“Cactus-Cut” Potatoes

Cactus-Cut Potatoes

I had some leftover potatoes that I’d cut for the gratin I showed you on Monday.  The Pie suggested that we attempt to fry them up as thick potato chips, not unlike those of a popular restaurant chain.

Cactus-Cut Potatoes

So we did.  This is a few inches of vegetable oil in a large saucepan. You heat it on medium-high (like at 7 or 8) until a pinch of flour dropped in goes all fizzy.

Cactus-Cut Potatoes

Then I fried the potatoes in batches until they were slightly crispy, but not too dark.

Cactus-Cut Potatoes

Stirring often with my big mesh spoon.

Cactus-Cut Potatoes

Plop them on a paper towel to drain and immediately salt them.

Cactus-Cut Potatoes

We had them with a chicken sandwich and some salad.  It makes up a bit for the grease.

Cactus-Cut Potatoes

Deep-Fried Dinner

Deep-Fried Dinner

For the Pie’s birthday dinner, we decided to try deep-frying for the first time.  We’d been putting it off because, well, it’s incredibly unhealthy, it’s a dangerous fire risk, and our kitchen has no fume hood so we’d be dealing with the aromas of cooking oil for several days.

But we needed to learn (in the same way that we need to learn everything else we do here).  So we decided to try two different methods and make Buffalo chicken strips (with blue cheese dip) and some beer-battered onion rings.  Both recipes come from Martha Stewart’s Every Day Food magazine.  Both recipes involve buttermilk.

Now, though I’m presenting two different recipes here, I’m going to give the instructions to you in the order I did them, because that makes the most sense to me.  In order for you to differentiate the two recipes, I’ll preface instructions for the chicken with BCS and use OR for the onions.

BCS/OR: Turn your oven to 250°F.  Put some cooling racks on top of rimmed baking sheets and put those in the oven.  Those will be your warming and draining trays for your chicken and onions.
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OR: Slice 2lb onions into thick rounds and submerge them in 2 cups buttermilk for about an hour before cooking.  The buttermilk takes the acidic bite out of the onions, making them sweet and tender.  Just a warning: following this recipe results in a heckuva lotta onion rinks, so if you don’t want to fry up a million, I suggest halving it, or even quartering it.
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BCS: Crumble up 1 cup blue cheese (I used 400g here and it crumbled to about a cup) and 1/2 cup buttermilk.
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Stir that around and set it aside.
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Cut up some vegetables while you’re at it, why don’t you?  You’re about to consume pure fat — you should probably add in some vitamins.
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BCS/OR: Plop about 1 1/2 cups flour in a shallow dish and put that near your stove.  That’s for the batterin’.
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OR: Crack two eggs into a bowl.  Whisk ’em.
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Whisk in 1 bottle lager or pale ale.
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Whisk in 1 1/2 cups flour and 2 teaspoons coarse salt.  Set that near the stove as well.
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BCS: In yet another bowl, combine 1/3 cup hot sauce with 3 tablespoons butter.  Stir well and set that aside for now.
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Slice up 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts into finger-sized pieces.
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Dip them in 1 cup buttermilk.
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Then into that flour you have ready.
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Lay them out on a baking sheet.
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I think we’re about ready to start cooking.  While I’m sure you could do these two dishes at the same time, I am far from experienced with hot-oil cooking, rather prone to accidents, and I only have one large-sized element on my stove.  So I am going to cook the chicken first, as it doesn’t need to be crispy and can therefore sit in the oven for longer.

As a safety note, we had a box of baking soda handy at all times during this, in case of flareups.  Never leave hot oil unattended, and never, NEVER add additional oil of any kind or any temperature to oil that is already hot.

BCS: Heat 1/2 cup to 1 cup vegetable oil in a heavy skillet.  You can tell if the oil is hot enough for frying when a pinch of flour dropped into it fizzes rapidly.
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Slide a few chicken pieces in, working in batches.
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Cook for about 6-8 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the chicken is golden brown.  Remove the cooked chicken to the rack in the oven.
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This was a very spatter-y process, so I wore long sleeves and kept my face averted from the pan.  My hands kept getting burned from little splashes of oil.  In the end I pulled on a pair of work gloves to protect them and worked happily after that.
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Make sure to let that oil cool before you move it anywhere.

OR: In a large, wide saucepan, heat up 5 cups vegetable oil.  I know, that’s a lot of oil.
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Use a candy or deep-fry thermometer and continuously adjust the temperature of your element to keep the oil at 375°F.  If it gets too cold, it won’t cook the onions all the way through, and if it gets too hot, well … let’s not think about that.
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What was interesting was the cool pattern the oil made while it heated.
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Take a ring of onion out of the buttermilk and dip it in the flour, then into the beer batter.  Shake off the excess.
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Slide the ring carefully into the hot oil.  Cook in small batches, rotating halfway through, for about 5 minutes.  Remove to the other rack in the oven to drain and keep warm.  This method of frying was wayyyyy less spatter-y, if you were interested to know.
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We had a lot more onions left to cook after we had cooked as many as we thought we could eat.  We figured they would keep until tomorrow and we would try again.
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BCS: When everything is cooked and you are ready to go, take the chicken strips out of the oven and toss them in the hot sauce.  These will be served with the blue cheese dip we made earlier.
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OR: For the onions we had a nice tzatziki dip as well as a chipotle mayo.
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All told, it was pretty epic.
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Crispy Won Ton Crackers

Add a touch of the fancy to a regular meal by whipping up these super-easy crackers as an accompaniment.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 400°F.

Get yourself a package of won ton wrappers.  You could probably use round dumpling wrappers as well, but I haven’t tried those.  Separate each wrapper and brush both sides with melted butter, using a pastry brush.  If you want to be slightly healthier you can use vegetable oil, but I like the darkness the butter creates.  Place those suckers on your baking sheet.  Don’t fret if they don’t lie flat — they’re going to curl anyway.

Sprinkle the wrappers with salt and pepper.  I added a bit of premixed Tex-Mex spice for flava.  You could probably do a sweet version of these with brown sugar and cinnamon too.

Bake for 5-10 minutes, until the wrappers are crisp and full of bubbles, and they’re as dark and toasty as you want them to be.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool and then serve.

CRUNCH!