Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mojo Beer Batter Bacon Wrapped Dates with Raspberry Coulis

A tasty appetizer or snack!  

      Frying actually is a French cuisson and good fry cooking skills are worth learning.  Some people never cook fry food at home, because they think this cooking style creates an excessive mess.  There are ways to minimize the mess.  Being organized and being disciplined does make fry cooking steps easier to accomplish.  
     One should never be in a rush or nervous when fry cooking.  Haste makes waste and when fry cooking, one hasty move can result in serious burns.  There should be no distractions and there should be no small children or pets in the kitchen.  Protective clothing should be worn and the kitchen should be equipped with a grease fire rated fire extinguisher for emergencies.  
     Always think ahead when fry cooking and set up the fry cooking area ahead of time.  When a high sided pot is used, there are few grease splatters, so lining half of the kitchen with something like aluminum foil is unnecessary.  Kitchens are made to be cleaned, so dealing with a few oil spatters or drips is just something that comes with the territory.  Drips can be minimized by placing a roasting pan on the stove top, so it butts against the base of the fryer pot.  A wire screen roasting rack should be place in the roasting pan.  When using a fryer net to remove item from the hot frying oil, tap the fryer net handle against the rim of the fryer pot to knock off any excess oil, before placing the items on the roasting rack in the roasting pan.  Since there is no gap or space between the pot and the drip pan, there will be no mess from drips. 
     The two enemies of deep frying oil is moisture and salt.  Salt is really that much of a factor, if normal salt levels are used to season fried food.  Fried food should be seasoned over the drip pan and while the fried food is in a fryer basket hanging over the frying oil.  Many professional cooks make this mistake and this can drive up food cost in a restaurant.
     Moisture kills frying oil.  Beer batter food and raw chicken wings will ruin fryer oil in a short time.  In restaurants, wings and beer batter food is never fried in new oil, it is fried in oil that shows signs of coming to the end of its usefulness or oil that is starting to turn dark.  It is better to kill oil that is on its way to the recycling vat by frying moisture laden food, than is is to kill brand new oil with moisture.  This same philosophy can be used in a home kitchen to reduce food cost.  
     Freshly breaded food is best for frying, but some items do have to be frozen or partially frozen to be fried.  Chicken Cordon Bleu and Chicken Kiev are good examples of partially frozen food items that are deep fried.  
     I never purchase pre-made manufactured frozen food items for frying in a fine dining restaurant or at home.  Everything that I fry is made from scratch and this includes french fries.  The quality of most frozen fried food products are sub par and the price is high.  The problem with pre-made frozen food products for deep frying is that moisture gathers on the products as ice.  
     I have seen frozen battered fish, frozen breaded shrimp and frozen french fry products that looked like they had ice cubes clinging to them, because so much moisture gathered in the freezer, especially in areas that have a humid environment.  Thawing off the ice results in a lousy looking coating after the product is fried.  In my opinion, frozen pre-made fried food products are a waste of time and money.  Frozen fried food products are usually only served at fast food restaurants, chain restaurants and restaurants that have lower quality standards.  Pre-made frozen fried food products are rarely used in fine dining restaurants or trendy casual restaurants.  Fine dining chefs are not fast food fry cooks! 

