Just fry it: Go ahead, try making ‘fair food’ at home
The fair and carnival season is in full swing. Summer is a time for ice cream, trips to the beach, amusement parks, fairs and carnivals. As I drive along the highways in the evening, I can’t help but see all of the lights from roller coasters, Ferris wheels, carousels, and thrill rides that temporary amusement parks set up, usually in large parking lots alongside highways. State, county and country fairs are plentiful too. As I pass these venues, I think about the scent of the various foods that permeate the surroundings, especially fried and grilled foods.
The food selection is more diverse than ever before, ranging from timeless classics such as apple pie, usually served a la mode, kettle corn and corn dogs — you know those corn-battered hot dogs — fried and served on a stick and of course, fried dough and funnel cakes with berries and whipped cream, to new inventions like spicy peanut butter and jelly cheeseburgers (no, I haven’t tried one yet) and fried Coca Cola®; the latter was created in 2006 for the Texas State Fair and now sold at many state fairs throughout the country.
Thanks to George Geary, author of “Fair Foods: The Most Popular and Offbeat Recipes from America’s State & County Fairs” (2017, Santa Monica Press, $24.95) you won’t have to wait until fair season to enjoy your favorites. A former pastry chef for the Walt Disney Co., it is he who created a corn dog recipe for the company when Disneyland hosted a country fair-themed week. He is perhaps best known for creating all of the cheesecakes for The Golden Girls and other top-rated television programs.
Geary said, “for 28 seasons, I was involved in the largest county fair in the country: the Los Angeles County Fair. During that time, I watched as the focus of the fair moved from blue ribbons and homemade pie bake-offs to the rows and rows of vendors that now hawk crazy food combinations. Around 1980, “classic” fair food began to evolve from cotton candy and snow cones to bacon-wrapped doughnuts fried in pork belly fat. Not all the food sold at the fair is fried, but the motto of todays’ country fair might as well be, “just fry it!”
I found Geary’s description of how county fairs have evolved quite interesting. He writes, “county fairs were originally designed for farmers to show off their crops and livestock while their wives competed for the title of best pie maker in the county. Today—especially in big cities, the livestock shows have moved out of the spotlight, and food competitions are becoming scarce, too.“
I have observed this trend over the years; those visiting the livestock barns and viewing the largest pumpkin and best crops are diminishing, instead they are waiting on endless lines to eat fair food and experience thrill rides.
If you have a craving for fair food, here are a couple of recipes from the book. For the recipe for deep- fried strawberries, please visit https://bit.ly/2ujkBoR.
Check out dates for some of Connecticut’s fairs and festivals here: https://bit.ly/2mbn7cm.
Triple Cheeseburger Doughnuts
This was first served at the Iowa State Fair.
1 ½ pounds ground grass-fed chuck (80% lean)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ tablespoons canola oil
6 slices American cheese
2 large glazed doughnuts, split in half
Divide the ground meat into 6 equal portions. Form each portion loosely into a ¼ inch-thick burger and make a deep depression in the center of the patties with your thumb. Season both sides of each burger with garlic salt, sea salt, and pepper.
In a grill pan on high heat, bring oil to almost shimmering. Cook the burgers until golden brown on the first side, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook for 3 additional minutes for medium rare. Don’t press meat down while cooking. Top with cheese.
Toast doughnut halves by placing them on a hot grill pan or grill, cut side down. Add any desired condiments to the doughnuts. Sandwich burger patties between doughnut halves and serve. Makes 2 triple cheeseburgers.
Deep-Fried Twinkies ®
The headnote says,” The Texas State Fair was the first to offer this sinful treat.”
6 Twinkies ®
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup whole milk
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Skewer each Twinkie ® and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze for 2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare the batter: in a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, whole milk, eggs, and melted butter. Pour into flour mixture and blend just until smooth.
In a Dutch oven, heat two inches of canola oil over medium heat to 375 degrees. Working with two at a time, dip the Twinkies ® into the batter until fully coated. Place in hot oil, turning after a few seconds until all sides have reached a light brown color, about 4-6 minutes. Drain on paper towels, then dust with confectioners’ sugar.
What chef would you like me to interview? Which restaurant recipes or other recipes would you like to have? Which food products are you having difficulty finding? Do you have cooking questions? Send them to me: Stephen Fries, professor and coordinator of the Hospitality Management Programs at Gateway Community College, at email@example.com or Dept. FC, Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., New Haven, 06510. Include your full name, address and phone number. (Due to volume, I might not be able to publish every request. For more, go to stephenfries.com.)
Kids Cooking Camp-Baking Wars: July 23-27, 10 a.m. to noon, Chef’s Emporium, 449 Boston Post Road, Orange, $200. Reservations 203-799-2665. If your child (ages 5-11) loves baking competitions on the Food Network, then this camp is for them. Stir-up, bake-up and decorate cupcakes, cookies and mini cakes of all sorts using pastry chef techniques, piping bags and fondant. The chef might throw in a twist or two, such as ingredients that must be incorporated or only being able to decorate with your left hand. This class will let each child’s creativity run wild. Every student is a winner. Same class is offered for teens (12 years +) from 1 to 3 p.m. For menu and other kids cooking camps visit https://bit.ly/2kwz1hm.
“Food Network’s Chopped,” features Consiglio’s Chef Danny Brelsford. Tune in and watch Chef Danny compete on Food Network on July 17 at 9 p.m. On July 18, at 6:30 p.m., at Consiglio’s, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, a special demonstration cooking class and 4-course dinner will be held, using some of the secret ingredients Chef Danny was presented on the show. $75 (beverages, tax and gratuity not included)
Flights of Fancy, July 19, 4:30 to 8 p.m. $20, includes commemorative wine glass. An evening of shopping, wine and food tastings, in-store discounts, free parking York Street Garage, exciting raffle prizes, and special gifts for attendees. A welcome party at The Study Hotel, 1157 Chapel St., New Haven. Tickets and more details at https://bit.ly/2JwaFSF.
Worth Tasting Culinary Walking Tour: 10:45 a.m. July 21, four-hour culinary walking tour of downtown New Haven. 8-9 stops at some of New Haven’s favorites. You won’t be hungry after this tour. Reservations required, tickets at https://bit.ly/2FjiwMP, 203-415-3519, 203-777-8550, $64.
Consiglio’s Cooking Demonstration and Dinner: July 26, 6:30 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, 203-865-4489 (reservations required), $75 (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). Learn how to make tuna and white bean bruschetta, tomato, watermelon, creamy burrata salad, boneless beef short ribs, balsamic barbecue, profiteroles.
Consiglio’s Murder Mystery Dinner “The 13th of Friday-Summer Edition”” July 27, doors at 6 p.m., dinner and show at 7, Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, reservations at 203-865-4489, http://bit.ly/2cyB02Y. $65 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). An interactive comedy show that goes on throughout the evening as you enjoy a 3-course meal. The cast mingles from table to table, dropping clues for a mystery that only you can solve! It's mass hysteria as the summer patio fun turns deadlier than usual.