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« Breakfast Tomatoes – a Winter Indulgence | Main | An Anniversary Weekend in Healdsburg »
Tuesday
Jan112011

5 Tips for Perfect Tempura

By Katie Barreira

Maybe deep frying doesn’t exactly jive with your New Year’s resolutions, but I’m a firm believer that the only way to avoid temptation is to give into it, just a little. Plus, frying at home allows you to control the batter consistency (just a thin coating, please), oil temperature and cooking time, all key in side-stepping the grease soaked goodies that we pledge to avoid without entirely shunning fried food.

Follow these words of tempura wisdom and you can indulge (occasionally, I must remind myself) in fried food that is sinfully crispy, but fresh and light enough to pass the resolution police.

The Tempura Commandments:

COLD BATTER: Our current test kitchen intern, Esther Choi, used to work back of the house in an excellent Japanese restaurant with a tempura-friendly menu. I asked her about the secrets of first-rate tempura and she swears by ice-cold batter. At the restaurant, they mixed ice cubes directly into the batter and kept the batter refrigerated at all times, only removing it long enough to coat an order of tempura that was ready to fry.

HOT OIL: In order to avoid soggy, grease-logged tempura, make sure your fry oil reaches 375 degrees on a candy thermometer or that a drop of batter immediately sizzles and rises to the surface. Only fry with oils that have a high smoke point (these are oils that aren’t as prone to burning). Most commonly, this is canola oil, but for flavor and health purposes, I would spring for grape seed or sunflower oil, especially since they can be saved and reused for future frying. Avocado oil is also lovely if you can find it and for the crispiest coating imaginable, try coconut oil (the trick is saturated fat).

STARCH BLEND: For a delicate coating, lighten up leaden, all-purpose flour with a softer starch like cornstarch, tapioca flour or potato flour. Add a pinch of baking soda to your flour blend to amp up the crunch.

EFFERVESENCE: The bubbles in carbonated liquids like seltzer water, club soda and beer infuse the batter with air, making it extra light.

CONSISTENCY: Batter should be loose, but not watery. To test, dip the handle of a wooden spoon into the batter and remove quickly; most of the batter should fall back into the bowl, leaving a thin, but even coating on the spoon. If battering something with a slippery or moist surface, like calamari, dust in all-purpose flour before coating so the batter adheres better during cooking.

Fried Calamari
1 pound cleaned calamari rings and tentacles
1 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
¼ cup cornstarch (or tapioca flour, or potato flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Salt
1 cup seltzer water
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Fry oil (canola, grape seed, safflower, etc.)

1. In a large bowl, combine calamari and milk; refrigerate 1 hour to tenderize and mitigate any fishiness. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together ¾ cup of the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and ¾ teaspoon salt. Whisk in the seltzer until smooth, then whisk in the lemon zest. Refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Pour oil into a large pot or Dutch oven to reach a depth of 2 inches and heat over medium-high until a candy thermometer reads 375 degrees or a drip of batter immediately sizzles and rises to the surface.

3. Drain calamari well and toss with remaining ½ cup flour. Add a few ice cubes to the batter and whisk to recombine. Working in 4 batches, toss the calamari in the batter to coat then transfer to the hot oil using tongs. Fry, turning halfway through, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt while still hot. Serve immediately.

Drunkin’ Green Bean Tempura
To keep the vegetables as crisp as their coating, soak in ice water for 5 minutes and pat dry before coating. This recipe is equally delicious with asparagus.

½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
Salt
3/4 cup beer (I like Asahi in this batter)
Fry oil
1 pound green beans or asparagus, trimmed

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, sesame seeds and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk in the beer until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Pour oil into a large pot or Dutch oven to reach a depth of 2 inches and heat over medium-high until a candy thermometer reads 375 degrees or a drip of batter immediately sizzles and rises to the surface.

3. Add a few ice cubes to the batter and whisk to recombine. Working in 4 batches, toss the green beans in the batter to coat then transfer to the hot oil using tongs. Fry, turning halfway through, until golden, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt while still hot. Serve immediately*

*Tempura is best served right away, but can be kept warm in a 200-degree oven.

Special Fork bloggers blog Monday through Friday. For more everyday recipes and ideas on your smartphone, check us out at www.specialfork.com.

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Reader Comments (1)

Delicious recipe. Thanks for sharing it.

January 26, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbuy celebrex

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