     Filtering fryer oil can extend the life of the oil.  In restaurants, fryer oil is filtered while it is hot.  At home, fryer oil should be filtered while it is cold.  A fine mesh chinoise strainer is good for filtering cold fryer oil.  A strainer with a paper frying oil filter is better for filtering fryer oil, but a paper filter only works with hot oil.  When oil is cooled before filtering, the brown impurities will settle to the bottom of the pot.  The cold oil can be carefully poured off through a fine mesh strainer into a container and the impurities will be left in the pot.  The cold fryer oil filtering method is safer for home cooks.  Cold fryer oil filtering takes too much time in a restaurant that has large oil capacity fryers.    
     I personally prefer to do deep frying in a restaurant grade deep fryer that has a gas heat source.  Restaurant deep fryers have a very quick temperature recovery time and they have a large capacity.  They are easy to clean.  Filtering the oil is easy to do and hot oil sump filtering systems are an option.  Restaurant grade deep fryers are rarely part of a home kitchen, because they take up a lot of space.  People in general do not eat the amount of fried food at home, that a restaurant grade fryer is capable of cooking.  For home use, a restaurant fryer would be overkill.  
     At home, I prefer to do deep frying in a high sided tall pot.  The taller the pot, the less grease spatters.  The possibility of fryer oil foam overflow is also negated with a high sided tall pot.  The bigger the pot, the higher the fry oil capacity.  A 20" tall pot can hold 10" of fry oil and there will be an extra 10" of pot wall above the oil to shield oil spatter.  The wider the pot, the more stable the pot will be.  For most of my recipes, 6" to 8" of frying oil is needed for individual portion frying.  This means that the pot should be 12" to 16" tall and the pot should be wide enough to be stable.  
     A good stainless steel deep frying thermometer or candy maker thermometer that can measure temperatures up to 450º is needed for deep frying in a high sided pot.  A thermometer that clips on the side of the pot is good.  Only the tip of the thermometer needs to be in the hot oil.  Even better is a specialized deep frying thermometer.  The sensor is attached to a stainless steel cable shielded wire that connects to the digital readout housing.  The wire should be draped over the edge of the pot and the wire should be secured to the pot with a clip, so the sensor is suspended in the oil above the bottom of the pot.  Letting a thermometer sensor rest on the bottom of a fry pot will result in false temperature readings.        
     There are many good electric deep fryer appliances on the market.  Some are better than others.  When it comes to deep fryer appliances, the bigger the better.  The deeper and wider that the vat is, the shorter that the fry oil temperature recovery will be.  When chilled items are place in hot  frying oil, the temperature of the oil rapidly drops.  A good electric fryer appliance should have a high BTU rating and it should be capable of quick temperature recovery time.   Good home style deep fryer appliances do have ant splatter features.  A stainless steel housing is better than plastic, but this adds to the price.  
     Deep Frying Temperature:
     Deep frying temperatures are a minimum of 350º and the maximum temperature should be just below the smoking point of the oil.  The maximum temperature for most frying oil is 400º.  A frying temperature of 360º is what I prefer, because this temperature promotes a quicker temperature recovery time and when col items are added, the frying temperature does not drop below 350º.  Any temperature above 375º will shorten the life of the frying oil.  When fryer oil loses its clarity and turns brown, then it should be discarded.  Fryer oil is sustainable and there are fryer oil recovery businesses that recycle deep fryer oil.

     Deep Frying Oil:
     There are basically three kinds of fryer oil.  Lard, vegetable frying oil and modified vegetable frying oil.  All three have good points and bad points.
     A high temperature rated vegetable oil is a good choice.  Canola oil or a canola and soy oil blend is a good choice.  Those who have soy or peanut allergen problems should read the label before purchasing vegetable frying oil.  Peanut oil used to be the number one frying oil in the restaurant industry, but because of allergen issues, peanut oil has been phased out.  The problem with vegetable frying oil is that it degrades and turns dark in a short time.  Fine dining restaurants and many quality oriented restaurants use high temperature rated vegetable oil for deep frying.    
     Deep frying lard used to be the restaurant industry standard.  Deep fat frying lard adds flavor and it it the best for achieving perfection crispy golden brown fried food.  (CGB!)  Lard is best for french fries and fried seafood.  Lard is a source of unhealthy hard cholesterol, so those on a restricted diet should avoid this frying medium.  If fried food is only eaten occasionally, then deep frying lard is not a bad choice.  Deep fat frying lard will turn dark after a few uses, because of its nature.  When deep frying lard is light brown, it is still good.  When it reaches a dark brown or chocolate brown color, it should be discarded.  Many fine dining restaurants, gourmet burger stands and seafood restaurants use deep fryer lard for frying.  
     Modified vegetable frying oil lasts the longest.  These products cost more and they can take as long as one week to go bad in heavy duty restaurant conditions.  Modified frying oils have a very high smoking point and it takes a long time for them to turn brown.  Modified oils can be natural or chemically altered.  The chemical modification of this type of frying oil involves stabilizing the fat in the oil, so it does not degrade in a short time.  Palm oil is a natural modified frying oil that has a very high smoking point, but it is high in saturated fat.  Palm oil is part of many modified frying oil blends.  The problems with modified oil is the higher price and saturated fat issues.  The benefits are perfection fried food and frying oil that lasts a long time.  Fine dining restaurants almost never use modified frying oil.  Fast food restaurants and chain restaurants almost always use modified frying oil for deep frying.

