Posts Tagged ‘frying’

image

There is a huge battle going on about the safety of canola oil. Canola oil is made with genetically modified seeds which are doused with Monsanto’s Round-Up, so if you’re trying to avoid GMO’s and possible carcinogens in your family’s diet, you have one choice: stop using canola oil.

Canola gets its name from “Canada” and ‘Oil.” There is no “canola plant.” There is, however, something called rapeseed, which canola oil comes from. The “rape” comes from the latin “rapum,” which means “turnip,” but you can see how something called rapeseed oil wouldn’t work with the public. So: Canola it became.

Rapeseed plants have been grown for thousands of years, not for edible oils, but for lamp oils and lubricants. The presence of erucic acid, some nasty stuff that nobody really wants to eat, made it unsafe for human consumption. Rapeseed oil was in high demand during World War II for its industrial applications. After the war, the demand for rapeseed oil diminished, and it was only in the 1970’s that scientists were able to wean out the erucic acid out of rapeseed to make canola, but they had to use nasty compounds like hexane to do it. (Hexane is used as a solvent and cleaning agent in other applications, and has a long list of side effects according to the EPA: http://www.epa.gov/airtoxics/hlthef/hexane.html.)

It was in 1998 that the GMO was born when scientists developed a strain of rapeseed that could withstand herbicides like Round-Up, which is what almost all of canola is made from today. Personally, I don’t want to eat any plant that can withstand (and certainly absorb)  herbicides and pesticides.

So what about the other oils out there? If you’re staying away from canola oil, the bad news is you need to stay away from these oils as well: soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and even peanut oil and grapeseed oil. Many use Round-Up ready seeds, and most are treated with hexane.

The best oils to cook with: coconut oil, avocado oil and pork lard (or leaf lard) from humane family farms for high-heat cooking, and butter and olive oil for low-to-medium heat. (Go for a local olive oil, if possible. There have been many false label issues with imported olive oils as well.)

Basically, what our grandparents used is what we should use. Go figure. Maybe that’s why most of my grandparents lived well into their 90’s.

 

Calamari is the official appetizer of the state of Rhode Island. And for good reason. Squid means big business, and what we catch in Rhode Island accounts for up to 50% of the east coast’s quota every year! Squid have a lifespan of 12 to 18 months, reproduce twice a year, and can be caught year-round, with very few catch limitations, making it lucrative for fishermen.

Great fried calamari is an art form. It may seem like a simple dish, but to make it light and crispy, you need to be on your game. That’s why it can be a real hit-or-miss item on most restaurant menus. And there’s nothing worse than getting what would have been a great plate of calamari had the chef not decided to pour sauce all over it, turning the crispy cephalopod into mush.

What makes great fried calamari are three basic elements: it needs to be wild caught in the US (preferably Rhode Island!) and properly cleaned…it needs to be fried at the right temperature for the right amount of time so that it’s perfectly cooked and not greasy…and the coating needs to be light and crispy.

calamari

 

1 lb. wild caught cleaned squid (thaw if frozen)

1 cup flour (I use gluten-free these days)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1  teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup milk

1 large egg

oil, for frying (I use avocado oil)

Thaw the squid and slice into bite-sized rings. In a bowl, whisk the milk and the egg together. Toss in all the squid pieces into the bowl to coat. Place the bowl in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

In another bowl, combine flour, oregano, paprika, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Fill a large pan halfway with oil…or use a deep fryer if you have one. Heat the oil to 350 degrees.

Working in small batches, remove the squid from the milk and egg mixture, let some of it drip off, then place the squid in the flour mixture and toss to coat. Shake off any excess flour and place immediately into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Serve immediately with tartare sauce, tomato sauce, hot peppers, whatever you like. (But keep the sauces on the side for dipping.)

About the oil: I cook almost exclusively with olive oil. But for hot frying like this recipe requires, I go with avocado oil, which can take higher temperatures.

It’s always a challenge when you’re on a diet. I’m going no alcohol and low-carb to lose some weight. (Down 6 lbs. in 5 days so far.) My wife needs to include gluten-free food in her diet, though she can have a few carbs. Fish is a great source of protein, and we love it sauteed in a little butter and olive oil with Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Magic seasoning on it. But let’s face it, that gets old after a while, and we all know there’s nothing tastier than fried fish.

Rather than using a heavy beer batter like I used to do (damn good and easy to do:http://wp.me/p1c1Nl-en), I came up with a very light gluten-free-flour-based seasoning that gave the fresh-caught local fish we bought incredible flavor and crunch without a carb overload and without gluten. Damn good, and I have to say, you’d never know the difference.

