Monday, April 4, 2011

The "Frys" Have It

We caught up with three of Reading Terminal Market's reknowned chefs this week who were kind enough to share their secrets to successful frying.

Jack McDavid doing what he does best
Down Home Diner's Chef Jack McDavid, never one to mince words, said bluntly in his trademark Virginia drawl:  "Yankees cain't frah."   (Translation:  "Yankees can't fry") or "People born in the northern US are not conversant in frying techniques."  He elaborates:  "They're too rushed.  Frying takes time ("tahm") and patience.  The secret is in the seal.   I mean, ya gotta completely coat the fish with the breading--whatever you use--corn meal, flour, or pecan crust like our Down Home Diner catfish--it's gotta be gently but firmly pressed into the fish so that it sticks, but not so much that it crushes the proteins and makes the end result soft and mushy.   Then ya gotta carefully place it in the hot oil.  If ya drop in in hard, that knocks off some of the breading--remember what I said about the secret being in the seal?  The breading is the seal.  If you break it, then the oil seeps inside, and you end up with greasy fish.  Who wants to eat that?"  Can't argue with that.

Anna Maria Florio working her magic in La Cucina

Then we visited Chef Anna Maria Florio of La Cucina at the Market, who shared further intel.  She agreed with Jack on the seal issue.  She elaborated:  "People think that frying is an unhealthy preparation; if done correctly, it's not.  The coating acts as a seal, as Jack said, and if the oil is hot enough the crust forms an immediate barrier so that the oil does not penetrate the food.  The key is to heat the oil enough, but not too much.  If your oil smokes, you've gone too far and it will burn the food.  In that case, you have to start again."

Wally McIlhenny, Executive Chef of the Reading Terminal Market Catering Co., offered a tip on testing the oil temp:  "Drop a small piece of bread into the hot oil.  If it sizzles to the top immediately, then you're good to go."
Chef Wally with his famous sweet potato salad

And as one who is a sucker for BritCom, I offer you up another Fry--a skit from the old Fry and Laurie Show on the BBC--these guys are hilarious. Enjoy.

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