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Or, as my husband first read this title, “Hot Brunette Bum Day” which could, indeed, make for some very interesting reading I am sure. Not really to do with food or drink much though…
I wish I could say that today’s post is late on account of one too many hot buttered rums last night. Alas, no. The cause is nothing so fun as that. Besides the fact that we swore off alcohol (at least in beverage form) for the month of January, our household has been flattened by the Most Miserable Cold of All Time. Really. It lasts for weeks and weeks and just when you think you are better, it rears its ugly head and smites you down once more. So, last night, when I should have been happily sipping my Hot Buttered Rum while writing this post I was, instead, near comatose in my bed wishing that better drugs were available over the counter.
I will tell you this about Hot Buttered Rum though – it’s really good. And possibly medicinal if only one is well enough to have the strength to make it. I don’t think as healing as a Hot Toddy, but a close second nonetheless. Eva and I once made a big batch of HBR when we were roomies. I can’t remember if it was precipitated by the onset of a winter cold, or if we just thought it would be good. In any event, the recipe we used was one found on the internet (of course) and it made the most enormous batch of HBR mix. Much more than the two of us could get through – and that was during our hardcore alcoholic phase.
In later times, I discovered that you could purchase a mix at the grocery store and it tastes exactly the same as the stuff you make at home. This is one of those few, very few, things I might suggest is not worth the effort – especially since most recipes make an unconscionable amount of the stuff. That is, of course, unless you plan on making a version of “Jay’s Famous Hot Buttered Rum” which has vanilla ice cream that is creamed into the paste before mixing with the hot rum. Whoops! I guess I am getting ahead of myself here. How about an explanation of what it is first, and perhaps a recipe, yes?
HBR is a warm cocktail, the perfect accompaniment for a comfy couch, warm slippers, fireplace and a good book. It consists of rum, butter (yes, butter – hence the “buttered” part of the name – yes, initially I thought it was strange to put butter in a beverage too but, as with most things, butter does make it better), sugar, hot water or cider and spices (usually cinnamon, nutmeg, that sort of thing). I’m going to give you two recipes.
The first is Emeril Lagasse’s recipe. A no-muss, no-fuss event that requires some mixin’, some chillin’, some more mixin’ and then some heatin’. Simple. nice. You can read all about it here.
The second recipe is likely to be something like Jay’s Famous Hot Buttered Rum since it has ice cream. It’s also the only one I could find that used brown sugar, not icing sugar. I prefer that because I think brown sugar has better flavour. You can read all about it here. A little more effort, but creamy and delicious so worth it. Butter AND vanilla ice cream. A can’t-miss proposition.
Since I didn’t make any HBR batter, I can’t show you any pictures of my creation. I can, however, share with you a gratuitous cute dog shot of my two dogs laying on the exact spot on my couch where I would like to sit if I were sipping an HBR – and it is a fitting shot because they were tired after a big play in a blizzard, which is the perfect sort of day to be finished with an HBR.
[Eds.: Della returns with a fantastic fried blog!]
If you have read my bio you already know that I love all things fried. Savoury is best but sweet is good too – it doesn’t really matter much. The aroma of a deep fryer wafting from five blocks away is enough to make my mouth water. My mind is instantly filled with visions of salty french fries doused in malt vinegar, of tempura green beans dipped in a sweet and salty soya-mirin sauce, of spring rolls filled with shrimp and pork, of fried chicken… shall I go on? I really could. There are just so many possibilities. I’m absolutely certain that you can fry just about anything and it will taste, not just good, but fantastic. So that brings me to today’s topic – Fritters.
“Fritter” is a spectacularly ambiguous word. A fritter is a) pretty much anything dipped in batter and fried or b) any batter based mixture fried in oil. So, yam fries are not fritters, but yam tempura is and so are fried balls of mashed yam mixed with eggs and spice. “Fritter” means many things to many people and many fritters are not called fritters at all. Pekora are fritters. So are hush puppies, falafel and crab puffs. As you can see the word “fritter” is terribly problematic so instead of trying to fit fritters into a tidy pigeon hole, I will focus on some of my favourite members of the fritter family.
