Sunday, February 05, 2006

I'm Frying! I'm Frying!



My to-do list for this weekend started with "Deep-fat fry". I've been putting this off my whole life, but I decided this would be the weekend I would finally put a check-mark in that box.

First, I must apologize to Bob and Chuck - they gave me a deep-fat fryer for my birthday last summer. (They presented it to me in Vermont, so it stayed up there until it could hitch a ride south with David in November.) I had planned to use it this weekend, but when I was setting it up I realized that it required a minimum of three quarts of oil to operate. I had less than two on hand and that amount of oil seemed excessive for this small project, so I decided to use a saucepan on the stove (and a little less than a quart of oil).

A little background before we get to the frying... I was the lucky winner of Nupur's chai hamper (her offering for A Menu for Hope II) back in January. My prize hamper included not only the makings for some wonderful chai, but some sweet and savory snacks to accompany it. The cookies and bhadang are but a memory now, but they were both fantastic. I've since made more bhadang myself (so easy!) and I think I've gotten Phil hooked on it too. Nupur also included some Pakoda mix in the hamper - a mixture of chickpea flour (besan) and spices which when blended with a little water forms the perfect batter for various kinds of vegetable fritters.

My first frying project was Onion bhajiyas using the Pakoda mix and recipe that Nupur had sent (which is a little different than the recipe linked to). Since I wouldn't be using the deep-fat fryer and had no experience frying, my candy thermometer (which is also intended as a frying thermometer) was very helpful in keeping the temperature in the desired range. It was my security blanket.

I may have been a little conservative on the temperature. I was aiming for around 325 F, but while frying it varied between 300 F and 340 F (or so). Lower temperatures cause the food to absorb more oil, but higher temperatures may not allow the insides to cook before the outside is overdone. Right now these decisions leave me scratching my head. I believe (hope) that experience will make them second nature.

Happily, none of my long-held fears associated with deep-fat frying came to pass. Both I and my kitchen survived unscathed. There was no fire, no smoke, and not even much of a mess. In fact, there was less of a mess than I've had with stir-frying because there was no spitting or splattering outside the pan. It actually seemed very controlled the whole time.

My only remaining concerns with deep-fat frying are 1) the cost of the oil; and 2) how to dispose of the oil. I filtered the oil and put in the refrigerator, but haven't decided if I will reuse it. Since I was cooking just two fritters at a time, I had the oil heated for an extended period of time and it may not be suitable for reuse. The problem is, I don't have a container at the moment that I'm willing to toss out with the oil. I'll have to start saving containers with this in mind.

I've rattled on long enough about frying, now about those onion bhajiyas... they were delicious! I've put some in the refrigerator and some in the freezer and will try reheating them in the oven. Now that I have privately conquered my deep-fat frying demons, I think I'll try making these for company so leftovers won't be an issue.

Thanks again to Nupur for the Pakoda mix and the rest of the great chai hamper she put together. Thanks too to Bob, Chuck, and Nupur for giving me the little push I needed to finally get frying!

Finally, I have to show you the cutest onion bhajiya you ever saw. I found as I was making these that they were sort of like ink blots or clouds, in that the shape would sometimes look like a familiar creature. I know what this one is - do you?

16 comments:

ilva said...

You are supposed to be able to use the oil twice without any problem so even if it took some time it should be ok! Looks great!

lindy said...

A depressed swan looking at its unflattering reflection, and drooping?

Looks very tasty indeed.

Alice said...

Bravo, Cathy!! I'm a bit intimidated of deep frying, too...you've inspired me!

Lindy's comment is too funny!! I was thinking it looked like a lobster or prawn...

Alice said...

wait...hold the presses...a parrot or toucan?

Cathy said...

Hi Ilva - thanks! I think I will try using it one more time. I have some more of Nupur's Pakoda mix and would like to try the other recipe she sent.

Hi Lindy - that's great! I saw a bird also, but not a swan.

Hi Alice - a smallish saucepan with a couple inches of oil is not too intimidating, and a good way to start. Besides helping to keep the temperature in the desired range, a thermometer serves as reassurance that you haven't reached the flashpoint!

Originally, I was just thinking "bird", but after seeing Lindy's comment I thought about it a little more... I hadn't seen a swan - what she saw as a long neck, I saw as a big, somewhat crumpled bill. Like you, I decided it was a Toucan!

chuckless said...

Bob and I loved your post and the fact that you made forays into the deep frying world (althought you didn't use the deep fryer WE gave you)...BUT...that is NOT a bird. For us that is definitely the deep-fried hand of the Wicked Witch of the West caught mid-phrase "I'll get you my pretty"!!!!! Poppies...poppies........(and your little dog too!)

Cathy said...

Hi Chuck!! I will use the fryer - maybe even next weekend. That's an interesting idea about the hand of the wicked witch, but I think you're wrong. Click here for proof.

chuckless said...

Cathy, your drawing is very sweet...and really, what wishful thinking! But...Cathy...you been eatin' fingers!!!!!

http://thewizardofoz.warnerbros.com/movie/cmp/photos/photo7.html

I rest MY case! But don't worry, a little ruffage is good for the diet.

Cathy said...

Chuck - no, no, no! Ptooey! At this point we have one for a swan (which is a lot closer to a toucan than a wicked finger), two for the wicked witch, and two for a toucan. We'll have to see if someone else can settle this. If not, I'm right, cause it's my blog :)

Zarah Maria said...

LOL! That was too funny (the comments)! Just wanted to say AWESOME job Cathy, you're conquering your fears!

Cathy said...

Thanks Zarah! I'm so glad to see you back on-line!

Kai said...

Hey! This is late, but the first thing that came to mind seeing your onion fritter was a witch's clenched fist with the index finger pointing.

Ya, Cathy, you've been eating a witch's hand. Or a sorcerer's. It could even have been Voldemort's!

Cathy said...

Shhh... don't say that too loudly Kai, Chuck might hear you!

Grommie said...

Awwww... I missed the game of 'Name That Fried Thing'. When do we play again??

Cathy said...

Hi Grommie! Soon I hope... I've got the used oil in the fridge waiting for the next round.

Jean-Paul S├ęculaire said...

Great article - thanks! Inspiring. Definitely think that looks like a finger or a claw though!