Recently Dave and I bought a cast iron dutch oven from our beloved Ace Hardware/Quincaillerie Azores (on St Laurent just below Marie-Anne). Apart from learning we really shouldn’t cook acidic foods like applesauce in it (ask me how I know!), and using it as an secondary pan when cooking breakfast (bacon and sausages cook up just fine), we really hadn’t put it to good use.
Dave had an idea up his sleeve: use it as a deep fryer! And what a genius idea it was. We believe in not eating junk food unless we cook it ourselves (exceptions include the occasional poutine from La Banquise or Chef Guru, we’re not perfect afterall). So it was only natural we attempt to make deep fried, well . . . everything. It wasn’t the first time we were deep frying, but it was the first time using a dutch oven, and I give it a hearty thumbs up!
First, we prepped everything: an onion from our week’s farm share got cut into rings, a couple of potatoes into fries, and shrimp got shelled. Canola oil got poured in the dutch oven, roughly about half full, a candy thermometer clipped on the side, and the heat set to medium to let it gently heat up.
Then, a beer batter got mixed up. The recipe I used was based off the batter for battered fried vegetables out of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I have the app on my ipod touch, and I highly recommend it as an easy way to have access to a zillion recipes, even while on the bus or in a metro tunnel far away from any sort of internet access (in a few years the whole metro will probably be wired up with wifi and then this will sound strange).
In a soup bowl I mixed together:
- roughly a little less than a bowlful of flour
- a teaspoon of baking powder
- salt and pepper
- an egg
- about half a bottle of beer (I used a bottle of Dieu du ciel‘s Blanche du Paradis that had been kicking around our fridge for too long, waste not want not!)
I mixed it all up with a whisk until it resembled pancake batter (and in the process transferred it to a much bigger bowl, because the risk of overflow in the soup bowl was huge). Then I set up a little production line next to the dutch oven: food to be coated, flour and batter. One set of tongs tossed the onions and shrimp with the flour then dropped them into the batter. Another set of tongs lifted them out of the batter and dropped them in the hot oil (we tried to keep it around 350F, but it went up and down as we cooked). A variation on the “one hand wet, one hand dry” rule for battering well, just about anything. And it worked, the tongs didn’t get all gummed up like they otherwise do.
For the fries, we cooked them twice. First, we cooked them at 325F until they looked blond/lightly golden brown. We drained then and let them sit on some paper towel while we cooked up the battered shrimp and onion. Then we cooked them a second time at 375F until they looked done. It was quite a bit higher in actuality, and the oil sputtered a bit, but we put the lid on top and it worked out ok.
Look at all this delicious food:
Can you imagine that this is one onion, two small potatoes and a pound of shrimp? Looks more like food for an army! Po’boys for lunch, hurrah!
Some helpful hints:
- A candy/fryer thermometer is really helpful to keep an eye on the temperature.
- As Bittman pointed out in his tips for deep frying, there’s always a possibility of a grease fire so its better to be prepared: either have a fire extinguisher, a box of baking soda or a lid nearby to be able to suffocate the flames if ever a fire were to happen. It most probably won’t, but it’s better to be prepared (we can say this from experience, after nearly burning down our balcony because of a charcoal bbq experience gone haywire, it’s better to have whatever you need nearby, than to be running for it in case of emergency).
- While food right out of the deep frying is BURNING hot, it cools down quickly. If you’re doing multiple batches, keep them warm in the oven while you cook the rest.