Living as I do in the Deep South, it is not possible to escape the culture of frying that exists here, so this month's edition of Is My Blog Burning is most apropros: "Summer's Flying, Let's Get Frying," hosted by Linda of At Our Table. I've murmured on numerous occasions that this is a food culture which can inspire both awe, and unintentional hilarity: where else can you find cuisine capable of rendering vegetables unhealthy? (And in addition to making healthy foods unhealthy, they can also make unhealthy food even worse for you. Two weeks ago I drove past a sign at a local restaurant boasting the availability of deep fried macaroni and cheese.) And where, when you go to employee orientation are you informed that you may not bring your own deep fryer to work? (I'm not kidding; the week before I started work I was told that someone had brought a "big ol' fry daddy" and was frying catfish in his cubicle). I'll bet Scott Adams has never considered this for a Dilbert cartoon...
The Deep South is also where I encountered fried turkey for the first time. Fried turkey is exquisite. You never want oven baked turkey after you've had a fried turkey. Tender, juicy meat, crispy skin. Sadly, also responsible for 15 deaths and countless houses burning down last year. Apparently some people don't realize that it's best to fully thaw and dry the turkey before dropping it into a vat of oil (hot oil + water = huge owie). And dropping it in the vat of oil appears to be the other problem -- that is, some people haven't had the same "Eureka!" moment Archimedes had in his bath (the Archimedes principle states that an object immersed in a fluid experiences a buoyant force that is equal in magnitude to the force of gravity on the displaced fluid). In short, if you have a vat full of boiling oil that you didn't pre-measure to include a twenty pound turkey, and you drop said turkey in, a lot of the oil is going to overflow. Boiling oil overflowing is bad; overflowing onto gas burner is usually fire-truck-and-insurance-company-call disastrous.
Frying is religion here. But don't think I sneer at southern cooking even if some of it induces alarm: I grew up eating grits, bacon and eggs, the residual effect of my father's time at Ft. Benning, and weekends in Macon, Georgia with the Bone family. Few foods afford greater satisfaction than that breakfast. My Grandma Bone has been gone many years; and still I yearn for her buttermilk fried chicken. In fact, fried chicken serves as the centerpiece of a problem I used to have: whenever I went grocery shopping while hungry, I would bring home family packs of fried chicken (which I didn't even like because I preferred homemade fried chicken!). It was like a physical tic, a culinary Tourette's Syndrome; when we were dating, Hubby once opened the fridge and said, "You went shopping hungry again, didn't you?" When I tried to demur, he simply threw the door open, revealing the damning evidence. (A much more forceful reaction than the time he opened the freezer and found a ten gallon drum of green tea ice cream inside, whereupon he simply closed the door and walked away in mute stupefaction).
I have a cast iron skillet that belonged to Emil's grandfather; it's been lovingly restored and seasoned for me by Hubby, ready to heat up lard and meat.
But I think for this event, it's best to honor my southern surroundings and go with deep frying. Here's a favorite: Fried Soy-Sake Shrimp Wontons with Ginger Aioli. It's modified from a recipe that originally appeared in Bon Appetit.