Cornbread slathered in butter is a bit of a staple around my house and I am a firm believer that butter does make everything better. But the fryer is even better than butter. Ordinary cornbread becomes extraordinary when plunged into an oil bath. The result is a light, fluffy center encased in a crispy, golden crust. The result is a hush puppy. There are innumerable variations on this quintessential southern comfort food. The corn batter can be made with or without whole kernel corn, green onions and bell peppers. I think the best hush puppies I’ve ever had came from food carts dotted around Havana. Of course they are not called hush puppies in Cuba, but they are as flavourful and satisfying as any you’ll find at a southern barbeque. Corn and green onion fritters were my lunch for a week. I wandered the streets of Havana with a handful of deep fried deliciousness wrapped in paper towel all purchased for just a few centavos. The flavours and aromas of Havana food carts are forever burned into my memory.
Pakoras are another favourite of mine. You may hear them called “bhaji” occasionally but they really are the same thing. Pakoras are simply fried, battered vegetables, fish, chicken or paneer. Typical vegetable pakoras are made with cauliflower, potato and onion but they frequently include yam, sweet pepper, cabbage, zucchini and eggplant as well. What makes these little fritters special is the batter. Instead of wheat flour, you use besan (chickpea flour) to make pakoras. The batter is variously seasoned with some combination of cumin, garam masala, tumeric, chili powder, coriander and cayenne. There is a fabulous little Indian sweet shop on Fraser Street at about 50th in Vancouver. I stop in every couple of months for a big bag of pakoras and a few samosas. The shop is not much to look at but when you walk in the door the aromas envelop you. I never make it back to my car without sneaking a pakora out of the bag. I have to admit I never make my own. I have learned to make almost all of my restaurant favourites but on this one I’ll continue to defer to the experts. In Metro Vancouver we have dozens of excellent Indian restaurants and groceries and I feel very fortunate that I can explore new places and flavours without having to leave home.
Let’s continue our culinary journey from the American south and the Indian subcontinent to the Iberian peninsula. “Bunuelos de Bacalao” or “salt cod fritters” are a Spanish, though some will argue Portuguese, classic. Like so many foods with a long history there are as many recipes as cooks. The basic ingredients are bacalao (salt cod), mashed potatoes and eggs. From here on it comes down to personal preference. I add a pinch of nutmeg to mine, but my New York Times Cook Book (1990 Revised Edition) suggests adding a bit of ground ginger. I like my cod fritters with a little texture so I leave some small lumps in the fish and in the potatoes. However, I recently had the cod fritters at RTL, the Regional Tasting Lounge in Yaletown and loved them. Theirs have a finely pureed, creamy center and a crisp golden crust. The flavours are essentially the same as mine and dozens that I have had elsewhere but the texture is completely different and quite fabulous. Cod fritters are comfort food at its best – mild, savoury flavours with a delightfully soft, starchy texture. They are mashed potatoes taken to the next level. Serve them with a little garlic aioli and a nice green salad. It doesn’t get any better or easier than this.
Bunuelos de Bacalao
- 1 pound dried salt cod
- 2 pounds potatoes – use a starchy baking potato like Yukon or Idaho
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 eggs
- Fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste
- Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
- 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 2 cups fine bread crumbs or flour
- Soak salt cod in cold water in the fridge for at least 24 hours. Change the water occasionally. This rehydrates the fish and extracts much of the salt. Drain and cut into large pieces.
- Add cod, potatoes and garlic to a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. About 25 minutes. Drain and let cool.
- Mash potatoes and garlic with a food mill or ricer. Crumble fish with fingers being careful to remove all bones.
- Combine fish, potatoes and garlic in a bowl with eggs, salt pepper and nutmeg. Refrigerate mixture for about an hour to allow batter to firm up.
