fried

Autumn Frying By: Back Yard Gastro Graze

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What, oh what, does one do with a turkey fryer once Thanksgiving is past $60 worth of oil?

Well, if you’re part of my group of friends, you set out to discover what can and can’t be fried.

The Frying Rig.

For safety’s sake, my friends took a direct page from Alton Brown’s book and setup their fryer outside, away from the house, spending about $5 to have the fry basket on a pulley, and wrapping the hose in tinfoil so that in the event of a spill, the hot oil won’t melt through the propane hose.

The weather was cool, the colors bright, every one felt good in the throws of Austin Autumn.

While some planning had to go into what we fried (wet batter that could drip and therefore be more likely to cause burnt bits that would blacken the oil), we started ambitiously with hot wings followed by Brussel sprouts, both fried at 350F degrees. The hot wings were tossed in regular buffalo sauce and Texas Pete Sweet & Fiery, a new favorite of mine. The Brussel sprouts took less than 3 minutes and were amazing both simply salted and sprinkled with Uchiko’s recipe.

Following our bounty of protein and veggie tables, we moved to a pallet cleansing batch of fried baguette crust, cut into strips, dipped into Nutella and served with banana slices. This was particularly satisfying.

Not everything was a success, however. We did attempt a batch of fried cheese curds, that came out more like puffs of hollow crispy shells. They also coated the basket in goo, and we had to break from frying to scrub everything and make sure the oil wasn’t going to burn do to particles.

I had mixed up a batch of green chile biscuit dough, rolled into balls, and stuffed each ball with a small cube of cheese and two drops of chile oil. These were tasty, but needed more seasoning than I mixed into the dough. A good start on something, though, and they were even better the next day, making me think they may need to be a breakfast treat!

Up next were the corn dogs and, while I only got one bite, they were easily my favorite of the afternoon. And it goes without saying that they disappeared the fastest, loved by adults, kids, and X-1.

X knows where the good stuff is…

But the day wasn’t just about getting together to eat unnecessary calories. We learned, we taught each other, we enjoyed the sunshine. The was quality time…

“Quality” time of the future.

We taught Nicco how to use the horn on her Batmobile and how to make deep “Tooooooot” train sounds with an empty bottle. We chatted and allowed the kids to exhaust us, using the adults and trees as jungle gyms.

And what would an afternoon be without dessert, a dessert that appreciates Autumn’s bounty of apples, of course?! The amazing Tania whipped up two different kinds of fried apple pie, one in pie crust, and one in a simple biscuit dough, as recommended by Paula Deen. We were somewhat surprised to find that Deen’s dough was far lighter and more substantial (and far less greasy) than the simple pie dough! Both were dipped in a fantastic caramel sauce from Austin’s own Foreign & Domestic.

It was an afternoon of ease, experimentation, humor, good company, beautiful weather, and joy. It was a second Thanksgiving Day, it was perfect for a Sunday in Autumn. One final note: we did eventually get the cheese curds to come out better…though not all together perfect. When Sarah wanted to get a few more, her husband, not standing too far from the curds said “Well, kick the dog, drop the baby, and get over here!” rather than leave the table himself, because they were disappearing all too fast. (Yes, of course he was kidding! But it’s a funny picture non-the-less.)

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Lemon Zest Aioli

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In a month’s time I’ll be spending a week with my family. Folks, sibling, husband, cousins, etc. As we actually like each other, most of us are looking forward to this time together. It’s an anomaly, I know. I’ve been coming up with numerous recipes for us to share while visiting, and I’ve been searching far and wide for inspiration.

One of the many recipes I wanted to attempt to recreate was fried artichoke hearts. When I was in college…hmmm. You know, I was going to write “When I was in college I spent some time in Arizona…”, but now that I’m long graduated I can honestly state it more clearly: While I lived in Arizona for a few years I went to college. Like one goes to the gym when they’re not really into it. Like it was a hobby or something I told people I did to keep them off my back. Anyway, the point is that while I lived in Arizona, working odd jobs instead of attending class regularly, one of the ways I would treat myself from time to time on the great road of finding my way, was a night out at the Prescott Brewing Company. One of my faves on their menu are these little crispy artichoke hearts. I decided to make may own version, packing each bite with a little more flavor, attempting to bake them instead, and serving them a bright and lemony aioli rather than ranch dressing.

Crispy Artichoke Hearts

2 cans Large artichoke hearts (5-7), halved

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup Panko

zest of one lemon

1 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp dried parsley

1 heaping TBSP grated Parmesan cheese

2 eggs

1 TBSP milk

Vegetable oil, if frying

Dipping Aioli

1 1/2 TBSP mayonnaise

1 1/2 TBSP sour cream

1/2 tsp dill

1 tsp dried parsley

1 tsp black pepper

juice of 1/2 lemon

Just a side note here: I’ve used both the whole and quartered artichoke hearts. I’ve found halving the whole artichoke heart makes for a much more toothsome bite than the pre-quartered options. They’re smaller, thinner, and all around less appetizing.

Drain the cans of artichoke hearts. Gently halve the hearts and lay out on a paper towel for about an hour to dry out a bit. Whisk together the eggs and milk. In a separate plate (I use an 8×8 pyrex) combine the flour, panko, lemon zest, garlic powder parsley, and Parmesan.

