Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fritto Misto for Brainwashing

This is adapted from a recipe in Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking.* I glanced past the recipe a gazillion times, because it’s for battered shrimp, and that just didn’t pique my interest, for reasons mentioned a little further on. However, once I knew I wanted to make fritto misto, I noticed that Marcella (yep. Still call her that in my head. It’s stuck that way) mentions that the batter is commonly used for all kinds of things from Rome down to Palermo. Upon reading that, a little light went off in my head: ka-ding: this is a fritto misto batter. Although I've included a photo of a crab, I don't know that crab would be the best choice for this.
Plus, reading through it, I realized I wouldn’t have to deep fry, and the less boiling hot oil involved, the better. I should say that my fear of boiling hot oil and burns is also because at about age 3, Curly stuck her hands on a barbecue, giving her sweet little hands 3rd degree burns. The NOT FUNNY family joke was that I had a great recipe for barbecued shrimp (ha. ha. ha. still. not. funny.). My eyes, ever since, have had a way of skipping over shrimp recipes. And anything requiring use of the barbecue. Anyway. The fritto misto is sensational. We tried it with an aioli, tartar sauce and just plain lemon juice, and the consensus was that lemon juice and salt are the best adornments for this.


Fritto Misto

Your mixed fried stuff, chopped into small-ish pieces (I used fish and cauliflower, but would have used zucchini, broccoli or other vegetables if I had, as I thought, had them). I chopped the fish into about 1.5” by 2” or 3” rectangles, but I am not a precision queen. It has to cook in the time that the batter cooks, obvs, so use your judgment, and hope that it’s generally better than mine.

2 eggs
½ package active dry yeast (Marcella says that this should be about 1.25 teaspoons), dissolved in 1 cup lukewarm water
1 cup flour
Vegetable oil for frying

So, whatever you’re using as the mixed stuff, make sure to pat it dry once it’s prepped and chopped. This is usually the part I forget until I am being spattered with hot oil, at which point I remember that oil and water separate violently when the oil is hot. And that hot oil hurts.

1. Break the eggs into a bowl, add a generous pinch of salt and beat them. Add the yeast mixture, and then add the flour, shaking it through a strainer while beating the mixture steadily with a fork. The strainer was handy in that it regulated the amount of flour being dispensed, and laid it out in a steady, thin layer on top.

2. Pour enough oil into a frying pan to come ¼” up its sides and turn the heat to high (if my 1950s stove adjusted more continuously, I would have set it a little shy of high, as it was, I actually alternated between high and medium high). To determine when the oil is hot enough for frying, plop a drop of batter into it: if the batter seizes up and buoys back to the surface, the oil is hot enough (and you just know I was like a kid on a car ride in this step: are we there yet? No. Now? No. Now?)

3. Set up a nice thick layer of paper towels on a plate/platter/whatever near your cooking area.
Dip your mix of stuff in the batter, letting the excess back off into the bowl, and add it to the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan, or your mixed fried stuff will suck (no, Marcella didn’t say it that way). As soon as a deep gold crust has formed on one side, turn and do the other side. Using a slotted spoon, spatula or tongs (tongs are my choice here), transfer your fried stuff to the plate lined with paper towels.

4. When you’ve finished frying your stuff, sprinkle with salt and serve promptly (preferably with a little lemon wedge)

*Claudia, I was going to reply with a comment, and realized a recipe is a ridiculous thing to type out in comments.


cook eat FRET said...

thank you from the bottom of my fat ass...

cook eat FRET said...

by the way - the pic of the crab is kind of hilarious to me on this post -lest you think it's fallen on deaf eyes.

Meg said...

Did you see that someone took one of the crab's claws? Maybe for fritto misto, or just a small crab cake.