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January 29th,
written by Arthur

The Beautiful Machine

Among the many things I love about my new apartment (ok, new as of last August) is that I have the space to actually spread out and take on some cooking projects that just seemed painful, if not dangerous, in my old apartment.  I’m talking most about deep-frying of course.

Meg got me the deep fryer for my birthday two summers ago but I could never bring myself to break it out in my old apartment.  For one thing, it stored nicely in the box on a shelf in the shared hallway.  I had serious concerns about where I would put the thing once it was actually broken in.  Plus, the limited counter space meant that a gallon or two of 300 degree peanut oil would be precariously placed somewhere.

But with a longer train ride has come a large kitchen.  With plenty of counter and storage space it was time to fry!  I actually first broke in the deepfyer a few months ago for a poker game.  So this last time wasn’t the virgin run, but it was the first time I thought about taking some pictures and writing about it.

The deep frying plan came together as part of a larger scheme.  Stu’s girlfriend Chin was planning a surprise birthday visit.  To keep Stu from running off to Atlantic City for the weekend to try her luck at the poker table, I decided to bring the action to Park Slope and get a game together for Friday.  Coincidentally, it was also my friend Dave’s birthday and I was excited to get some party time in with him, as well.

Preparing for this event was one of those times where I miss having a car in New York.  In order to deep fry you need peanut oil—heavy, heavy peanut oil.  Plus, while deep frying is great, we need a few other things, some chips, the making of a spinach dip, the makings of chilli, etc.  So Meg and I grabbed the little red push cart headed out for the half-mile walk through the snowy Park Slope streets to Key Food (for those in MN, think a supermarket between ¼ and ½ the size of Rainbow or Cub Foods).  After loading the card to the brim, we headed for the now much more difficult trek back.  We made it, but in some snow bank or another the weight of all the food in the cart managed to bend one of the wheels to about a 30 degree angle.

Once back it was time to get the cooking thing rolling.  As Meg started in on the cup cakes from scratch (a must for Dave and Stu’s b-day celebration) I started in on the spinach dip.  See the recipe here.  Something that I’ve done before, it comes together very quickly in a food processor.  The recipe calls for ½ to 1 cup of mayo and to keep the Mayo flavor down I stayed on the lower end.  A new addition was some cherry tomatoes.  After trying to mix some in using the food processor and seeing them shredded into a million little pieces I decided to slice them in half and mix them in by hand.  The dip was a great snack to have around as people arrived and I set-up the deep fryer.


The first things to fry were some crimini mushrooms.  In a little experimentation, half of the package got a standard egg wash and a cover of some seasoned flour (including some paprika, garlic salt, and a dash of white pepper) and half got that flour mix turned into a beer batter (aka I pour some beer into the flour mix until it was a paste).  Even before the deep frying, the color of the beer batter was noticeably enticing: the paprika turned the mixture a beautiful bright orangish red.  When the beer batter mushrooms were deep fried they came out with a nice orange colored crust.  While both sets of mushrooms were good, the beer battered batch was the clear winner.  Not only did they have a great color, the orange compared to a duller gray brown, but they were more moist, while still retaining a nice crunch on the outside.

Sweet Potato Fries

Next up was the fries, both regular and sweet potato.  The regular fries turned out well, but not as crispy as I had hoped.  I think that I might have under-timed the first fry of the double frying process.  (In order to get fries nice and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside you first fry at 325, take them out for a few minutes, and then fry them at 375.)  Still, even though they were less crispy then I would have personally liked, they were well-loved.  The sweet potato fries presented a whole other problem in the second step of the double-fry process.  The sweet potatoes’ high sugar conten started to caramelize and almost burn at the high temp on the second fry.  The result was a little ugly, but was really tasty—a little sugar, a little caramel, and some starch.

After the fries, the final deep-fry act was jalapeños in the beer batter.  Not unseeded these little guys packed a mean but delicious punch.  (The heat of all pepper resides with the pepper’s oil which is mainly found in the seeds.)

Some of the Spread

There were grand plans for onion rings and Meg’s idea to turn string cheese and breadcrumbs into fried mozarela sticks… but alas the night was getting on, there was poker to play, and bellies were full from the first rounds of deep frying.

At some point in the poker game Meg broke out the chilli that she started along with the deep frying.  Coming about 4 hours and countless beers after the end of the deep frying and that start of poker it was a welcome warm treat.

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