- Divide batter into 24 balls and roll in flour or bread crumbs. Fry a few balls at a time in 350 degree oil stirring occasionally to ensure even browning. Remove from oil when golden brown and drain on kitchen paper.
- Alternately you can form the batter into 12 larger cakes. Instead of deep frying, shallow fry cakes in about a ½ inch of oil turning once to brown both sides.
Yield: 6-8 appetizer size servings or 3-4 main course servings.
The last instalment on the fritter file is a sweet finale worthy of any meal and a special homage to my husband. When I asked him what he thinks of when he hears the word “fritter” he instantly replied “banana.” Like eating hushpuppies in Cuba he is a little nostalgic about banana fritters. They are a fondly remembered childhood treat. He also knows that I will cook whatever I write about so it was a safe bet he would get banana fritters for dessert sometime this week. Far be it from me to disappoint. The fritters of his childhood were sliced bananas, dipped in a slightly sweet batter, fried and sprinkled with icing sugar. Of course the appropriate accompaniment for a hot, crispy fritter is vanilla ice cream.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs, separated
- 3 bananas, sliced on the diagonal ½ inch thick
- Confectioners sugar
- In a large, deep sauce pan, heat vegetable oil to 375 degrees.
- Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Mix the milk and egg yolks together. Beat egg whites to soft peaks.
- Whisk milk and eggs into dry ingredients. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites to lighten batter. Fold in remaining egg whites.
- Dip banana slices in batter and drop into hot oil. Fry until golden brown turning once. Remove from oil and drain on kitchen paper. Keep warm in 250 degree oven while frying remaining bananas.
- Sprinkle with sugar and serve immediately with vanilla ice cream.
Although I could continue, it appears that I have already been terribly verbose. Such is my enthusiasm for fritters and all things fried. But, I think its time to tuck into that big bag of pakoras.
Because what you need right after Thanksgiving is a big ol’ roast beef and pastry roasted in fat. Of course, we are celebrating American National Food Holidays because, sad to say, it seems that Canadians just aren’t as inspired by food as our friends to the south (trust me, I looked – we got nothin’). So their turkey day isn’t for another month and in that context, it makes perfect sense to have roast beast and pudding as the days grow shorter and colder and we all start to get a yen for comfort food. Incidentally, the Brits, who originated this delectable delicacy, (duhhhh … Yorkshire!) have their Yorkshire Pudding Day, more sensibly if you ask me, on February 1st.
It’s an incredibly versatile pastry, serving equally well as a conduit for gravy (their primary purpose), a musical inspiration and a marine transport. Really, it’s a British icon traditionally served with Roast Beast.
The basic premise is that you heat a pan with some fat in it (using a hot oven), throw some sloppy, runny batter into the pan, toss it back in the oven and wait for a bit. You can find out all about that here. I didn’t use that recipe though. I used the one from the Boston Globe cookbook ’cause it looked simpler but I couldn’t find an online version so you can look it up if you’re really that keen. My roast beef wasn’t done roasting yet ’cause I was busy making jambalaya in my new copper pot that I got for an early birthday present and that was the number one priority, so I didn’t have drippings from the roast, but what I did have was the fat I had skimmed off my ham stock that I had thawed out to use in the jambalaya, so I used that in the pan for the yorkshire puddings. Looked disgusting, but I was sure it would turn out great and it did.
Ate my yorkshire pudding on the side of my jambalaya in the company of P and D and a nice Chianti. May have, as it turns out, been too much starch for me. In any event, then I made gravy with the drippings of the (sadly overdone) roast beef (this is what happens when you have to go put a baby to bed in the middle of making two dinners at the same time) which I made better by adding lots of red wine and shitake and chantrelle mushrooms. It was a really pretty gravy.
Right now P is re-creating Angel Food Cake day with a trio of toppings for the leftover cake. This blog is going to be really bad for our diets!
‘Til next time 🙂