By Elke Probkevitz
Fried foods are decadent and delicious. They are the ultimate indulgent food, rich and full of calories. Submerged in oil, deep-fried foods must be the worst thing a health and diet-conscious consumer could eat, right? That might not be the case. There is a right way and a wrong way to deep-fry foods. One will result in crispy food that is not greasy at all, and the other will leave you with a soggy, oil-drenched flop. By following some simple rules for deep-frying, you will ensure that your foods won’t absorb too much oil and will achieve a crispy, crunchy crust. Surprisingly, deep-fried dishes can be consumed in moderation even in a healthy diet.
Batter and bread your foods correctly. Many of the calories in fried foods are added from the batter itself and from a badly made batter, which absorbs too much oil. Flour, which contains gluten, is good for making a batter because it sticks well to the food. Too much flour, however, causes the food to absorb more oil. Using gluten-free ingredients like cornmeal or rice flour will create a less absorbent batter. Ingredients like baking soda or club soda also prevent absorption because of the gas bubbles they produce. Battered foods just need to be dipped and then fried. Breaded foods need to be coated in a starch, then egg, then a third coating before frying.
Choose your oil wisely. While it’s important to choose the right oil with a high smoke point that works best for high-temperature frying, you should also choose an oil that is heart-healthy and low in saturated fat. Peanut oil, soybean oil, and canola oil all work well for frying and are healthier for you.
Choose the right pot. Using a large enough pot is important so you don’t overcrowd the pan and lower the temperature of the oil. You don’t want to use a pot that is too big, either, because it’ll take longer to heat up and you’ll use too much oil. The size of the pot should be determined by what and how much you are frying.
Temperature is key. Make sure to heat oil to the proper temperature. Use a candy or deep-fry thermometer to monitor the temperature. It is essential that the temperature be maintained; otherwise, the food will absorb more oil. Food that absorbs more oil is greasy and is higher in fat and calories, and will become soggy instead of crispy.
Make sure oil is kept clean. In between batches, make sure to clean up debris in the oil. Debris that is left in the oil will burn and cause the oil to discolor and will cause the oil, and the food fried in it, to taste off.
Drain fried foods. Always use a slotted spoon to place food into oil so the batter doesn’t clump. Then remove fried foods straight to a paper towel and allow to drain for a couple of minutes to remove any excess oil still clinging to food. v
Eggplant & Zucchini French Fries
1 lb. eggplant, cut into Â½”-thick strips
1 lb. zucchini, cut into Â½”-thick strips
canola oil, for frying
2 cups rice flour
4 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp. za’atar
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. fine sea salt
Soak eggplant in ice water for at least 2 hours. Remove and drain. Pour oil in large pot 2 inches deep. Heat oil over medium heat to 325Â°F (use deep-fry thermometer). Whisk flour, zest, za’atar, garlic powder, and salt in a bowl. Toss eggplant and zucchini in flour mixture.
Working in batches, fry eggplant and zucchini, turning occasionally, about 3—4 minutes until browned. Make sure to maintain temperature between batches. Season fried vegetables with lemon juice and sea salt. Serve with dipping sauce.
1 cup soy sour cream
1 Tbsp. pickle relish
2 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
2 tsp. za’atar
sea salt and black pepper
Whisk all ingredients together. Season to taste.
Want to learn how to cook delicious gourmet meals right in your own kitchen? Take one-on-one cooking lessons or give a gift to an aspiring cook that you know. For more information, contact Take Home Chef personal chef services by calling 516-508-3663, writing to elke@TakeHomeChef.net, or visiting www.TakeHomeChef.net.