Start heating up your vegetable oil to 325 degrees.

Delicately spear an artichoke halve with a fork. I found it best to poke from the side out, which helps the petals remaining on the choke stay together. Dip your speared piece into the egg/milk mixture quickly, allowing the excess to drip off a second before coating in the panko mixture. I found it easiest to drop the artichoke heart piece off of the fork into the center of the panko and flour, and then tossing the dry ingredients over the heart. You want the artichoke chunks to be evenly coated, but you don’t want that coating to be very thick. Once coated, set aside until you have an full batch to start frying.

Once your oil reaches temperature, fry the artichoke hearts halves for 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown. They do brown very quickly. Once golden and crisp move to a paper-towel covered cooling rack and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let rest about 5 minutes.
For the dipping aioli, whisk all the ingredients together and serve with the artichokes. This creamy dip is extremely addicting. You may want to double the dip recipe if you’re serving these at a dinner party.  I served mine as an appetizer to a vegetarian dinner and the crispy artichokes, with the bright creamy sauce went beautifully with both our chilled white wine (I think it was a Pinot Grigio) and a crisp hard cider.

These Ain’t Yo’ Mama’s Chicken Cutlets

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One thing I make once a week are chicken cutlets. A crowd pleaser for both kids and adults alike. These were a staple in my house growing up. Skinless, boneless chicken breast dipped in egg, breaded in doctored Progresso bread crumbs (garlic powder would be added) and fried in an ancient pan purchased all the way back in the ’70’s. Once I got my own place I started making cutlets as well, filling my apartment with the smell of my mother’s and grandmother’s kitchen. As I got older I tweaked and updated the recipe. By the time I owned my own kitchen I had gotten my own cutlet recipe just right for my tastes, and it was a decent departure from what I’d been taught. Honestly – and this is going to sound cocky and I apologize, but it’s true – the only complaint I get about these chicken tenders is that they have ruined numerous friends and family on being able to order fried chicken and chicken strips when eating at bars and restaurants. Once you get this recipe down pat, this chicken is way better than anything you can order out.

First things first: I chucked the Progresso to the wind. Swapped them for panko. Next, I stopped serving them as a partner with pasta or marinara and cheese. And finally, inspired by Americanized Asian fare, I created my own sauce, which is what we’ll start with.

1 cup of water

The juice and zest of 1 lemon, 1 lime, and 1 orange (not pictured)

1/2 cup Rice vinegar

1 tbsp ginger

1-3 cloves of garlic based on what you’d like

1 tbsp soy sauce (or 1/2 tbsp fish sauce)

Red pepper to taste

Throw everything into a medium sauce pan and boil down until it’s about 1/3 of it’s original volume, nice and syrupy. Be careful with this; you’re cooking down a liquid containing red pepper, so the thicker it gets, the spicier it is. You can pour this over chicken, toss veggies in it, or be a super adult and use the sauce for dunkin’.

Now for the chicken.

3/4 to 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken or raw chicken tenders

1 cup panko

1 cup flour

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan

1 tbsp dried parsley

2 eggs

Vegetable oil

Kosher salt

I don’t use a deep fryer, just a cast iron pan filled with about 1 1/2 inch of oil. Beat the two eggs in a small bowl or tupperware container. In a flat, edged container (I use an 8in. X 8in. pyrex, but even a plate will do) mix the flour, panko, parm, and parsley. Rinse, dry, and cut the chicken how ever you’d like. This evening I cut my chicken into half tenders, large nuggets really, but anything is fine. Dip the chicken in the beaten egg, let the excess drip off, coat both sides of the chicken in the panko/flour mixture and set aside. Here, I’ll show you.

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I start heating the oil once I have the chicken coated. The coating needs to sit on the chicken a moment to better stick anyway, so waiting for the oil to come to 315-320 degrees is the perfect time to do so. Also, gives you a mo’ to clean up. Tonight was the first time I ever took the temperature of my oil. Prior to this I checked my heat the way my parents do and the way my grandmother did before them: Turn on the heat, wait ten-ish minutes, throw a small bit of chicken in, and make sure it sizzles just right. Like this:

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My tenders were roughly 1/2 inch thick and 3 inches by 2 inches. They took about 3-4 minutes per side. In the right temperature they won’t brown too quickly, but will turn to a beautiful light golden brown gradually. Once the chicken is out of the fry pan, place them on a plate layered with a paper towel to help drain the excess oil. Sprinkle immediately with kosher salt. This MUST be done while they’re still warm. Let them sit at least five minutes before you start gorging your face; I promise – those few minutes will feel like an eternity, but they’ll be worth it.

This time around I decided to serve the chicken with oven fried dumplings. I steamed a bunch of the grocery store bought frozen chicken dumplings, while heating my oven to 500. Super hot. I tossed the dumplings with 1/2 a tablespoon of sesame oil, sprayed a cookie sheet with cooking spray, and placed the dumplings in the oven for about 8 minutes, turning once. The perfect veggie for this dish, not seen on the plate, is crisp, bright, green beans, sauteed with garlic and sea salt. Delicious and a wonderful pop of color. All in all, it’s great for a pseudo Chinese food dinner at home and beats the hell out of paying P.F. Chang’s for what would wind up being a less satisfying meal.