Fried Foods! Yay!

Daniel Larkin to jamey
10:57 AM 

So I sent you pictures of our Bar Food Friday last weekend, but I wanted to share the goods.  The chicken nachos were decent; we made them using my veggie taco recipe with real chicken.  We started drinking before cooking, so we were a little rosy by the time we got to the cheese, and it ended up more like a Mexican mozzarella than queso fresco. But I’m not really writing you about the nachos.  You know how to do nachos.  What I’m talking about are the fried pickles.

October is over, so I’m assuming you can splurge on some good old fashion horrible-for-you food.  I use this batter for just about everything fried – chicken, onions, pickles, etc. – and it’s never let me down.  I actually learned the recipe from a popular bar I worked at in Charlotte named The Penguin.

The batter is simple, though my recipe may not be 100% accurate, since I’ve never measured my spices.  Ever.  I actually taste as I go, mostly checking salt and heat levels.  (I know some people have an aversion to tasting raw flour, but it’s the only way I’ve been able to get it spot on every time.)  Consequently, all of my measurements here are guesses, and you can add/subtract to it as you see fit.

  • Two cups of flour
  • 2 tbs. garlic powder
  • 1 tbs. chili powder – maybe more
  • 1 tbs. red pepper – maybe less
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tbs. cayenne pepper
  • A few grinds of fresh black pepper
  • Enough Lawry’s Seasoning Salt to cast a thin red layer on the top of the mixture.

Mix ingredients, insert a wet fork, and taste.  Again, I taste for salt and heat.  You want to taste the salt, but the heat needs to be background noise.  You don’t want it too spicy.

That’s the best I can describe the recipe.

Frying onions and pickles are essentially the same.  Chicken isn’t even that much different either.  The key to all is small batches.  You don’t want to drop the temperature of the oil too quickly, and you don’t want the items to stick together when they’re in the oil.

For onion straws, slice a sweet onion thin (I use my julienne slicer for thin uniform cuts) and soak it in buttermilk.  When it’s time to fry, just pull a small handful of onions out of the milk, dredge them in the batter, shake off the excess batter, and drop them into a pot of your favorite frying oil.  They’re done when they’re a light golden brown.  These onion straws make any burger 100x better.  Seriously.

For pickles, buy a jar of dill pickle chips and pour out the juice and replace it with buttermilk.  (I know this sounds gross, but it’s fine.  Buttermilk is curdled to begin with.)  When it’s time to fry, pull out a small handful of chips and shake off some, but not all, of the extra milk.  Toss the pickles in the batter mix to fully coat them.  Next, pull the chips out of the batter and shake them around in a sifter over the remaining batter.  This breaks up any globs of flour, and prevents the chips from sticking to each other in the oil.  Toss them in the oil, and they’re done when they float to the top with a golden brown color.  Serve in a bowl lined with paper towels, and have some Ranch dressing on hand to dip them in.  Oh, and prepare to be in heaven.

For chicken, I cut my breast meat into thin slices and soak them in a mix of buttermilk, one egg, and a few splashes of Texas Pete hot sauce.  Aside from the extra wet ingredients, the only thing I do differently with chicken is to double batter it.  Soak, toss, soak, toss, fry.  It gives it that supreme crunch that chicken tenders need.

I hope this all makes sense.  It’s an easy recipe, and it kills me how good it is every time I try it.  The pickles are especially gratifying, since no one outside of The Penguin can seem to make a decent fried pickle.

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