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Fried and true

April 14, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

OK, so maybe fried foods don't have a place on the Food Pyramid. And you won't find french fries or funnel cakes anywhere on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A diet heavy with deep-fried foods will tip the scale, and eating too many high-fat foods can lead to serious health problems.

That's all true.

"People still like fried foods," said freelance food writer Olivia Friedman, who dedicated an entire book to the topic. "Fry It ... You'll Like it! 99 Recipes to Overcome Your Fear of Frying" (Champion Press, 2002) features deep-fried food recipes ranging from Feta Cheese Poppers to Maryland Crab Cakes to Deep Fried Watermelon.

The combination of crispy batter coating all manner of edibles - vegetables, meats, desserts - just tastes good, Friedman said. While it's not a good idea to make fried foods a regular part of the diet, they can make a tasty addition every now and then, she said.

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"I think sometimes fried food gets a bad rap. It can be greasy and disgusting - but if you know how to do it right you can cut some of the grease," said Friedman, who lives in the Los Angeles area.

She advocates using oil appropriate for high cooking temperatures, such as peanut, soybean or canola oil. Never deep-fry with olive oil, which has a low smoking point, Friedman said. Oil should reach temperatures between 350 and 375 degrees, depending upon the recipe. Oil that's too hot will burn foods on the outside and leave them underdone on the inside; oil that's not hot enough will result in extra-greasy foods.

For a super crispy coating, place prepared batter in the freezer just until it's ice cold, Friedman said. Then air dry the batter for about 30 minutes before frying to reduce spatter. Water and oil equals spatter, so make sure deep-fryers and utensils are clean and completely dry before using. Friedman urges deep-fry enthusiasts to use an appliance designed for frying, with high sides and a temperature control.

"You really have to be careful of the spattering issue when you do this stuff," Friedman said. "Hot oil can forever change somebody's life. I suggest people get well-acquainted with their appliance before deep-fat frying."

Most deep-fat fryer manuals include safety tips. Read them, Friedman said. Her book also contains "smart tips for smart fryers," including:

  • Allow oil to cool completely before putting the plastic lid back on the appliance.

  • Fry in a safe place, away from children and pets.

  • Do not allow the appliance's cord to hang near the floor.

  • Use clean oil to keep fried food tasting fresh.


Though Friedman doesn't encourage it, oil can be re-used. Oil that has been refrigerated should be brought to room temperature to avoid major spattering. Re-used oil also should be filtered through a fine mesh strainer. Further, oil should be discarded if it smells rancid, has an off-color, or smokes or bubbles excessively at normal cooking temperatures, Friedman's book states.

To order "Fry It ... You'll Like It! 99 Recipes to Overcome Your Fear of Frying," go to the Champion Press Web site at www.championpress.com.

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