We have spent a fair amount of time working with our pressure cooker. In trying to get the right time for cooking vegetables we have ended up with more than our share of vegetable purees. Though as we narrowed our window for root vegetable cookery, we came across an interesting result. We cooked round, unpeeled carrots in a spiced broth for eight minutes. Once the pressure released naturally we used a towel to rub the skins off the carrots. The resulting carrots were delicious, fragrant and tender. Really tender. They were like a carrot puree held in the shape of carrots. What can we do with these? Sure, we could make a really tasty carrot puree. Yet, I wanted to show off the carrots texture, flavor and shape. We needed something to carry the carrots. I opted for a beer batter, though a tempura would be equally exciting.
Of course we needed something to serve with the fried carrots, a dipping sauce of sorts. Several days earlier, our resident accomplice in the kitchen had brought the idea of a smoked onion mayonnaise. I had never thought, tasted or seen a smoked onion mayo. And as soon as he mentioned the sauce it struck a flavor combination that had to be delicious. To make the mayonnaise we smoked several onions and then pressured cooked them till they were melting. We then pureed these onions with an egg yolk and added a touch of mustard, olive oil and a spoonful of roasted garlic to round out the flavors. A splash of lemon juice and a pinch of cayenne finished the smoked onion mayonnaise.
With the batter and carrots in front of us and the mayonnaise sitting in the wings, we set about frying.
Brief tangent, skip if you want to continue with the food.
Frying foods is interesting. There are many ways one can go about frying and I have yet to find one which really makes sense. My main issue with frying is the mess and clean up. Fryers, commercial and home models are full of nooks and crannies which need to be cleaned often. And cleaning fryers is not high on my list of things I like. Frying in a pot on the stove works, though temperature control can be an issue. Yet, since our adoption of a laser thermometer checking oil temperatures in a pot has not then included cleaning a candy thermometer which we used to attach to the side of the pot to monitor oil temperatures. So, now I just need to watch the pot and flame to keep everything frying properly. And when the frying is done, I just let the oil cool and strain it back into its original bottle. Then I only have one pot without nooks and crannies to clean. While I write this about frying and lack of desire to have to clean hard to reach places I have begun to wonder why no one has assembled or come up with a frying system which is modeled after the pot fryer with the temperature control of the industrial and home model fry machines. In fact, I bet the use of induction technology with a large insert might be the right path to follow. Of course, that is a whole other story and today the focus is on fried carrots.
We heated up our pot of oil on the stove and dusted the carrots lightly with cornstarch. Again, I drew upon Aki's shake and bake style for coating foods. We placed the carrots and cornstarch in a bag and did a gentle shake (remember the carrots are really tender) then dipped them into the beer batter. The frying had begun. As the battered carrots hit the oil a crisp shell formed, protecting the tender interior while also providing structure to the carrots. When the carrots were good and crisp we removed them from the oil, seasoned them with some salt and then started dipping into the smoked onion mayonnaise. They were good. Really good. Hot as well. If you are looking for a crisp and snappy carrot, this is not the dish or approach. We had crisp batter, melting carrot and cool and creamy smokey onion mayonnaise. We served these as an hors d' oeuvre though they would also be a great accompaniment to dish or even a course on there own. I would sit down to a plate of these. And we do not have to just use carrots. Beets, turnips, baby fennel, artichokes and much more all would benefit from this pressure tenderizing and deep frying. Imagination is our only limitation.