Tempura night ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

21 March 2007

Tempura night

Hey I know! Let's deep fry!

Actually, this was more like pan frying, albeit with a prodigious amount of peanut oil.

I had been wanting tempura for days on end. Days! Of course it is an excellent idea to fry the living guts out of the entire crisper drawer, especially since its contents were bought specifically for just that purpose. Behold:

red peppers
green peppers
serrano peppers
little anaheim peppers
red jalapeno peppers

and not just peppers! also:
whole garlic cloves
yellow onions

You can clearly add whatever other vegetable your heart desires, or things like shrimp, if you happen to swing that way. We happened to swing toward hot peppers.

Apparently, when you deep fry peppers, their heat is entirely killed. I don't know what the deal is chemically, but I do know that I was able to eat every single one of these as finger food with no qualm whatever. It was great. So if you like the taste of hot peppers but don't want to spend an hour with a milk poultice on your tongue, this might be the way to go.

I also hold the mushroom in extremely high regard. If I were the only one eating, I would have upped the proportions so severely as to ascend to deep-fried mushroom heaven. However, I was not. This does mean I got all the mushrooms to myself, though! Yay!

The onion and garlic family was pretty awesome as well, if a little hard to turn due to slice curvature. For garlic, I used whole, peeled cloves. The tempura batter doesn't like to stick to them, since they're rounded, but that's ok--the end result is strongly like oven-roasted garlic, but firmer. Scallions were also a good idea, since you got the green vegetable meltiness along with the onion flavor. Everyone dove for the scallions. The yellow onion tasted great, but was hardest to cook. Onion slices do not like to lie flat. You also definitely want to separate layers of onion and fry them individually, as otherwise they have a tendency to fall apart in midair over hot oil. Good idea!

This experience made it apparent why so many people use frozen poppers for deep frying (if they're going to fry anything at all). The batter? If it is in liquid form, it will be very excited (ha! almost a physics joke!) and try its best to fly all over the kitchen when you put it into the pan. Hey, so will the oil! Double trouble! The solution to this is to NEVER DROP ANYTHING. Make sure to place each vegetable directly on the pan, and you should be fine. Frozen batter, in contrast, is unable to fly anywhere. Be aware. I might even do some experimental battering and freezing for use in future. That's what we should have done with the leftover batter! Damn it!

Ok ok.

First, choose vegetables. Wash and dry them thoroughly; water plus hot oil equals lots of splatter. Cut them into pleasing chunks. Use anything you want; it will be awesome. The only thing to take into consideration is whether anything will end up totally doughy in the middle. For instance, broccoli has a tendency to trap batter so far inside its bits that it won't get cooked. You also might not want to use vegetables that are eaten raw, such as radish, although who knows? You might want to try it. Other than that, though, I think you're home free.

Make the batter.

1 egg
1 cup cold water
1 cup flour

Beat the egg in an adequate bowl. Add water and flour and stir to mix. Everything I've seen online tells you not to overmix, but our batter turned out fine even though we ended up beating and beating to get out all the lumps. It's also apparently important to keep the batter cold. This was no problem on our end, as the flour lives in the freezer.

Do not double the recipe unless you are feeding a party; you will have had plenty of oil by the time you're mostly through the first batch.

Now it is time to fry.

peanut oil
adequately deep frying pan
paper towels and cookie racks for draining

Put your pan over high heat for a few minutes. It should be pretty hot for tempura. Add several good glugs of peanut oil. If you were using a traditional deep fryer, or even a more traditional deep frying method, you would want more oil. We decided to just see what we could do in a shallow pan, since a grease fire is clearly an excellent bad idea. Heat your oil until hot but not smoking. You may need to adjust the heat down a little, but not too much. The oil will conduct the heat, keeping it uniform and preventing most scorch.


Using the tongs, dip a piece of vegetable into the batter. Let the excess drip off, then set it directly onto the pan. Watch out for oil spatters. Repeat until the pan is full. Let your veggies sit for a few minutes, then check to see if they need to turn. (In a deep fryer, of course, you don't need to turn anything.) You want a nice golden brown crust. Let cook a few minutes on the other side, then remove to paper towels. Salt immediately, so it gets absorbed well.

Eat as soon as you aren't going to burn your fingers. Repeat until glutted with oil. Bring the plate you can't eat next door and share it with your neighbors. Delicious.


B. said...

This is the most consistently tasty-sounding food blog I've ever stumbled across. Good show!

eileen said...

Why, thank you!