A feast of fritters (and more)



Celebrate Hanukkah with these tasty fried treats

During Hanukkah, it's customary to eat foods cooked in oil in homage to the Biblical miracle of the Maccabees. (The Temple had only enough lamp oil to last one night, the story goes, but it somehow lasted for eight.) Latkes, of course, are the most common culinary symbol of that miraculous oil, but if you're looking for a change, there's a world of other options.

Here are five recipes that explore the creative possiblities for fried foods. Three are variations on fritters: Jalapeño poppers are a fun riff on the classic bar snack, poached pears are dipped in beer batter, and chocolate and hazelnuts come together in a confection reminiscent of a Creole beignet (see recipe below). Less closely related are samosas and risotto cakes- delicious examples of the different frying traditions that exist around the world.

If you're throwing a party, any or all of these would be perfect as hors d'oeuvres or on a buffet (though they're best soon after frying). Or serve them at different occasions throughout the eight-day celebration. However you have them, you'll be glad you looked beyond latkes this Hanukkah season.

Tips for perfect frying:

  • Pay Attention to Temperature

Foods are ideally deep-fried at 350°F-at this temperature, they'll cook quickly enough not to absorb the oil and get soggy, but slowly enough not to burn before they're done through. The best way to check the temperature of the oil is to use a clip-on deep-frying thermometer. Calibrate it periodically by checking that it reads 212°F in boiling water. If you don't have a thermometer, you can get an approximate idea of the temperature of the oil by dropping a small piece of batter into it. If the oil around the batter bubbles aggressively and the test piece floats but does not instantly brown or blacken, it's about right. In a pinch, it's better to err on the side of a slightly higher temperature.

  • Don't Overcrowd the Pan

Adding food to the oil causes its temperature to lower, so it's best not to cook more than three or four pieces at a time. And remember to allow the temperature to return to 350°F between batches.

  • Keep Things Clean

If small pieces of batter break off while frying, use a skimmer or spider to remove them before adding the next batch-otherwise, they'll continue to cook and could form little burned lumps that stick to subsequent batches.

  • Get 'Em While They're Hot

All deep-fried foods are best eaten straight out of the pan (after a brief drain on paper towels)-the longer they sit, the heavier and less crispy they'll get. Sprinkle on salt and seasonings immediately so they'll melt into the hot food, then serve as soon as possible. If you're celebrating casually, you can invite guests to gather in the kitchen and eat items as they're cooked. If you must wait a while before serving, keep things warm, uncovered, on a paper towel-lined plate in the oven.

  • Dispose Properly

It's not a good idea to pour large quantities of oil down your sink- it can coat the pipes, leading to backups and a rancid smell. A good alternative is to let the oil cool, then pour it into a large milk or orange juice carton filled with paper towels and throw the whole thing in the trash.

  • Simple Scaleup

If you're feeding a crowd, all of these recipes can be multiplied without problems.


Recipe:

Chocolate Hazelnut Fritters

Epicurious | November 2008

Yield: Makes about 18 fritters, serving 6 people

If you don't want to go to the trouble of roasting and peeling hazelnuts, you can substitute chopped walnuts here. Simply toast them briefly in a dry pan (and let them cool) to unlock their full flavor.

This recipe offers a choice of finishing touches; if you serve the fritters in hot batches straight from the fryer, you can invite guests to dust their own with their choice of topping.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup club soda
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus 6 to 8 cups for frying
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped*
  • 1/2 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted lightly and skinned (about 4 ounces)
  • Accompaniments: Chile or cayenne powder, confectioners' sugar, ground cinnamon, and/or unsweetened cocoa powder
  • *If you keep kosher and are serving these fritters with a meat meal, be sure to use kosher dark chocolate, which contains no milk solids

Preparation

In large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In medium bowl, whisk together club soda, vegetable oil, and egg. Whisk wet ingredients into dry, then fold in chocolate and nuts.

In heavy 4-quart pot, heat 3 inches of oil until thermometer registers 350°F. Working in batches of 4 and returning oil to 350°F between batches, drop batter by rounded tablespoons into hot oil and fry fritters until crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Serve immediately, offering chile powder, confectioners' sugar, cinnamon, and/or cocoa for dusting.


More Fried Fritters recipes:

Jalapeño Popper Fritters with Tomato Salsa

Mushroom and Thyme Risotto Cakes with Roasted Tomato and Arugula Salad

Curried Lamb Samosas with Apricot Chutney

Poached Pear Fritters


Text and recipes by Andrew Friedman, photo by Lara Ferroni


MORE FROM EPICURIOUS.COM

The Epicurious Editors' Blog

Food News and Views From All Over

Hanukkah Gifts for Less

Gourmet Baskets, Boxes, and Buckets for Under $100

Top 5 Kosher Wines

An International Mix of Top-Notch Varietals

A Meatless Miracle

Vegetarian Hanukkah Recipes From Around the World

Sumptuous Spreads

Feeding a Crowd for the Holidays? Try Serving Your Meal Buffet-Style