegetable so vitamins! Yea!
After our 3 course "fried veggie" dinner we took a brief respite to have a little wine and chit chat while I started to get everything prepped for the dessert. I'd recently had a really good nilla wafer crusted Carmel apple at a friends house and I used that for inspiration. I had decided the technique most used to bread chicken might work to get a nice crust on my apples so I took each slice (skinned) and dredged it first in flour then in beaten egg then a crushed nilla wafer and cinnamon sugar coat. I lined them up in the basket out of the oil and slowly lowered them in frying them till the crust had a nice golden glow. I had picked up some butterscotch ice cream topping to use as a dipper for these since it seemed like the perfect compliment. I don't think I was fully prepared for how good this was going to be. It was like the perfect two bite apple pie. The crust had a great flavor and crunch and the apple inside was warm and juicy and still a little firm which was just what I had hoped for (I hate mushy cooked apples I like some texture) Since we used green apples they had a nice tart acidity that really balanced well with the other sweet flavors. Over all this was definitely my favorite creation of the night. I'm looking forward to making them for a treat at Thanksgiving with my family!
I was most proud of us that we didn't reach the "what else can we throw in there" point. I think had there been boys involved it might have reached that place (anything in the kitchen being fair frying game, cookies, meat, etc etc). Overall everything we tried was successful (which is rare but really nice!) and I'm looking forward to my next excuse to fry up a feast! Perhaps some fried chicken next??