There are many gluten-free flours out there now, and all you need to do is substitute them cup-for-cup in any recipe you have. I’ve tried Bob’s Red Mill (OK), King Arthur (better), and Pamela’s (very good–what I used for this recipe.) I’ve just ordered the latest: Cup 4 Cup, created by chefs that include the famous Thomas Keller, which we tasted at Mario Batali’s Del Posto restaurant in New York City recently. They have about 12 different pasta dishes on their menu, and each one has a gluten-free option using the Cup 4 Cup flour. They were fantastic!

image

 

1 cup flour (all-purpose or gluten-free)

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon granulated onion

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon paprika

2 eggs

fresh locally caught fish fillets of your choice (I used fluke and ocean perch)

Organic GMO-free canola oil or avocado oil for frying

 

In a flat bowl you will use to dredge the fish fillets, combine the flour, salt and pepper, parsley, oregano, granulated onion and garlic, and paprika.

In a separate flat bowl, scramble the 2 eggs.

Pour about 1/2″ of the oil in a pan and heat to medium-high heat.

Dip the fish fillets first in the eggs, coating well. Then dredge in the flour mixture, pressing down on both sides, so the flour mixture really sticks to the fish. Then shake the fillet lightly to remove the excess flour and gently lay the fillet in the hot oil. Fry until golden.

We made a quick and delicious tartare sauce using mayonnaise, dill pickle relish and Maille sauterne mustard.

 

THE BATTLE OVER CANOLA OIL

Posted: February 6, 2014 in Food, frying
Tags: , , ,

image

There is a huge battle going on about the safety of canola oil. The majority of canola oil is made with genetically modified seeds, so if you’re trying to avoid GMO’s in your family’s diet, you have 2 choices: stop using canola oil or buy non-GMO canola oil. Until a few hours ago, I didn’t know the latter even existed.

Canola gets its name from “Canada” and ‘Oil.” There is no “canola plant.” There is, however, something called rapeseed, which canola oil comes from. The “rape” comes from the latin “rapum,” which means “turnip,” but you can see how something called rapeseed oil wouldn’t work with the general public. So: Canola it became.

Rapeseed plants have been grown for thousands of years, not for edible oils, but for lamp oils and lubricants. The presence of erucic acid, some nasty stuff that nobody really wants to eat, made it unsafe for human consumption. But rapeseed oil was in high demand during World War II for its industrial applications. After the war, the demand for rapeseed oil diminished, and it was only in the 1970’s that scientists were able to wean out the erucic acid out of rapeseed to make canola. (This was done without genetically modifying the plant. That technology did not exist yet.)

It was in 1998 that the GMO was born when scientists developed a strain of rapeseed that could withstand herbicides, which is what about 85% of canola is made from today. Personally, I don’t want to eat any plant that can withstand (and certainly absorb) gallons of herbicides or pesticides. No thanks, Monsanto.

So what about the other oils out there? If you’re staying away from canola oil because of GMO’s, I’ve got news for you: you need to stay away from so-called vegetable oil (which is soybean oil), corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and even peanut oil. 

The best oils to cook with: olive oil, avocado oil, and unrefined coconut oil. There are such things as good fats, and these oils have them.

As for non-GMO canola oil? I’m a bit skeptical, but I’m willing to give it a chance. After all, I still need my occasional fried food fix once in a while.

On an episode of “Top Chef,” Wolfgang Puck had the competing chefs make an omelet, something you would think they could do blindfolded. They all failed. An omelet may be a simple dish, but creating a really great omelet is an art form. It’s the same with fried calamari. When I see it on a menu, I almost always order it, because it’s my litmus test for the meal ahead. If the chef screws it up, I know he or she either doesn’t have the chops, or doesn’t care, and that will reflect on the other food served as well.

To me, what makes great friend calamari are three basic elements: it needs to be wild caught in the US and properly cleaned…it needs to be fried at the right temperature for the right amount of time so that it’s perfectly cooked and not greasy…and the coating needs to be light and crispy. This recipe does it for me…

calamari

Ingredients:

1 lb. wild caught cleaned squid (thaw if frozen)

2 cups flour (I use 00 flour, but all purpose is OK, too)

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup milk

1 large egg

oil, for frying ( I use non-GMO canola oil or peanut oil)

Thaw the squid and slice into bite-sized rings. In a bowl, whisk the milk and the egg together. Toss in all the squid pieces into the bowl to coat. Place the bowl in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

In another bowl, combine flour, oregano, paprika, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Fill a large pan halfway with oil…or use a deep fryer if you have one. Preheat the oil to 350 degrees.

