Post # 276 A New Batter Technique

July 18, 2014 at 12:46 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 276 A New Batter Technique

Okay, so I like to read and watch TV and learn all about all kinds of different things.  Recently, Partner/Spouse and I were watching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen and saw a new technique for battering stuff that was completely new to us.  They were making Eggplant Parmesan.  It looked amazing.

We’ve been looking for ways to eat healthier and more cost effectively.  We’ve also been looking for ways to incorporate more vegetables into our diet.  I’ve had eggplant only a few times in my life and both times it was grilled (one of those was on a pizza!)  I like grilled eggplant so I knew I’d like eggplant other ways.  Partner/Spouse has had eggplant many more ways than I have and has usually enjoyed it.  But this technique was eye opening for us.

First, let me tell you about America’s Test Kitchen, or ATK as it’s often referred to.  It’s a show on PBS that’s been airing for nearly ten years.  Their sole purpose is to investigate specific recipes and standardize them for taste and quality and repeatability.  They accept no dollars for advertising or sponsorship so they are able to be as honest in their evaluation and testing as possible.  They will take a single recipe and tweak it and fuss with it for months to get a consistent, tasty, reliable, and repeatable results.  They use thousands of people across the globe to test their recipes before they print them or put them on the show.  They test everything, from restaurant favorites, to old time standards that “everyone knows how to make.”  I’ve seen them remake deviled eggs, crown roast, beer can chicken, and Boston Cream Pie.  They do everything!  They also test kitchen equipment, and taste test ingredients.  My dream is to visit their studio so I can be one of their testers.

Now let me tell you about the technique.  I’m sure it’s one you’re all familiar with.  When you want to create a great crunchy coating for something you’re frying, you follow the same process.  You dip it in beaten egg, then dredge it in flour, dip it in egg again, then dredge it in flour or a crunchy coating of some kind.  Fry in oil at a medium-high temp for a few minutes on each side and you have a wonderful crispy coating on it ready to eat and enjoy.  Super simple, super messy, and super delicious.

I’ve used this technique for cooking all kinds of things.  It’s reliable.  I don’t like messy things, and I don’t like waste, but this is totally worth it.  Chicken nuggets, chicken fingers, fried fish, tempura anything, all of it enhanced with the double dip process.  Add seasonings to the flour portion and it’s all good.

ATK took that double dip process and turned it on its ear.

Eggplant Parmesan is eggplant sliced into consistently thick slices, breaded and fried, covered in sauce and cheese and baked until hot and the cheese is melted and golden.  ATK’s thoughts, and mine as well, is why work so hard to make a crunchy coating only to cover it in sauce and make it soggy?  So they looked at main parts of the whole dish.

First, they looked at the crunch factor.  The whole point of the dish is to make a good piece of eggplant crunchy and cheesy, then add sauce as a counterpoint.

Second, they looked at the cheesiness of the dish.  It’s named Eggplant Parmesan so there should be a good cheesy taste to it and it should have a good flavor of parmesan cheese in there somewhere.

When they looked at the crunch factor, they noted that all the recipes called for the same double dip and dredge process.  While that works, it creates a very heavy crust and sometimes doesn’t maintain the crunch, particularly if it sits around for very long.  So they decided to reinvent that process.  First, they knew that using panko bread crumbs would escalate the crunch factor since the process to make the bread crumbs creates smaller crumbs that are much more crunchy than regular bread crumbs.  They also hold that crunch factor better.  Then they looked at the double dip and dredge method.  They realized it was mostly to get the flour coated with egg to make a batter that would fry up into a crunchy goodness.  Knowing all this, they created this method.

They took two eggs and beat them into a bowl.  Then they added two tablespoons of flour directly to the egg and mixed them into a fluffy batter.  In another bowl, they poured out enough panko bread crumbs for the amount of eggplant they had.  By dipping the eggplant into the batter and letting the excess run off, then dredging in the panko and frying, they accomplished in one step a much better product than had been achieved before.

This worked nicely until they added the sauce and cheese and baked.  The coating became soggy and the cheese slid off the eggplant.

So they looked at the cheese and sauce.  First, they made a standard Bolognese sauce but used as many fresh ingredients as they could to raise the brightness of the sauce.  That being done, it was set aside to simmer until needed.  Then they looked at the cheese on the dish.  Usually it called for a clump of mozzarella placed on top of the eggplant to melt along with some parmesan for browning and strong flavor.

What they ended up with was parmesan mixed in the panko crumbs and fried onto the eggplant.  Then, a clump of equal parts of grated mozzarella and fontina was put on top of the fried eggplant which was then broiled to melt and brown the cheese.  Once that was done, the eggplant was placed on a plate and about a quarter cup of the sauce was put on top of it.

Wonderful cheesy flavor in all parts of the dish; crunchy coating where it was needed; sauce to cover but not create a soggy mess.  It was wonderful.

But the best part was the battering part of the recipe.  I’m probably going to use that over and over.  I made this yesterday for the Thursday pot luck, and boiled up a pot of spaghetti to go with it.  It was a hit.  I’ll let you know next time I batter something and how it turns out.  I’m thinking this will work great with mushrooms!

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