Learning to fry

23 Feb

Growing up, my mom never really fried foods (with the exception of potato latkes or the occasional eggplant) so learning how to fry foods never really crossed my mind. Fried chicken (from Fireside!) was a huge treat. It was an irregular, special food that was saved for gatherings with friends or a holiday or a party. But all of that changed when I met my husband.

My husband grew up in the “country” (lower Delaware; I’m still on the fence as to whether it’s the actual country or a country wannabe). To country folk, fried foods are a main diet staple. Seriously, they fry everything. Oysters, chicken, bacon, vegetables…everything. So when we started living together it was sort of expected that I would prepare fried foods on a regular basis, not just as the special treat that I was accustomed to. This was a huge, daunting task for which, like everything kitchen related, I was substantially ill prepared.

The first food I ever tried to fry was a chicken cutlet. Seems simple enough, right? Not so much. While the oil was heating, I breaded the chicken and set up the paper-towel-on-a-plate drainage system that I had seen my mother use. I kept an eye on the oil but having absolutely no knowledge of what fry-ready oil looked like, I took a guess. I guessed wrong.

As I added the chicken cutlet to the oil, I watched and waited for magic to happen. I watched and waited for a beautifully colored, perfectly cooked chicken cutlet that would taste as good as it looked. What I got instead was a burned on the outside, raw on the inside, charred mess of meat. It was horrifying (and completely inedible). But what was even more horrifying was the scene that occurred as I was cooking.

After the chicken was added to the pan with the oil, I spent the next few minutes dodging the barrage of hot oil bullets that were jumping and flying out of the pan. It was like a mortar attack of oil and the target was me. I kept pleading and begging the oil to stop shooting at me but it just wouldn’t listen. Finally, I hid for cover on the other side of the kitchen. But I was only safe for so long.

At some point, I realized that I needed to return to the scene of the crime. I spent a minute or so battling with myself, deciding whether to approach the pan head on or complete a sneak attack from the side (if a SWAT team had been available, I probably would have called on them). I made the decision that I would confront my lava-like enemy from the front. So in I went, armed with only a pair of tongs. I stood there, taking bullets, so I could flip the chicken. Yes, all of this happened and I still had to cook the other side.

I repeated the same procedure for the other side of the chicken. And when it was all over, the chicken was murdered, I was covered in oil and my stove looked like a war zone. The kicker of the whole event was this–never once did it occur to me that putting a lid on the pan would have prevented the whole darn mess. 

I’ve learned my lesson since that day. I still can’t fry food properly.  I still dodge the occassional oil bullet and food still sticks to the pan, but I no longer cower in fear from the frying pan and I even remember to use a lid. I consider that a major victory.

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