There are two words in the English language that set most of us quivering: fried food. For me it is a rare treat, but I always get more than my fill when I attend a friend's annual Hanukkah celebration. All year I look forward to the crispy latkes, succulent fritters, and filled doughnuts. (The oil commemorates the miracle of the Maccabees, in which one night's worth of lamp oil miraculously lasted for eight days.)
Related: Easy Holiday Cocktail Party Bites
She always makes several variations of latkes, including the classic latke, and potato-parmesan pancakes served with creamed-spinach dip, as well as jalapeno popper fritters with tomato salsa, and for dessert, chocolate hazelnut fritters, poached pear fritters (seen above), and the jelly doughnuts known as sufganiyot.
Like all cooking, once you know the basics, you can turn out just about anything, and frying is no exception. Here are the four frying rules for success:
Temperature Matters: The oil (vegetable is a good choice) should be at 350 degrees, ensuring quick, thorough cooking with a minimum of oil absorption, which leads to soggy foods. A deep-fry thermometer is an invaluable tool, but in a pinch, drop some batter into the oil and if it bubbles, floats to the top, and cooks quickly without turning black, it's the right temperature.
See also: The Rules of Regifting
Never Crowd the Pan or Fryer: When you cook several items at once, it brings down the temperature, which results in greasier food, so only cook a few at a time, and always test the temperature before the next batch.
Remove Any Food Residue: After frying each batch, remove any blackened bits or overcooked pieces and discard. Each batch should be cooked in clean 350 degree oil.
Drain and Enjoy: Place fried food on a paper-towel lined plate and season, if needed, before eating. The longer fried foods sit, the less crispy they become, so invite people to gobble them up as they are done. If you have to make things ahead of time, leave them uncovered on the lined plate. Or, just tell your guests the food is all soggy and scarf them up yourself!
More from Epicurious.com:
• A Festival of Bites: The Ultimate Hanukkah Menu
• Epicurious's Hanukkah Gift Guide
• One-Dish Wonders: Our Favorite Casserole Recipes
• Blue-Ribbon Chicken Recipes
SUPPER CLUB PICK
My after-school snack was a sacred ritual. I sat on the carpet in my parents' bedroom at a low table, the television turned to "I Dream of Jeannie," and ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich cut into neat squares. I wasn't fussy about crusts. I just loved the sticky pairing of creamy peanut butter with syrupy golden sweetness drizzled from a honey bear in diagonals across the soft white bread. Nothing else--save for maybe apples and peanut butter in a pinch--could have made for as sweet an