Warning: This post contains decadence
I bought a half-flat of Seascape strawberries at the market this past weekend, with notions of making something special for a going-away barbecue I threw for some friends who are moving to the Virgin Islands. But it was a party, and there was socializing to do, so I wound up just rinsing them and passing around the green pasteboard cartons, to the delight of my guests. And perhaps it’s a sign that after 30 years the Willamette Valley is truly home, but I found myself feeling sorry that my friends would be moving to a Caribbean island where strawberries have to be shipped in from the mainland, and cost more than gasoline.
The berries didn’t all get eaten, though. And on Sunday night, with my visiting sister to egg me on, I used the last of them in a dish that had been tickling my imagination since I first read about it a few weeks back: Deep-fried strawberries.
Hush, now. I know what you’re thinking. This is not some grease-sodden variation of deep-fried Twinkies on a stick. This is pure, delicate strawberry indulgence, wrapped in a crisp-tender, egg batter that reminds me of my mother’s Sunday morning popovers. It’s a little fiddly, but the results are fabulous.
Trust me on this.
1 pint ripe strawberries, rinsed, hulled and patted dry.
- Oil for frying
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup white wine (I used a nice Oregon Pinot Gris)
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil of your choice (not olive oil)
- Powdered sugar
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1Tsp honey
I don’t deep fry often enough to own an appliance for that purpose; I use my wok, because the slope of the bottom makes it easy to get the depth of oil required for frying without using quarts of the stuff. You can also use a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Pour oil into the vessel of your choice to a depth of about three inches, and heat gradually to 300-350 degrees. A candy thermometer, the sort that clips to the side of the pan, comes in handy here. High heat is necessary to quick-seal the surface of the batter, which is what keeps it from absorbing too much grease.
Set a roasting or cake-cooling rack on a cookie sheet drain the berries after frying, or else several layers of paper towels.
Mix the batter: Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, then in a separate bowl (I use my Pyrex measuring cup) whisk together the egg, wine and oil until well blended. Whisk that into the dry ingredients until thoroughly blended; the batter will be fairly thick and not runny.
Dip the berries into the batter and swirl to cover throughly. I found a wooden barbecue skewer worked best for this. Transfer a few battered berries at a time to the hot oil and fry for about 60 seconds, turning once to brown evenly. As soon as the batter begins to brown, remove the berries from the oil and place on rack to drain off excess oil. Once all the berries are cooked and drained, arrange on plates and sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar. For extra indulgence, whip cream with honey until soft peaks form, and serve as a dip for the berries.
These are best eaten still warm, but not piping hot (as I discovered when I burned my palate on the first one). A pint ought to feed 3-4 people, but my sister and I ate them all, just the two of us, because we could.
The eggy-ness of the batter surprised me, but it makes sense: When subjected to high heat, the berries begin to give up their juice; the egg creates a sticky and somewhat water resistant batter; when it hits the oil it seals around the berries, containing their liquid. A different style of batter – tempura, for instance – would melt under the juice and dissolve into mush