So I love how when January rolls around all the food magazines and cooking shows are all suddenly promoting "heathy eating." This past Saturday, Food Network was devoted to it. Both Anne Burrel and Tyler Florence made steamed fish tucked away in a cozy little pocket made of parchment paper (although at the end, Tyler still put about 4 tablespoons of a compound butter on his fish. I'm kind of making fun of it, but I totally get it. From Halloween through New Years Eve, it becomes two months of non-stop indulgence and I am no different. I ate lots of chocolate, I couldn't GET enough bread, and my drinking was putting me on a fast track to needing a liver transplant. Come New Years day I vowed to turn my life around. However not even a week went by and I was soon heating up a dutch oven full of oil to deep fry myself some onion rings.
Listen you guys, I'm sort of obsessed with deep frying. As I mentioned before, for New Years Eve I fried some olives that were stuffed with Italian sausage and coated in Panko. And then a few nights later, I fried up some fontina stuffed risotto balls, also coated with Panko. And on a recent episode of Jamie at Home, Jamie braised rabbit in white wine until it was almost but not quite falling apart and then fried it. I so want to give that a try. But I wasn't always like this. In my old apartment I once tried to make fried chicken but in the end, the whole thing seemed like such an ordeal and it felt like the entire kitchen was slicked with grease that I had little to no interest in revisiting frying.
However, a while ago I was reading in one of my cookbooks (I can't remember which one, but it might have been either Sunday Suppers at Lucques or maybe The Zuni Cafe Cookbook) and the author was wistfully remembering back to one of his or her culinary influences. This person apparently was fearless in the kitchen and an example of it was that she would fry things at the drop of a hat. For some reason, that idea has stuck with me. I liked the idea of that sort of spontaneity with out concern about cleanup. I wanted to be like that. After reading it I pictured casual gatherings of friends all hanging out drinking wine or beer and suddenly I'd call out, "Hey! Let's make some pomme frites!" One friend would peel and slice potatoes. I'd be manning the dutch oven full of oil, bringing it up to temperature, WITHOUT a thermometer (I'd just know when it was hot enough). Another friend would be whipping up a bowl of aioli to dip the frittes in and yet another friend would be refilling all of our wine glasses. Perhaps outside, someone else would be grilling up steaks using a stem of rosemary plucked from the garden to brush them with good olive oil. I mean, doesn't that sound so fun? Of course in my head, all of this took place in my rustic farmhouse surrounded my by own vineyard.
As romantic as the idea of careless spontaneity is, my frying obsession is also prompted a great deal by frugality. I just hate to throw things away and I'd only fried a couple handfuls of olives in six cups of oil. I wanted to get my money's worth out if it before I ditched it. As long as you strain the oil through cheese cloth or paper towels to remove any particles, you can reuse the oil several times - just store the oil in a cool dark place. After the olives and risotto balls I kept wondering, "What can I fry next?" I looked around my kitchen and my eyes landed on a bowl of onions. Bingo!