Out of the Cookie Jar, Into the Fryer
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.
Take a piece of dirt, coat it in a little flour and egg, deep-fry it. I bet you it tastes pretty darn good. John T. Edge is our curator of all things culinary and he wants to talk today about post-modern fried food.
Hi, John T.
Mr. JOHN T. EDGE (Southern Foodways Alliance): Hi, Debbie. Great to be with you.
ELLIOTT: Luckily, dirt is not among the things on your list, but some pretty weird things are. Oreos? People fry Oreos?
Mr. EDGE: Sure, they fry Oreos. They started out frying Twinkies in Scotland in about 1995, and it mutated into Oreos at state fairs in the US.
ELLIOTT: They have Twinkies in Scotland?
Mr. EDGE: They have Twinkies in Scotland, and when they have them, they drop them in hot oil and fry them.
ELLIOTT: And what was the...
Mr. EDGE: What was the epiphanic moment wherein the Scots said, `We must fry this'?
Mr. EDGE: Well, it comes out of the fish and chip shops of the northeast fishing villages. Some people claim the town of Stonehaven specifically is the origin point of it. But, you know, they've got deep fryers, they've got batter, they've got a little commissary set up alongside the cash register selling Snickers bars, Mars bars, that kinds of things, and, you know, I would imagine, as with many things like this, a little alcohol can't hurt when one decides to batter and deep-fry something that wasn't deep-fried and battered before.
ELLIOTT: So let's talk about that Oreo. When you put that Oreo in the deep fat, tell me how that works and what it tastes like.
Mr. EDGE: Well, a lot of these foods like Oreos, they've basically using something akin to a funnel cake batter, and you get two forms of texture now in that Oreo. You get the crunch of the outside of the batter, and then your teeth hit the crunch of the Oreo cookie itself. And then you give way to that creamy center of the Oreo that's now warm pleasantly so. And it transforms that Oreo and that's what frying does. You know, it transforms, in many cases, something that's liquid into something that's solid. It gives texture to something that didn't have texture before. And that's what's so cool about deep-frying. It's transformative. It's like culinary legerdemain. Drop this thing in batter, drop it in hot oil and it becomes something different.
ELLIOTT: John T., what is the weirdest thing that you've ever seen fried?
Mr. EDGE: Well, we can get really weird really quick. New Orleans has two of my favorite--or three of my favorite deep-fried sandwiches, and they are the deep-fried hamburger from Tucker's Tavern, stuffed with everything from the entire contents of a club sandwich to a breakfast dish of eggs Benedict.
Mr. EDGE: Stuffed within the burger.
ELLIOTT: Inside of the meat?
Mr. EDGE: Inside of the meat.
ELLIOTT: Now wait a minute.
Mr. EDGE: I'm serious as a heart attack.
ELLIOTT: It sounds like it could give you a heart attack. You've got ground beef with...
Mr. EDGE: Yep. The Canadian bacon and the already-poached egg and the hollandaise sauce, those constituent ingredients go inside the burger and then they crimp the burger around it, and then that is, in turn, battered and dropped in a deep fryer and then served on toast. They also do one that has a half a chicken breast inside.
Mr. EDGE: Yeah, I like those for the sheer recklessness of them, but my favorite is an empanada, Elvis empanadas, to be specific, stuffed...
ELLIOTT: Elvis empanadas.
Mr. EDGE: Elvis empanadas, stuffed with, of course--what would it be, Debbie?
ELLIOTT: Bananas and peanut butter.
Mr. EDGE: Of course. Of course. And these are being served in New York now. The place is called Empanada Mama. Then you go to the Doughnut Plant, also in New York, and he does a square doughnut that he has found a way so that--you know when you bite into a filled doughnut, usually all the filling is in the center, and, you know, there's all those extraneous bites around the periphery that miss out on the goo in the middle. Well, he's built a square doughnut with a hole in the center so that each quadrant of the square doughnut is filled with bananas and peanut butter.
Mr. EDGE: I like those. Elvis would be proud.
ELLIOTT: John T. Edge is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance. We spoke with him from Oxford, Mississippi.
Thanks, John T.
Mr. EDGE: Thank you, Debbie.