Saturday, April 19, 2008

Frying food without flour

Every once in a while I get a fierce craving for something fried -- hot, salty and greasy enough to leave oilstains on the paper napkins. To quote Sara Moulton (one of the few REAL chefs left on the Food Network), "fried is my favorite flavor." Amen to that! I do eat french fries, which usually does the trick. Prior to The Discovery, my mom's fried chicken was my standard birthday-dinner-requested-dish year after year. She made hers with Dixie Fry, which is a pre-made seasoned flour mix. (Heaven only knows what's really in there besides 'spices'.) I remember that mom would pull out this scary-looking electric skillet with a dodgy-looking frayed electrical cord (I'm surprised we didn't all die a fiery electrical death) and would fry enough to last us for several days...I would eat it hot, cold and late at night in front of the fridge. *sigh*

One evening after work, the craving for fried food hit me like a ton of bricks. Since I'm allergic to chicken, that immediately killed any thought of going out for some fast-food fried chicken (Popeye's spicy version was my former favorite). Even if I could eat fried chicken, most commercial frying is done with flour and who knows what else bad for us allergic people...too many unknown factors out there to even try. Cooking from home would still eliminate using Dixie Fry, which is flour-based, or a traditional recipe, some of which call for soaking the chicken in buttermilk (!) and dredging it in flour or breadcrumbs. Yikes. What to do?

I remembered a great frying technique that I pulled from one of the Cooks Illustrated "Best Recipe" series. (BTW, not a fan of the cookbooks, I can't stand reading about all the ways they failed before getting to the winning techniques...seems kinda whiny.) It called for dry dredging the meat first, THEN dipping it in egg, then the final coating to get the best crispiness. I ended up improvising a recipe for fried turkey fingers (for some reason the dish doesn't sound as sexy as chicken fingers, does it?) It worked GREAT. They were light, crispy and flavorful, and boy, did they hit that grease spot. It didn't taste heavy at all...we ate them with our hands, mmmm. I was doubly fortunate in this venture that the BF was formerly in charge of grilling and frying at a resort in a previous lifetime, and he managed the deep-frying job...he is more patient than me and turns everything more frequently. (I did this once without him and only turned them once, and they were fine...just not as pretty.)

I dipped mine into my fave Rasperry Chipotle sauce, and he had his with the more traditional Ranch and hot sauce. He loudly declared that he liked these BETTER than chicken fingers. I say "HA!" to the universe! Now I'm off to see what else I can fry as summer comes up. Maybe I'll try some veggies next.

This will not work as well without the eggs, so to the egg-allergic, I apologize in advance. I would still do the double-dredge though, maybe with milk as the protein agent to replace the eggs.

Note: use a cast iron frying pan if you have one (something heavy with sides is the best to evenly distribute the heat). There's a reason they've been around so long, they work GREAT.

FAQ Fried Turkey Fingers (of course you can use chicken too)
four servings

- Frying oil (peanut oil is best for deep frying, but you can also use canola or vegetable oil. Just don't use olive oil, which doesn't get hot enough)
- 1 lb turkey breast cutlets, sliced into 1" strips (if you can't find cutlets, just slice turkey breast thinly, then into strips so that they are of uniform width and depth to cook evenly)
- 1/4 c cornstarch
- 2-3 eggs
- 1/2 c cornmeal
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. onion or garlic powder
1/2 t. dried chile powder (for this recipe I used ancho chile powder)

Preheat the pan to help seal the pores in the metal before pouring in enough frying oil to 1/4". Heat oil on medium heat until it gets to about 350 degrees F.

In the meanwhile, dry the turkey strips on paper towels (water is the enemy of crispness) while you prep the frying ingredients.

Season the cornstarch with a little salt and place in a flat dish (I use pie plates for this process). Scramble the eggs in a shallow bowl. Season the cornmeal with salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder and chile powder and mix well in a flat dish. Line them all up in that same order with a clean plate on the end of the assembly line for the strips ready to fry.

Take a turkey strip, and dredge lightly in the cornstarch, shaking off excess. Dip into the scrambled egg, shaking off the excess. Then dredge in the seasoned cornmeal. Once completed, these stay pretty dry, so you can make a frying pan's worth at once before you fry them. Don't make too many ahead of time or they'll get soggy and won't get as crisp.

Place the strips gently into the hot oil, making sure that they're not crowded or they'll steam instead of fry. Turn over after 2-3 minutes when they look brown, then fry another 2-3 minutes. Because these are breasts with very little fat in the meat, they fry quite quickly. (This goes quickly with a two-person team, one to fry while the other preps.)

Drain the strips on paper towels, then gobble up!


Anonymous said...

I just discovered garbanzo flour does a great job of faking wheat in fried foods. It also makes a very satisfying bread mixed with brown rice flour...see "Walrus Bread" from Bob's Red Mill website.

FoodAllergyMom said...

For those egg allergic, I did a test recently to try out replacements. I tried honey...don't even think about it! I also tried soy milk and EnerG egg replacer (separately) both woked great. Thank you for the recipe, I never know ho long to cook mine and the meat usually ends up dry. I'm ready to try again. :)

Regan said...

Sweet! Fried fowl for summer. My mom was recently diagnosed Celiac, and I'm allergic to tapioca, so its been hard find alternative to wheat we can both eat.