Today is a rainy day. Tropical storm Hermine pushed into Texas in the early hours today and by 8:00 a.m., we were being hit with the “torrential” rains that had been promised. I’m sitting next to a large window in my living room, drinking coffee and enjoying the change from the hot dry summer. My favorite season, it seems is finally showing signs of arriving. I suddenly felt like writing and cooking and even running. This, for me, is a very good thing.
As many of you know, we transferred my 13-year-old to a new middle school this year. Heath issues were the reason and it has (so far) seemed to be a very wise move. The downside is that his school is now 20-30 minutes each way (depending on the time of day). This gives me a lot of time in the car, listening to a lot of different radio. Taking my son to school has become a favorite “chore”. We talk. Sometimes we talk about real things and sometimes we talk about nonsense but we’re talking and that’s important. On the way to school, he gets control of the radio station. When he gets out of the car, I immediately change it to NPR and greatly enjoy the ride home.
This morning, wedged between reports of a van overturning in Hillsboro and the inability of the Afghanistan government to compete with the US (and even Afghani private sector) to hire civil servants, was a story of happiness and one that I’ve written about before…. the Big Tex Choice Awards.
Each year, on Labor Day weekend, judges cleanse their palates and get ready to decide which new fried food is the best tasting of the state fair – and which is the most creative. The coveted awards are sought by most all food vendors at the fair and have helped to put the Texas State Fair on the map as the watershed for fun, creative and delicious heart attacks on a stick (or in a cone, or wrapped in paper or occasionally even on a plate).
Last year, Ty and I did something that we hadn’t done in many years. We went to the fair. Without children. We snuck away on a school day. The plan was to spend the money that we normally spent on the kids on the various finalists from last year’s Big Tex Choice Awards. We tried chicken fried bacon, fried peaches and cream (yum) and most importantly, last years winner for most creative – fried butter. Most of these were one-biters. “Okay, I’ve tasted it, let’s move on.” The peaches and cream was the exception. But I had to stick to my Fletcher’s Corn Dog and lemonade as my primary meal. There’s nothing better. As we were walking around last year, we joked about what we might see this year. We decided that we needed to create “fried beer” We laughed about it. Little did we know….
When I heard the finalists announced a few weeks ago, I had to laugh out loud. Fried Lemonade and Fried Margaritas made the finals. As did Texas Fried Frito® Chili Pie, Fried Chocolate, Fried Cobb Salad (the healthy alternative?), Deep Fried S’mores Pop Tart®, Fried Texas Caviar (you know, the black-eyed pea relish?) and yes…. Fried Beer. The story being circulated by creator, Mark Zable is that the idea was thought of by his 4-year-old and that it’s taken him 3 years to perfect. That means that three-years ago, a one-year-old suggested fried beer? I’m doubtful. I’m thinking he overheard Ty and I at last year’s fair. I’m wondering if I should ask for a cut? It only seems “fair”. And three years to perfect? Really? It turns out there is also a patent pending on “his” idea and he plans to market them for both wholesale and retail. If Zable has his way, these little mini-keggers will be coming to a frat house near you. The recipe is basically a pretzel dough, shaped like a ravioli with beer in the pocket. Then it’s battered and deep fried. Evidently when you bite it, the liquid does in fact ooze out and one must be 21 to try it. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of hot beer in my mouth. Now if he could fry it and keep the beer ice cold, I might be impressed. Maybe that’s what took three years to perfect. And what kind of beer do you think he uses? Miller Lite? Shiner Bock? That could make all the difference in the world. You can bet I’ll try it and let you know.
When the winners were announced yesterday, the room erupted in applause and cheers rivaling that of any Academy Awards ceremony or Little League World Series Championship. The winner for most creative was, of course, the fried beer. The winner of best tasting was the Texas Fried Frito® Chili Pie. And yes, that sounds amazing. I might buy that before I buy my corn dog. Frito Chili Pie has always been a favorite of mine. Frying it might very possibly be gilding the lily but it won best tasting in an overwhelming landslide. How can all of those judges of fine cuisine be wrong?
The Fair runs from September 24-October 17. Grab a date, a roll of cash (all of these food will cost you) and a package (or two) of Tums. Try all eight finalists and let me know what you think. It’s a great way to enjoy the biggest and best state fair of all.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe so in keeping with the spirit of the fair, I’m going to give you my favorite “batter” for frying. I originally learned this from Chef Jeff Blanks of Hudson’s on the Bend and have used it to fry chicken, shrimp, fish and my favorite… avocado slices. Maybe we could use this to coat some beer. Mmmmmm. Enjoy.
Hot and Crunchy Fried Stuff
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 cups corn flakes
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons red chili flakes
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups flour
Egg wash (4 eggs and 1 1/2 cups of milk whisked together)
1 quart vegetable oil
Place almonds, sesame seeds, corn flakes, sugar, red chili flakes and salt in a food processor with an “S” blade and pulse lightly until combined, making it course but not overly processed.
Set up a standard breading procedure station, flour to egg wash to breading – in three similarly-sized pans.
Dredge desired fried item in flour, until well dusted. Pat off excess. Pass through egg wash, wetting entire object. Press into Hot and Crunch breading and cover, lightly pressing with the palm of your hand. Remove and shake off excess.
Heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees and fry object until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.