Now we're cooking with oil
Last month I outlined a recipe for making a foolproof risotto. If you tried your hand at the techniques and realized how easy it is, I think it is time to take your skills to the next level. This month we are going to fry that risotto. Deep-frying food scares off many new home cooks. Maybe it is the mess it creates, or the fear of 350-degree oil splashing everywhere. I will tell you now that with a bit of planning and attention to safety, you can avoid both and create a safe, clean cooking environment.
Deep-frying necessitates a frying vessel with a sturdy base (preferably heavy-bottomed; nothing thin and flimsy). It also helps if the pot does not have a long handle or anything that could tip it over. I use a large wok at home, but I turn the handle away from the front of the stove, so that there’s no danger of knocking it over.
Remember that oil expands when it heats up, so use less than you think you need. Depending on the size of your pot, anywhere from one to two quarts will be acceptable. I fill my wok a third of the way full with cold oil and let it heat up slowly.
The most important step in deep-frying is maintaining the temperature of the oil. I tend to use soybean oil for two reasons: 1. It has a relatively high smoke point and 2. It is cheap and abundant in Korea. Avoid olive oil (although some people swear by it) and any other oil with a low smoke point. It is crucial that you use a thermometer to maintain a consistent temperature while frying. The following recipe calls for 350-degree Fahrenheit oil, so I will usually heat my oil 10 degrees more to make up for the heat loss when adding the risotto. You will always have heat loss when adding ingredients to hot oil; the goal though is not to let the oil temperature drop too low, making the food greasy and soggy. After all, we want crunchy, crisp, and golden brown.
When placing food into hot oil, lay it in slowly and away from you. This will lessen the chances of oil splashing in your direction. Use a slotted metal spoon or wire skimmer (sometimes called a spider) to flip and remove your food. Don’t think you have to toss all of that perfectly good oil you just used. After you are finished cooking, let the oil cool to room temperature. Remove any large bits of debris and pass it through cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Store it in the fridge and use it next week for another fry session. Once you have conquered your fear of frying, the options are endless. You can tackle anything from calamari to doughnuts now. Go forth with your knowledge of all things golden brown. Brandish your slotted spoon and join the ranks of the fearless home cooks.
Risotto Cakes ingredients
• Leftover, refrigerated risotto
• 1 egg, beaten
• Panko breadcrumbs
• Oil for frying
• Salt and pepper
In a large, sturdy pot, heat the oil slowly to 350 degrees. While the oil is heating, set up your breading station by placing the flour and bread crumbs on separate plates along with the beaten eggs in another shallow dish. Season the flour with salt and pepper and mix to combine. The breading station should start with the flour followed by the beaten eggs and end with the breadcrumbs. When the oil is up to temperature, take a ball of the risotto (a bit smaller than the size of your palm) and form it into a patty about one-and-a-quarter-inch thick. Place the patty in the seasoned flour to coat. Transfer to the egg, making sure that everything is covered, even the sides. Finally, cover the risotto patty with the breadcrumbs. Carefully place the risotto in the hot oil, dropping it away from you. Fry for two-and-a-half to three minutes, or until it is golden brown. Make sure not to crowd the pot with too many patties (fry in batches of one or two). Carefully remove from the oil and let drain. Serve hot with a light salad and lemon wedge.