Meditations

The Fry


Happy Fry Day!

The last two summers that I’ve been in Edmonton I’ve been lucky enough to be around for The Fry party hosted at my friends Andrew and Fiona’s house.

Not knowing what to expect from “The Fry” but just some fried stuff I was seriously wowed by the set up of multiple fryers and variety of food. It was an impressive production and I needed to know more.

The Fry has been going on for about eight years by Andrew Horton and his two friends Matt and Tyler. Andrew told me they were completely incompetent in their first foray into the world of frying. They tried to fry potatoes in May. This being Edmonton, May was a bit too cold outside for the oil, they put in too much, didn’t shut off gas when dumping in the potatoes and resulted in lightly torching off all of Andrew’s hand hair and scorching the lawn.

But how things have changed since that cold day in May. I sat down with Andrew and asked him how The Fry has progressed into the event it is now with 20 – 50 guests, multiple fryers and an array of great food.

Fried mozzarella cheese

SR: What’s the most successful thing you’ve fried?

AH: Well the most loved thing that we’ve fried is the cheese. It’s a huge pain in the ass to do, I hate the breading and it takes forever. But it’s the one thing everyone insists on. I think we think we have the turkey really dialed in. We’ve fiddled around with it enough that it’s become like an art.

The finished product, juicy fried turkey

SR: Let’s talk about that turkey as it’s juicy fantastic. Do you brine beforehand? How long do you fry it for?

AH: We’ve always thought of brining, but it’s kind of scary of soaking it then frying it as it potentially could be too wet. We salt our turkey with ¾ tsp salt per pound, pat dry and leave outside to dry prior to frying. Frying takes three minutes per pound plus five minutes in total. But there are so many variables, the temperature outside, of the bird and consistent temperature of the oil throughout the whole cooking period.

SR: What’s the least successful thing you’ve fried and would never do again?

AH: Twinkies with tempura batter. The cream inside just melted away and soaked into cake, they were delicious but at the same time disgusting.

AH: Also the first time we did chocolate bars they were not a success. We didn’t think of freezing them, just battered them in tempura and just dumped them in. Mistake! They were not cold enough and ended up melting. The next year we froze then battered them and they worked great.

SR: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve fried, and if you could fry anything at all what would it be?

AH: We have a friend who wanted to know what we were going to do with the organ meats out of the turkey (heart, liver, kidneys and neck) so we decided to throw them in the fryer for him. They were okay but watching a kinda drunk shaggy Ukrainian guy eat them was probably the grossest part of this experiment.

AH: I’ve had this idea of doing a whole fish Chinese style and making it look like it’s swimming in a hot spicy sauce, also I’d love to do quail.

SR: What did you fry this year?

AH: Turkey, chicken wings, salmon, zucchini, mushrooms, potatoes, pickles, fry bread (pizza fritti, which we will do again, it was really awesome this year), cheese (straight ahead mozzarella works the best as it always gets nice and stringy), ice cream and mars bars (a salute to my wife Fiona’s Scottish roots). And we had the bacon fish grilling on The Egg.

Fried ice cream deliciousness

SR: What’s always on your menu?

AH: Turkey, cheese and chips (they are a nice snack because they are fast and guests can snack on them while we fry the rest). We always do a dessert and try something new.

SR: How do you decide what items get breaded and in what?

AH: It depends on exactly what we are looking at. Things that are wet like pickles and fish need a protective coating. We bread with flour, egg wash and Panko for a nicely sealed exterior and mostly it’s been about trial and error. We don’t like breading too much as it degrades the oil, and you need to keep an eye forward for deserts you will be frying. For example you don’t want to fry ice cream, cookies, etc, in dirty oil. You need to plan and watch what you are doing at beginning.

The bacon fish: bacon, sausage, basil and garlic wrapped in bacon

SR: In addition to the fryers you had a Bacon Fish grilling on The Big Green Egg, can you let us know the ingredients? Last year it was a Bacon Turtle, what are the bacon wrapped plans for next year? And do you always use The Egg in addition to the fryers?

AH: The Bacon Fish had a core of cooked bacon and it’s body was sweet Italian sausage (from the Italian Centre, Edmonton) with fresh basil and garlic. It took about 50 minutes took cook on The Egg but even if you ignore it it always turns out juicy.

AH: I like the bacon stuff but everyone is doing bacon these days so we almost don’t want to do it anymore. There was a suggestion of making bacon babies, but some might think it’s too disturbing. I think it might be interested to braise or slow cook a pork belly. I’d like to explore and play with what bacon is and not just have a “it’s wrapped in bacon item.”

AH: I think The Egg is fucking fantastic and love cooking on it. I’ve done pulled wild boar shoulder which is phenomenally good and we will always include The Egg in The Fry to have flexibility in menu.

SR: Readers please note: If you live in Edmonton and own a Big Green Egg there is an Egghead festival that occurs in early summer at La Tienda Cigar Shop on 109 Street. It’s potluck style, everyone brings their Egg to grill and share what they do best.

SR: What’s the best thing to drink with a Fry? I’ve got to say that the Prosecco our friend Justyna brought went down rather well!

AH: I’m a huge fan of an obscene amount of beer, but that’s usually risky. Some years have done nice craft beer and some years white trash. As well we have done Sangria to cut down on the “oh shit what am I eating” feeling, we make it a bit fizzy and find that works well.

SR: Any tips for Fry virgins who want to try it for the first time?

AH: Do it even if you are scared cause it’s so much fun. Safety rules. Shut gas off when you put in food into fryer, don’t put in too much oil, make sure oil isn’t too hot and food is dry. Just try it!

I love Andrew’s Fry philosophy: “It’s either going to be wildly successful or a spectacular failure – we never say oh it’s just going to be alright.” I totally agree. Fail hard my fellow foodie friends as you never know where it’s going to lead you…from scorched body hair to a successful yearly fry filled event.

If you’ve had any fry adventures we’d love to hear about them. What’s the most successful thing you’ve fried? What’s the weirdest? Any more fry tips out there?

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