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?