Fried and Fabulous

Posted: August 26, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

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.
Fried okra
Being from New England, I had never seen okra inĀ  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.
Fried Okra mosaic
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.
Fried Pickle mosaic

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.

Quicky Pickles

Posted: January 12, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

I love fennel. It’s one of those vegetables that I only came across during the summer, when I was making tilapia en papillote for the first time. We had tilapia en papillote again this past week, and for some fortuitous reason, Fresh Direct sent me two bulbs of Fennel instead of one!!

While wondering what to do with my extra fennel, I contemplated braising, and adding it to a slow-cooked pork shoulder, and in the end, none of them seemed quite right for my extra fennel bulb. And then, last night, I had an epiphany.
One always has some sort of pickled something when eating barbeque. It’s like, a rule. So, while trying to figure out exactly how I’d convert the huge hunk of pig still sitting in my fridge into a variety of dinners and backup items, I figured it out. Quick-pickled fennel!!!

A cursory internet search brought me to a recipe I proceeded to destroy and turn into my own. Based on what was in the cabinets and the fridge, I created my own sweet-spicy Fennel Fridge Pickles!!

1 bulb of fennel, cored and cut into thin rounds or matchsticks, fronds reserved.
1 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon corriander seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine all the ingredients except the fennel in a pot, and stir to dissolve the salt and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer, and simmer for 3 minutes.
Put your fennel pieces, and the fronds, into a pie plate or a heatproof bowl.
Pour the pickling liquid over the fennel and fronds, and let sit for 3 hours, minimum.
I transferred mine to a clean pint jar, in the fridge, so that it could both stay cool and continue to get the flavors all happy. Remember, these jars aren’t being processed, so they MUST be refrigerated, and vinegar or no, this shit WILL start to go bad eventually. So eat them within a week or two, I’d say.

If they last that long!!

Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.