Pop and Sizzle: Melissa@Market

| May 17, 2011

Are you sick of asparagus yet?! Me, either. After all, it’s in season for such a mere blink, let’s savor it while we can. Before we know it, we’ll be once again pining away for some sweet, green, fibrous goodness. Kind of like that handsome chef who’s in town for only a one week run. I think you should live it up while the living’s good. (OK, fine. I think *I* should live it up in that case. Please don’t be offended that I’m using you to justify my actions. Just eat your asparagus and nod politely).

Let me start by putting this out there: This week we’re jumping into the frying pan. The hiss of oil, the crackle of a crispy crust forming, the instant salivation that arises with just a whiff of breading hitting liquid fat. Mmhmm. Decadent, delicious and just a little bit naughty, I’m talking golden brown frying. Listen, I think frying can totally be a part of a healthy diet as long as it’s not preceded by the words, “Can I take your order?” and doesn’t involve something that wasn’t natural in the first place (yes, Houston Rodeo, I’m talking to you). If you want to have your way with a vegetable in the privacy of your own home on occasion, I say, “Go for it.” (And, perhaps, if you’re throwing in a creamy, slightly spicy dipping sauce, “Invite me over.”)

Frying in the pan...might not look great right now, but....

Before we start the sizzle, let’s go over a few frying ground rules:

  • Make sure your kitchen has ventilation before you start frying. I’m, like, REAL serious about this. Not because I’m worried about your safety (uh, but, by all means be careful, definitely), but because I’m worried about your wardrobe. I lost a very nice outfit to the stench from the combination of poor air circulation, an ill-fated attempt at traditional latkes and a jammed window. No amount of laundry detergent or spin cycles will get that smell out of your clothes, and burnt oil is not a smell you want to waft at a dinner party. Just sayin’.
  • Think about how much oil you’ll need for the recipe then triple it. It’s a real buzz kill to have that fry pan humming, fry off one serving of your dish and then, realize the oil is used up. Also, frying in too little, dirty oil will exacerbate problem number one. How many outfits are you willing to risk for heaven’s sake?!
  • Nonetheless, don’t fry naked. For reals. A few pops of oil landing on your arms and hands is not too bad. A few pops of oil landing strategically on other anatomical areas could be tragic. It’s not worth risking it. Trust me.
  • This is a matter of personal choice, but I try to avoid frying in front of others. Like trying on bathing suits in the middle of winter, some things are just best done alone. Shut the kitchen door, send your spouse out for beers and have a diva moment.
  • Don’t freak out. Frying is a full contact sport. The oil’s going to splatter at some point, you’ll need to yank things off the heat and you’ll have to plunge a strainer into bubbling fat to save those sweet nuggets from disaster. This is not the time to lose confidence. Act boldly and save crisis mode for a real disaster- like realizing that cute new neighbor actually lives with his girlfriend. (There goes *their* dinner invitation.)
  • Eat quickly. Fried food should drain briefly on towels or in a wire strainer and then be gobbled up. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. And ESPECIALLY do not consider calories and fat. Yum.

Asparagus Tempura with Smoked Paprika Mayo

Asparagus Tempura with Smoked Paprika Mayo
Adapted from an April 2011 Fine Cooking recipe

Just typing this out made me salivate all over again. The fried asparagus is divine, but this mayo. OH! This mayo. I want to swim in it, bathe my unborn children in it, cover anything I ever eat with it. It is that good. Resist using it all in one sitting and save some to use as a salad dressing or on a sandwich (or just dive your fingers into any time you open the refrigerator).

For the mayo (feel free to make your own aioli…but if you’re in a hurry- or unwilling to experiment with raw eggs- just use this shortcut):

Ingredients
4 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
salt
2/3 cup mayonnaise (I like the organic olive oil kind)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
Black pepper

Directions
1. Finely chop garlic and then using the flat side of a knife, mash with a sprinkle of salt, moving the knife back and forth across the garlic/salt until a paste-like substance forms.
2. Add garlic to mayo, paprika, lemon juice and pepper. Stir. Adjust seasonings as needed.
3. Refrigerate, covered, so flavors can meld.

For the asparagus:

Ingredients
3 cups vegetable oil (possibly more)
2 large eggs, beaten
Juice of 1 lime (secret weapon!)
around 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (you can use unbleached white instead)
around 1 cup panko crumbs (or whole wheat breadcrumbs, like I used)
1 lb. asparagus (thicker makes it easier to fry)
kosher salt/pepper

1. Trim asparagus and cut into fry-size pieces. If it is very thick, you may want to cut stalks in half, as well.
2. Heat oil in a fry pan (about a 3-qt saucepan) over medium-high heat (about 375 degrees F). If oil runs low or get too dirty, you will need to replenish and reheat.
3. Assemble three stations. One bowl with beaten eggs,lime juice and about 2 tablespoons water, one plate with flour (seasoned with salt/pepper) and one plate with panko/breadcrumbs.
4. Using tongs, dip the asparagus pieces in flour first, shake gently, then dip in egg mixture, followed by coating in panko.
5. Gently place asparagus in oil, turning as necessary. Fry in batches for about 3 minutes each.
6. Remove with a slotted spoon or fry tool and drain on paper towels.

Serve with mayo and enjoy the good life while the gettin’s good.

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Category: Appetizers, Featured, Melissa@Market, Recipe Vault, Sides, Sauces, and Breads

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Comments (7)

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  1. Peggy says:

    Fried asaparagus? Yes please!

    Your tips had me cracking up, but of course, I indeed take them seriously =)

  2. Patty says:

    Good gracious, is this for real?! FRIED asparagus? Asparagus is so damned tasty, but fried?! Makes me want to jump over the moon whilst doing a somersault. WONDERFUL. My girls just got into asparagus, so I’m thinking this will rock their world as well.

    P.S. I always fry naked. It makes the food taste better.

  3. Camille says:

    Why do I have to have, immediately, everything you ever feature here? The mayo sauce makes it over-the-top wonderful.

  4. Shu Han says:

    asparagus tempura? gosh i love asparagus and this brings it over the top! great great ideas, and i’m loving the aioli sauce too.

    http://mummyicancook.blogspot.com/2011/05/sambal-chilli-asparagus-and-gruyere.html

  5. Erin says:

    This is beyond drool worthy. I love asparagus… can you get tired of it? I don’t think so. Thanks so much for linking up to Friday Potluck!

  6. Amy Love says:

    Love asparagus! And the mayo sounds divine (homemade though!) You know I love you Zomppa girls, but PLEASE don’t use veggie oil! It’s horrible for your health- rancid, oxidized and full of GMO’s. Coconut oil or ghee would be FANTASTIC subs here and would be healthful, not harmful 🙂

  7. Cecile DePanfilis says:

    Reading your articles makes me drool and chuckle! i might even jump into , OK, not literally, deep frying….