Good and Fried

If there is a list of deadly culinary sins, I have no doubt that frying is somewhere near the top. But, like many sins, it’s seductive. Though slow-roasted vegetables are exquisitely sweet and tender, and grilled vegetables’ crisp blackened edges have a smoky taste of the fire, vegetables that have been breaded and fried have their own dangerous allure.

Should you decide on occasion to indulge, the easiest breading I know is as follows. Prepare three bowls, one filled with all-purpose flour, another with beaten egg, and a third with bread crumbs. Toss the vegetable (whole or in pieces) in the flour until it is well-dusted on all surfaces. Shake off excess flour and dip in the egg, turning until entirely coated. Allow excess egg to drip off, then toss in bread crumbs until thoroughly covered. Set aside on a plate.

To cook, fill a nonstick skillet with enough vegetable oil (or light olive oil) to come about halfway up the side of the vegetable. Heat until shimmering, then add the vegetable in batches, turning as needed to cook until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, and serve hot.

This is an excellent method for cooking baby artichokes, 2 to 3 inches long, that are available in spring. They make a lovely appetizer for an Italian-themed dinner or as a side dish for seafood. Buy the smallest ones you can find, and halve or quarter them lengthwise. Use fine dry seasoned breadcrumbs for the coating, and, after they are fried, serve with wedges of lemon for squeezing.

Panko – Japanese-style bread crumbs – makes an assertive crispy-crunchy coating that works for shrimp, scallops and fish as well as vegetables. A dipping sauce or other condiment will add another level of flavor and texture.

You can go back to being saintly again tomorrow.


Crispy Mushrooms with Ginger Sauce

These mushrooms are crisp and golden on the outside, moist and tender on the inside.  The dipping sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated for a day or two, but bring it to room temperature before serving.

For the sauce:

  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced diagonally
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dry sherry

For the mushrooms:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten until smooth
  • 1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs, available in many supermarkets)
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 32 small white button mushrooms, wiped clean.

1.  For the sauce:  In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, scallion, sugar, ginger, vinegar, and sherry.  Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.  Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

2.  For the mushrooms:  Place the flour, eggs, and panko in three small bowls.  Set a large plate near them to hold the breaded mushrooms.  Fill a large skillet with enough oil to come about 3/4 inch up the sides of the pan and place the pan over medium-high heat.

3.  Dip the mushrooms first in the flour, turning to coat well, then in the egg, then in the panko.  Place the breaded mushrooms on a plate.  When the oil is shimmering, carefully place all the mushrooms in the pan and allow them to sit until they are golden brown on the bottom halves.  Turn the mushrooms to brown on the other side. Drain the mushrooms on paper towels, then transfer to a serving platter.  Serve warm with the dipping sauce in a separate bowl.

Suggested wine: Moscato d’Asti, Vouvray/Chenin Blanc, Demi-sec, Pinot Noir

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