Every party needs finger food, and there's nothing like food that's been deep fried! I'm a big fan of tempura battered anything, and in this instructable we'll go over some of my favorites and how to properly prepare them.
There are big problems with having deep fried food at a party though. It takes a while, standing over a vat of hot oil, all bubbling and burning you when it pops. Then there's the lingering smell, which gets into everything and doesn't fade for several hours. And of course, if you've been drinking, playing with hot oil isn't the best idea! We've got a solution for that though: freeze it!
Step 1: Ingredients
Here's what you'll need:
- Tempura batter (home made or from a mix)
- Vegetable oil
- High walled pan
- Paper towels
- Mixing bowl
- Sharp knife
- Latex or neoprene gloves (if you're making poppers)
- Beer (optional)
- Jalapeños and cream cheese
- Chicken (with sesame seeds!)
- Green or under ripe red tomatoes
- Green beans
- Potatoes (french fries, anyone?)
- Candy Bars and/or oreos (or so I hear!)
- Bacon (can be added to any of the above)
A note about batter: I have tried to make tempura batter and other batters from scratch, and they never turn out well, they're always too runny or too chunky or fall apart when you try to fry them. Maybe I just haven't found the right recipe, but I discovered tempura batter mix a few months back, and I've decided it's the way to go. If I make it too runny, I can just add more mix, and it almost always turns out just right.
Step 2: Preparation
Get your working area ready. Set out a plate with a paper towel on it and get your tongs. Pour about 1 to 1-1/2 inches (25-40mm) of vegetable oil in the pan.
After you've prepped the ingredients (see the next five steps), mix up the batter and turn on your stove top. I find that on my stove the setting between medium and medium-high is perfect for veggies and meat, but anything with cheese needs to cook faster, so I go a couple of notches higher. If you've got a good thermometer for this, 375 F (190 C) is supposed to be right for veggies and meat, a bit higher for the cheesy bits. If you have no thermometer, flick a drop of water into the pan, and if it bubbles and pops, you're ready to go!
Always fry up just one of whatever you're cooking before you start adding a lot, as a test to see if you've got the temperature right.
Step 3: Zucchini
Zucchini, or summer squash, is one of my favorites and a real classic. With a crispy coat of tempura and the soft and delicious fruit inside, it's particularly good dipped in ranch. This is a good one for practice, as you don't have to do anything tricky with the batter or the temperature of the oil.
Remove the stem and base, and cut rounds of zucchini about 3/8-1/2 inch (9-12mm) thick. Dip the rounds in tempura batter and fry on one side until the bottom is a dark golden brown, flip and repeat. I like to have the batter pretty crispy for zucchini.
Step 4: Mushrooms
Oh man, fried mushrooms are a treat! You lock in all those umame juices when you fry them, they're savory and delicious. I like to use beer in place of water when prepping the tempura for mushrooms, it adds a lot to the flavor of the finished product.
If you can, find small button mushrooms. Unfortunately I can never find small ones, so I go with the really big ones, cut into quarters. Medium sized mushrooms are just too big to fry uncut and are too small when quartered or halved. Make sure the mushrooms you pick are firm, not squishy.
Dip in your beer based tempura and fry until golden brown.
Step 5: Broccoli
Some people will raise a skeptical eyebrow to this suggestion, but give it a try! The deep frying process brings out a different flavor in broccoli than you're probably used to, a lot fuller and richer than raw or steamed. They smell kind of strange but they taste phenomenal!
Tear off florets about 1-1/4" inches (30mm) long and wide. Cut the stem into one inch chunks as well, it tastes just as good! When you mix up the batter, make it just a little runny so that it really saturates the flowers.
Fry until golden brown, no need to overdo it.
Step 6: Jalapeno Poppers
Jalapeno poppers are the king of deep fried foods, and once you've tried a home made popper, you'll be hooked! Fresh jalapenos and cream cheese fried up in a thick layer of tempura batter, it's the best!
When working with fresh jalapeno peppers, always always always use gloves! I cannot stress this enough. Fresh jalapenos can range from mildly spicy to burn your face off spicy and I for one can't tell the difference from looking at them. The danger of course is getting capsaicin in cuts, or worse yet under fingernails or just plain soaked into the skin. I have ended up getting capsaicin in my eyes days after cutting jalapenos, no matter how many times I washed my hands in between. Wear gloves!
Remove the stem and cut them in half lengthwise. Remove all the seeds and pith from inside. Cut smaller peppers in half again, larger ones in thirds. Next, mound some cream cheese in each piece of jalapeno and set aside.
Mix the batter pretty thick, you want a good coating over the cream cheese. Cook them at a relatively high temperature, until dark golden brown. If you cook them hot and fast, the cheese won't have time to liquefy and run out and the jalapeno will still be firm.
Step 7: Mozzarella Sticks
Cheese stick are probably the trickiest of deep fried foods to make. Mozzarella has a tenancy to liquefy (see the pictures below).
First cut the cheese into 1/2 inch (12mm) square sticks about 3 inches (75mm) long. Stack them loosely on a plate and put them in the freezer for at least half an hour. Mix up your batter, make it kind of thick. Heat the oil, I use medium-high on my burner, but the best way to be sure is to test ONE piece before going whole hog. That was my mistake this time, I have done this before and had it work just fine. This time . . . it didn't go so well.
When the cheese is frozen, dip it in your thick batter and then fry it up in the oil. As soon as the batter browns, pull the stick out of the oil. It doesn't take long for the cheese to melt and run everywhere, forming into a gooey mass of cheese and oil and tempura. While it still tastes somwhat like a cheese stick, you will feel guilty and wrong eating it.
Step 8: Storing, Reheating, and Serving
When it comes time to serve your deep fried goodies, simply heat your oven to 425 F (220 C) and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet (I like to cover it in foil). Bake on one side for five minutes, flip and bake on the other side. Now you've got piping hot home made goodies ready for your guests to chow down on without having to take a bunch of time slaving over the stove and stinking up the place!
I like to dip my deep fried food, so having a selection of sauces on hand is a good idea too. Here are some of my faves:
* Honey mustard (Lighthouse brand is the best)
* Sweet and sour sauce
* Sweet chili sauce (Mae Ploy is king!)
* Chinese hot mustard
Step 9: Final Thoughts
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