Working in small batches, remove the squid from the milk and egg mixture, let some of it drip off, then place the squid in the flour mixture and toss to coat. Shake off any excess flour and place immediately into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 4 or 5 minutes. Serve immediately with tartare sauce, tomato sauce, hot peppers, whatever you like.

Commentary on oil: I cook almost exclusively with olive oil. But for hot frying like this recipe requires, I go with non-GMO canola oil…or peanut oil if that’s not available. Despite what you read, most oils that are hailed as “healthy:” regular canola, corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower…are bad for you. But if you fry your food at the proper temperature using good clean oil, very little oil will stay on your food.

Fried food has not had a good reputation. Everyone automatically thinks that it’s bad for you. That fact is, if it’s done right, fried food is delicious and not greasy at all.

When you fry at home, you can do things the right way: start with clean oil, heat it to the right temperature, and then throw it out when it’s done. When you go to a fast-food place, that oil has been sitting there all day (if not all week)…it’s been used hundreds of times…it absorbs the flavors of whatever was fried before your food got dropped in there…and quite frankly, it’s beat up.

What got me started with this whole beer-batter-at-home process was stumbling upon some amazing fresh local cod at my neighborhood seafood store: Bridgeport Seafood in Tiverton, Rhode Island. My buddy, Dave, said that the cod came from just off Sakonnet Point that day. Good enough for me!

 

Beer Battered Fish

I use vegetable oil and, using a thermometer, heat it to 350 degrees. I always watch the temp of my oil…it can get too hot very quickly…and by the same token, the temp can drop quickly if I throw in a whole bunch of fish into the pot all at once. Using one of those deep fryers made for home use is also a good way of cooking and controlling temperature. I’m careful not to put too much oil in my pot (halfway up is fine) or it could spill over, since oil expands as it gets hotter.

 

Here’s all you need for great beer batter:

 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)

12 oz bottle of beer (Sam Adams Boston Lager works for me)

1 teaspoon salt

 

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in fridge for 3 hours.

Cut your fish into pieces that aren’t too big and will fit in your pot easily. Thickness of the fish may vary and so may the cooking times of each piece. When the oil reaches 350, simply dip the fish into the batter and let as much batter drip off as you like before you carefully place the fish into the oil. Fry until golden brown.

 

beer batter

 

 

What good is fried fish without tartare sauce, right? Don’t tell me you’re using the stuff in a jar after frying the fish yourself!

 

 

Alz Tartare Sauce

 

1/2 cup mayo

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Dash of Frank’s Red Hot cayenne sauce

Grinding of black pepper

1 Tablespoon finely chopped capers

1 teaspoon lemon zest, using micro plane zester

 

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate for an hour before using.

The fact that I can’t remember a damn thing anymore has actually worked in my favor when it comes to getting recipe ideas from television. I can no longer get the exact ingredients down and so I wind up make stuff up as I go along. The end result: my own original take on a particular recipe.
A perfect example of that was a few months ago when I was watching Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich In America on the Travel Channel, which featured some of the most innovative sandwiches from around the country. I was particularly intrigued by the methods used by the folks at Faidley’s in Baltimore to make their famous crab cake sandwich. I jotted down what I thought they did (of course, they don’t reveal their recipe secrets) and I wound up creating the best crab cake I’ve ever made:
Alz Crab Cakes

1 pound crab meat
1/3 cup oyster crackers
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/2 cup mayo/mustard blend

To make the mayo/mustard blend, combine 4 parts mayonnaise to 1 part mustard. You your favorite. I use Maiile Chablis mustard, but it’s only available in France. (See my previous blog about the Maille mustard shop in Paris.) However, Maille Dijon mustard is great, too. Set aside.

Take the oyster crackers and pulse them in a food processor until it resembles oatmeal…not too fine.

In a bowl, gently mix all the ingredients. With your hands, form small crab cake balls, like meatballs. Place on a tray lined with foil, and pop in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to set.
Heat oil in a pan to 375 degrees. Gently drop the crab cakes into the oil, and fry for only 10 to 15 seconds. Flip over, and fry 10 to 15 seconds more, just to form a light crust. Don’t over-fry or they will fall apart!

Drain crab cakes on paper towels and enjoy.

Any leftover mayo/mustard works great as a tartar dipping sauce, or a spread if you’re making a crab cake sandwich. Just finely chop some pickles, add a splash of Worcestershire and/or hot sauce, and mix with the mayo/mustard.

This recipe works equally well with a light, flaky fish, like cod. Combine mayo/mustard mix with Old Bay. Slather the fish in it, then roll the fish in the crumbs and fry in oil.

 

Don’t let the fact that your brain isn’t what it used to be get you down. Take advantage of it! You just might come up with an original recipe that blows the doors off anything you copy down word for word.