When I first went on a diet, I was ashamed that I still had cravings for fried foods. I continued to develop cooking methods for fried foods but was too ashamed to post my success. Even though I stopped eating out, I still wanted fried foods. Now cooking fried foods in a fryer is easy enough to do even if it’s a dirty process. After all, as you fry, spices and breading drops off and gets deposited at the bottom of the fryer, the fat is rendered from the meat so as excess oil, builds up, it must be removed from the pot and oil costs money so smaller restaurants reuse it too long and cannot afford to separate the oils with meat, fish, foul and potatoes so everything ends up tasting like fish. And in the hands of an amateur who lets the pot get too hot, the end result is really nasty. Then there is the issue of getting rid of the oil which is now classified as hazardous waste and must be legally disposed of if you are a restaurant.
Even worse, I avoid big chain fast foods like Kentucky Fried and McDonalds with their portion controlled, super safe and high technology frying process in favor of old fashioned mom and pop rum shacks that serve “chicharrón de pollo or Lechon”. Unfortunately, locally prepared fried Hispanic foods are likely to be done without the elegance of a HACCP plan so the concepts of cross contamination and endless oil reuse are largely unaddressed and you are served too much food guaranteeing a plate of leftovers to take home and therefore over indulgence on these tasty treats.
I checked my photographic record and since the start of the year I have cooked fried foods four times. When I confessed to my nutritionist that I still liked fried food and occasionally prepared them, she suggested lean meats and chicken, but since you fry chicken with the skin, lean pork with no fat or skin is probably no worse than chicken with the skin on. The next issue was the oil.
Like most Caribbean cooks, I was using corn oil which visibly darkens and deteriorates after three uses. The concept of contamination is largely eliminated by poring the oil through a coffee filter after each use. Also the oil volume increases with each use as fat from the chicken or pork is rendered from the meat and expands the volume of the vegetable oil. I minimized this effect by pretty much sticking with heavily seasoned lean pork with all the fat cut away.
The new in vogue and allegedly healthier product is grapeseed oil which is supposed to stand higher temperatures without breaking down as much as corn oil. I must admit, I am not impressed because after 3 uses the oil is starting to be thicker and there is an actual loss of oil in the cooking process so I am definitely eating some of this stuff. It takes 1.5 liters to fill my favorite fryer, and at $15.00 a bottle and only three uses this is very expensive fried food. The introductory photo is grapeseed oil and there is only slight improvement in color. and no difference in taste.
The other issue is what pot to use and this is the only part of the frying process which is perfect. Of course I use my asparagus steamer. This pot comes fitted with a basket and is tall enough that 1.5 liters of oil only fills it half way.
I start with the end of the potato and moderate heat, when the potato starts to cook, I take it out and add all of the meat being careful not to let the boiling oil get to high in the pot. It is easier to start a fire with frying than any other cooking method not involving severe neglect or incompetence. The meat was rinsed with lime juice and dusted with seasoned salt, Adobo. When the meat has cooked for about 20-25 minutes and starts to settle down I carefully add the sliced potatoes and be sure not to allow it to boil over. Cook additional 10 – 15 minutes.
When the fries are done, the metal tray is removed and placed on a paper towel on a plate. The contents is dumped in the towel and patted dry. Test the meat, if not done return it to the fryer, but everything is probably done and slightly overcooked West Indian Style.
Fried, Deep Fat Fried and healthy as it can be. ;-p