Each year, my next door neighbor and babysitter would buckle me into her backseat, pass me a styrofoam cup of Dr Pepper I needed two hands to hold, and whisk me to the State Fair of Texas. She’d rile my spirits with twangy music as we sped down a Dallas highway toward the 277-acre park that hosts the attraction. “Are you gonna get another corn dog this year?” she’d ask, clinging to tradition.
Like a forest fire or an older relative, you can smell the State Fair before you can see it. The grounds are a teeming mass of livestock, temporary rollercoasters, shiny leather boots, and oil. Funnel cakes and Oreos, pickles dredged in egg and flour shimmy in barrel-size vats of bubbling brown oil. Here, everything has a craggy, crunchy exterior. Here, everything’s just a little greasy. Welcome to the Fried Food Capital of the World.
It’s been years—probably a decade—since I’ve been back to the Texas State Fair, but afternoons spent wandering a labyrinth of grease-bound food stick with me. I no longer have the desire to follow a corn dog with fried cheesecake and a doughnut, but the nostalgia of rows upon rows of fried food experiments remains. In memory of the Texas State Fair, I peeked around our site, looking for all of the the dredged and fried recipes.
There’s something almost transcendental about oil, that slick substance. Anything, submerged in its boiling depths, is transformed, rendered crispy, airy, and all sorts of yummy. Frying is a universal technique, employed the world over with slight variations: Indian pakoras are coated first in chickpea flour while Japanese tempura sometimes includes sparkling water in the frying batter for levity. So while these recipes may be a far cry from the no-holds-barred, anything-can-fry mentality of the Texas State Fair, they provide comfort nonetheless.
Some recipes require a coating of flour, egg, or breadcrumbs, while others recommend you toss whatever it is you have right in the oil. To test when your oil is ready, drop in a small bit of whatever batter you're cooking. If it sinks, too cold; if it fizzles immediately, good; if it fizzles and colors immediately, too hot.
Got fry fever? Let us know what your like to fry in the comments below.