Fry Me To The Moon!

Among all the various technical skills required to turn out edible meals frying is my most challenging.  This is unusual because virtually all ancestors in my royal lineage could handle the job with one hand tied,  especially my father.  So to gain more confidence I recently decided to seek treatment and was fortunate enough to locate a yoga expert who specializes in people with friophobia.  (Yes this is a valid medical condition and treatment is covered by Medicare).

One of the exercises I had to perform was to hold a hot frying pan over a campfire, filled with oil and battered calamari,  with bare hands,  standing on one leg,  blindfolded,  until cooking was completed.  It worked!

So now I feel qualified to turn out one of the most popular dishes served all over Europe, particularly in the south, as well as the US.  The descriptive term most frequently encountered is the Italian “fritto misto” or its equivalent in French, Spanish, Greek or Portuguese.

As you probably know by far the most dreaded aspect of the frying ritual is batter preparation.  Until recently I have experienced no luck whatsoever in creating a batter that can compare with the fast food enterprises like KFC and Arthur Treacher (remember him?). But now after hundreds of attempts I have created a batter recipe that does exactly what people expect. Crunch!

It is reproduced below without copyright so feel free to cut and paste.

Meantime once again a comparative analysis is in order (you of course can skip this).  My “go to” Italian website is “Giallo Zaffirano”, which would have us believe that no batter is required at all!! The fish are simple dredged in durum wheat flour.  The problem is of course that durum wheat flour is rarely found in any store in the U.S. as far as I know. Every now and then I find it in an Italian specialty shop but it’s rare and I don’t know why. It is basically the familiar semolina flour used in pasta preparation but ground more finely so that it resembles all purpose flour that everybody recognizes.  Unfortunately good ol’ AP flour does not work well all by itself.

The solution I found is a mixture of ordinary AP flour in equal parts with rice flour and the recipe is —may I have the envelope please:

1 part all purpose flour
1 part rice flour
1 heaping tbsp. corn starch
1 tsp. salt or more to taste
1 can more or less any beer lying around in the fridge

The trick is to mix all the dry ingredients well and whisk in the beer slowly until a moderately thick batter is obtained.  If you like a thin light batter use more beer,  if not just drink the remaining beer.  Experimentation is in order.

Once a suitable batter consistency is obtained you proceed to the refrigerator and locate any random seafood that may be lurking and that has not spoiled since you placed it there a month ago. Otherwise head for the local fish counter an pick up one or two of everything on display.

Seriously there are, as expected, no rules for fish fry ingredients.  In my latest attempt I used frozen flounder filets (defrosted of course),  shrimp and calamari (rings and tentacles).  The Europeans almost always include entire aquatic animals (gutted of course) such as anchovy,  smelts or sardines.

Grab a large high-sided saute pan, fill it halfway with canola oil, or even olive oil (thus disregarding the expert advice not to use it because of the so-called low smoking point).  Get the temperature up to 350 degrees or so and go to work.  A large wire spider helps a lot with dunking, frying, and draining off the fish onto paper towels.

Sprinkle the fried pieces with fresh lemon juice and start eating.  Try not to reach for the tartar sauce or other foul fattening dip.  If you can’t resist the urge to dip get your home made marinara sauce out and heat it up.  They don’t do this in Europe but, hey, what do they know?

The all-vegetable version of fritto misto is equally simple,  just make sure the pieces are cut up more or less in the same size so everything fries up together.  Frying time is usually not much more than three minutes depending on oil temperature.  My example shown here contained broccoli,  cauliflower, thin-sliced carrot,  bell pepper, mushroom and onion.

Which reminds me that the batter is most suitable for making beer-hall onion rings for the Saturday games.