I can't believe it's been almost a year since we visited Jenn in San Antonio, but that how time goes. While we there, we tried an appetizer at a steakhouse on the Riverwalk that Tom and I had never encountered before:
Deep Fried Pickles.
I cannot remember if the batter was smooth or crumbly, crisp and crunchy, or soft and chewy, but I cannot forget the sensation of biting into a pickle and feeling an explosion of garlicky brine, hot like broth, similar to the satisfying crunch of a cold pickle yet completely unfamiliar. The heat reduced the saltiness and amplified the dill and pepper taste.
My mind and tastebuds were transformed.
Tom's nephew came to visit us for his spring break a few weeks ago. One night while he was here we made fresh burgers and french fries. It was only the second or third time we've worked with that much hot oil in our kitchen. While going into the fridge for some lettuce and cheese, I spotted a jar of Nathan's Kosher Dill Halves on the top shelf. It would be a shame to let all that heat generated from making french fries go to waste....
Deep Fried Pickles
1 cup AP flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
A few grinds of fresh black pepper
1 cup water or flavorful liquid
3 - 4 thick pickle halves, halved, thirded, or quartered length-wise depending on size and preference
Approx 1/2 cup cornstarch
Approx 2-3 qts canola oil in a heavy pot, heated to 375
Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt and pepper together to thoroughly combine then stir in water. Once a smooth, thick consistency is reached, set batter aside for 15 minutes. Heat oil to 375-385 degrees. Coat pickle spears in cornstarch so that all surfaces are lightly dusted, tap or brush off any excess. When oil and batter are ready, dip 3-4 dusted spears into the batter, covering completely. Lift and allow excess batter to drip off, then add one spear at a time to the hot oil, making sure it is submerged completely. Add 3-4 spears to the oil at a time, adjust temp at necessary to keep between 375-385. Fry each spear for 2-4 minutes until golden brown and batter is cooked through. Lift from oil carefully with a metal strainer, spider, or slitted spoon and let dry on a cooling rack set inside a metal pan. Let oil come back to temperature and repeat process for remaining spears.
Let the pickles cool long enough that they won't burn your your tongue, but not too long that you miss out on the distinct difference of the hot brine. This batter creates a thin crispy outer layer housing a chewy, light interior surrounding the pickle. The cornstarch lets the batter bond with the pickle and keeps it from sliding out of the batter completely during cooking and eating. As for serving size, I agree with Michael Pollan--eat all the junk food you want as long as you make it yourself.