     Beer Pairing and Mojo Beer Batter:  
     Craft beer recipes are en vogue at this time.  Recipes that feature a hoppy tasting craft brewery India Pale Ale are currently the most popular beer recipes.  
     Craft breweries do come up with funny names for their trendy IPA products.  The Boulder Beer Company is located in Colorado.  As everybody knows, recreational marijuana is now legal in Colorado, so there is some serious munching going on in that state.  
     The Boulder Beer Company makes a high quality balanced hoppy IPA beer that is called Mojo.  Amarillo hops give this IPA an unusually crisp clean tasting finish.  Mojo IPA was used in today's beer batter recipe, so the word "Mojo" was used in the recipe title.  Realistically, any craft brewery hoppy IPA can be used to make today's recipe, but the recipe title should be written as "IPA Beer Batter" if Mojo IPA is not used in the recipe.     
     The word "Mojo" is pronounced with a hard "J" sound.  The definition of "Mojo" is a charm that casts a spell or a hex.  A mojo bag is revered spiritual charm that is mentioned by many blues musicians.  There are many folks in Louisiana who believe that carrying a mojo bag will help to lure the spirit of someone they desire or someone that they are in love with.  The Mojo IPA in this beer batter will definitely get the mojo working! 
     As far as beer pairing goes, it is best to pair a lighter tasting beer, dry white wine or a nonalcoholic beverage with a food item that that features IPA in the recipe.  If IPA beer accompanies food that is made with IPA beer, the flavor of the IPA in the food will not be tasted.  A beer with mild tasting hops is best for pairing with this recipe.  
     To be honest, western style craft brewery IPA beer has such a strong flavor, that it is usually consumed on its own or with strong tasting spicy food like buffalo wings or savory beer food, like a grilled hot pastrami and swiss cheese sandwich.    

     Raspberry Coulis: 
     This recipe makes 2 small servings of coulis!
     Place 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar in a small sauce pot over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Boil till the water evaporates and the sugar starts to foam.
     Cook the molten sugar till it turns clear in color.  As soon as the sugar turns clear, it is close to the soft ball candy making stage.  (235º)
     Immediately add 1/2 cup of fresh raspberries.
     Allow the molten sugar to seize the raspberries and do not stir.  Just gently shake the pan.
     When the liquid from the raspberries starts to liquify the sugar, add 1/2 cups of water.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer till the raspberries become very tender.
     Remove the pot from the heat and allow the ingredients to cool to less than 100º.
     Press the raspberry mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a second small sauce pot.
     Place the sauce pot over low heat.
     Simmer and reduce, till the raspberry sauce becomes a thin syrup consistency.
     Place the raspberry coulis in a container.
     Chill the coulis to less than 41º.

     Blanched Bacon Strips:
     Heat a griddle or saute pan over medium low heat.
     Grill 4 strips of sugar cured bacon, till the fat turns from opaque to a clear color.  
     Remove the blanched bacon from the pan and set them aside. 

     Bacon Wrapped Dates:
     10 bacon wrapped dates is a good appetizer portion size!
     Place a strip of blanched bacon on a cutting board.
     Place 1 date on the end of the bacon strip.
     Roll the date and bacon together, till the bacon surrounds the dat with a single layer and so there is a little bit of bacon overlap.
     Cut off the remaining bacon strip, while holding the bacon wrapped date.
     Run a toothpick through the overlapping bacon and through the date to fasten the bacon in place.
     Place the bacon wrapped date on a wire screen roasting rack on a roasting pan.
     Repeat these steps, till 10 bacon wrapped dates are made.  (Any excess blanched bacon can be cooked crisp for other recipes.)
     Roast the bacon wrapped dates in a 350º, till the bacon becomes light brown and crisp. 
     Set the bacon wrapped dates aside.  Do not remove the toothpicks!

     Mojo Beer Batter:
     This recipe makes enough to coat 2 appetizer portions!
     Place 1 1/2 cups of Mojo IPA in a mixing bowl.  (Any western style craft brewery IPA can be used.)
     Add just enough flour, while whisking, to form a thin batter.  The beer batter should have a thin pancake batter consistency.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of allspice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add 1 small pinch of turmeric.
     Whisk the ingredients together.
     Set the beer batter aside for ten minutes, so the flavors meld.

     Mojo Beer Batter Bacon Wrapped Dates with Raspberry Coulis:
     Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360º.
     Lightly dredge each bacon wrapped date in flour.  Shake off any excess flour.
     Dip the bacon wrapped dates in the Mojo Beer Batter.
     Place a few of the Mojo Beer Batter Bacon Wrapped Dates in the hot frying oil at a time, so they do not stick together.
     Fry till the Mojo Beer Batter becomes crispy golden brown.  (CGB!)  
     Use a fryer net to place the Mojo Beer Batter Bacon Wrapped Dates on a wire screen rack on a drip pan, to drain off any excess oil.
     Place a bed of Italian parsley on a small appetizer plate.
     Place a portion of raspberry coulis in a shallow ramekin and place the coulis on the plate.
     Mound the Mojo Beer Batter Bacon Wrapped Dates high on the plate.

     Voila!  Beer batter and bacon sure do have mojo powers of attraction of their own.   This mojo appetizer even has dates, so the powers of mojo attraction must rally work.  This little Mojo Beer Batter Bacon Wrapped Dates appetizer has some powerful mojo charm!  Yum!  ...  Shawna  

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