Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Light and Cripy Tempura

Hot oil burns my flesh(this is set to Japanese pop music) and then I deep fry a roll of paper towels!

I read cookbooks the way some women read romance novels, but I there are certain recipes that make me feel more like I'm reading a Stephen King novel. They fascinate and thrill me, but when I think about cooking them myself, I get scared.

So what am I afraid of? Lobsters attacking!? Sauces curdling!? Anything with live yeast!? Some complicated sounding French recipe, like Gigot d'Agneau à la Bretonne!? Yes! I mean, no! I mean Hell No! I am determined to conquer my culinary fears, and cook the very dishes that scare me most.

I've always steered away from anything requiring a vat of boiling oil. I love, love, love, fried food, but there's the whole mess... the oil splattering up, disfiguring and blinding me... the fact that fried food tastes best hot or it goes limp... grease on the walls, and the house smelling like a fry-o-later... and of course the next day what to do with a cool vat of oil. But I'm set on overcoming my fears, so tonight I made tempura.


Tips for Great Tempura

1. Keep the batter ingredients ice cold.

2. Don’t over beat the batter! You don’t want to activate the gluten in the flour, leading to a thick tough coating. We want it light and crispy.

3. Keep the oil hot, around 136 degrees F. Hot oil seals the outside of your coating, keeping it crispy. More tepid oil gives you the limp, greasy texture of bad burger stand fries.

Prepare the Tempura Vegetables and Seafood First

After trying all the vegetables, my favorite was the kabocha, a Japanese pumpkin. It becomes sweet and creamy with the crispy outer layer of batter. The scallions were also amazing-- just like onion rings, but a little fresher or cleaner tasting. I didn’t think the eggplant had much flavor, and the cilantro (which I usually love) was just weird and soapy tasting. I found that if I left the tempura pieces in the oil until very brown that although they were crispier, the vegetable flavor didn’t shine through – it just tasted like batter. It’s best to keep them a very light golden color.

1 zucchini, skin and cut into ¼” slices

1 Kabocha squash, the skin is edible so scrub well

1 bunch of parsley

Small handful of snow peas, leave whole

1 sweet potato or yam

1 red pepper, cut into 1 ½” by 1” pieces

Mushrooms, the best you can afford, wiped clean and if large sliced or halved

1 lb large raw scallops or raw, cleaned, peeled shrimp

The kabocha and sweet potato are so dense that I like to precook them a little in the microwave. Halve the kabocha, scoop out the seeds, and plate the halves along with the whole sweet potato. Poke a few holes in the potato with a knife and cover vegetables with wax paper. Microwave just until the flesh of each gives a little. Let cool until you can handle them and slice into ¼- ½ inch slices.

Prepare other vegetables and put all in a large bowl. All vegetables should be well dried so that the batter sticks. Rinse and pat dry scallops or shrimp.

Simple Batter

This is good, but next time I’ll try a batter with some corn meal to replace some flour for a little crunchy texture to the coating.

1 large egg, chilled

3/4 cup ice water

capful sake (optional)

¾ cup all purpose flour + 2 tablespoons, chilled

¼ cup rice flour, cornstarch, or all flour, chilled (you can grind your own rice flour in a coffee/spice grinder or blender)

1 lemon, quartered

Vegetable oil to come up 2-3 inches in your pot

Pop the flour and rice flour into the freezer an hour or so before cooking to chill it quickly. Beat the egg and mix well into the ice water. Using chopsticks or a fork, gently blend in flours, until just combined, small lumps are ok. Heat oil to 365 degrees with a candy/fry thermometer, and preheat oven to 200 degrees. Put a large sheet pan in the oven to transfer the tempura to as you cook each batch.

Dip the vegetables into the batter. Let excess batter fall off. Carefully slide the battered vegetables into the hot oil. Let them brown on one side then gently flip them, using long metal tongs or a slotted spoon. Fry until they are a very light golden color. Save the scallops or shrimp until all vegetables are done, to keep the vegetables from taking on a fishy flavor. Lightly dredge seafood in the flour, shake off the excess, dip into batter, and slide into the oil.

Serve with lemon slices and my dipping sauce below.

Dipping Sauce

¼ cup rice wine vinegar
soy sauce
hot Asian chili sauce, I use Sriracha brand

Mix soy sauce and hot sauce into dipping bowl of vinegar to taste.

Click this image to see my FoodMuse Fondue Party video (3 min.)


Below are links to some of my very good recipes and funny things like spatchcocking and sex toys.

Silicone is not just for Boobs! and my Favorite Juicy Easy Roast Chicken recipe.

Cool photos of a shocking spatchcocking.

Dirty, dirty, dirty banana! Sex toys and my Quick Banana Bread with chocolate chips recipe.

Fact: Wooden cutting boards are more sanitary than plastic for raw meat! and a really yummy Jalapeno Popper recipe. Sweet, salty, spicy goodness.

I did not want to give out my dinner party secret weapon, but for you how could I say no. Here is my Nirvana Chicken Curry recipe. So easy, so good.

Simple Scrod recipe, yummy, quick and juicy. Scrod: a fish that isn't a fish.

The only tomato sauce recipe you will ever need.


cucina testa rossa said...

GREAT site! i LOVE the tempura video! bon appetit!

Jed Sorokin-Altmann said...

Hmm..... I must confess, after viewing your tempura video, I am more terrified of making it than I was before! :P Might I ask for you to share your thoughts on how to avoid getting oil in one's eyes, on one's arms/hands, and otherwise not in the pot where it belongs, or is it an inevitable hazard of making deep fried foods?