2011 has been a rough year.
A very rough year.
Looking back on a month that I *hoped* would bring good things, and started with such promise and success, I have to say that July …. you’re in the doghouse. You sucked too.
I lost my job this month.
So, instead of writing about anything that I’m cooking, or making, or whatever, I’m going to post pictures of the food I made for 4th of July weekend. The things that I made when it felt like everything good was on the horizon and nothing bad would happen.
I had recently learned that you could fry your own tortilla shells, and have now resolved to not eat soft tacos all that much. I tried to make puffy tacos from a respected recipe (I won’t link it until I nail it, I don’t want to embarrass myself) and that tanked on July 3rd, so I fried my small flour tortillas, and stuffed them with seared tuna, shredded lettuce, tomato, and an avocado-parsley-jalapeno crema. And they. were. awesome.
Back in July, Shauna, the amazing Gluten-Free Girl, held a pie party on Facebook. And I decided to jump in. Blueberries were the only thing on my mind in early July, so on the 3rd of July, I made a blueberry pie. And it was awesome. And I’m amazed. I’ve had problems with blueberry-based pies, being too runny, being messy, not tasting right. But this one was fantastic.
For dinner on the 4th of July, I made fried chicken, and potato salad. I made the mayonnaise for the potato salad. Like, made it from scratch, from egg yolks and vinegar and lemon juice and olive oil and… I was so proud of it. And then I mixed the mayo with the potatoes and learned a fundamental issue: Your homemade mayonnaise will run all over the place, if your potatoes are too hot when you mix them. Which…. mine were. But oh well. It was delicious, and I mixed some of the dill we got from our CSA into it, and I will definitely be making mayonnaise again. For sure.
And then for dinner, we had this. The last slices of pie, with peach-pie ice cream that I made myself.
They were good times. It was a good weekend. And I need to remind myself of that, when things get hard and jobs are scarce and frankly, I’m getting a little afraid. I can be strong, and brave. I can get through this, and there will be pie. And fried chicken. And many other things. Good things. Again.
After the gorgeous squash cakes and tomato salad from my last post, I have to get a little unhealthy on you for one quick second. But even this, this crazy entry about fried goodness, is totally fine. Because barring one moment where I totally ate fried okra 2 nights in a row, I don’t really eat fried food all that often. So whenever it happens, you just have to let it rip, and revel in every minute of it, because it’s delicious, and it’s a treat, and y’know what? The next day you’re probably going to want to go back to something light, cleansing, and guaranteed to help chase the grease from your pores.
Or at least, I usually do.
About a year ago, I developed a blog friendship with Nishta, from Blue Jean Gourmet. And around this time last year, Nishta mentioned (possibly on Twitter) that her sweetie, Jill, made some mean fried okra.
Being from New England, I had never seen okra in person. I’d only ever heard of it as an element in gumbo. But, having something of a flirtation with Southern food all my life, and loving anything fried, I have been intrigued by the idea of frying okra (or really any vegetable) since I found out that this is something people just….do! My ancestors didn’t really deep-fry. You want a pot roast, or something involving cabbage? A way to figure out how to feed a family on a pound of beans and a hunk of salt pork? My people, the Yankees, the Scots and the Poles, we got you covered.
But breading/battering and deep-frying veggies? Shit, dog, that’s uncharted territory!
And when I see uncharted territory, I barge right in, because who knows when I might end up eating something like Jill’s fried okra.
And trust me friends, Jill Carroll’s Fried Okra is something you want to be eating. These little nuggets of fried deliciousness are enough to make me contemplate running to the store and getting okra right now….when all the stores are closed. Honestly, follow Jill’s recipe. I did, except of course I added some cornmeal in with the flour I dredged in, and oh yeah, I deep-fried instead of doing a shallow fry, because it seemed less likely that I would burn the okra on my first try. Holy god this stuff is good. Seriously, even if you don’t think you like okra, make this. Please.
In exchange for the fried okra recipe, Nishta asked for my fried pickle method. I’ve been working on it for a while, and part of the wonder of this particular batch of fried pickles is that I made them using homemade pickles. Cucumbers that I sliced, brined, and processed by using this garlic dill recipe from Marisa’s exemplary blog. And these pickles? I made them basically the same way that Jill makes her okra.
I took my pickles, and put them in a big bowl. I drizzled buttermilk over them, and let them sit, although I have also done a basic flour, egg, flour dredge. When my stock pot of frying oil (usually vegetable or canola) has reached 370, I scoop the pickles out of the buttermilk, and into a combination of flour, cornmeal (usually in a 1:1 ratio) and salt. Oftentimes, I’ll use Old Bay or cayenne as well, but these are some speecy-spicy dill pickles, just the way I like them, so I left out the additional spices this time.
After a solid coating in the flour and cornmeal, I drop them in the oil, being careful not to crowd, and being REALLY careful that the oil temperature doesn’t drop below 350. When they’re nice and golden brown, I scoop them out to drain.
I’ve eaten fried pickles that were more like doughnuts with pickle filling, and while they’re interesting, they’re not my thing. I like a nice, thin coating on my fried pickles, and a good crisp. I think that the quicker you can get the coating to crisp, the better, because your pickle can also stay crispy.
Oh, and one last thing.
Always, ALWAYS chips. Never spears. Anyone who’s ever gotten burned by hot pickle juice running down their chin knows this. And if you don’t, well, consider this your lesson.