Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Culinary Class: Tempura Battered Chicken and Onion Rings

After two weeks off (Spring Break, and written mid-term) we were finally back in the kitchen. We continued our exploration of dry cooking methods with deep frying. We have been moving from least to most oil in the frying methods. We used a batter to coat the food for the first time. Also, we made an aioli from scratch, which was fun. I've never done my own mayonnaise before. Now that I know how ridiculously easy it is, I may do that a lot more.

We took boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and cut them into strips. We pounded the strips flat. They were dredged in a mixture of seasoned flour and cornstarch. We coated them in a tempura batter. We learned the swim method of deep frying. In the swim method, the food is held in tongs. It is half submerged in the hot fat, and gently moved back and forth for ten seconds. It is then carefully released. It should float, and not touch and stick to the bottom. Just as with pan frying, it is important to not try to cook too much at once. Adding food drags down the temperature of the oil. If the oil is too cool, the result will not be pleasant. The chicken is then drained on a paper towel lined tray.

It came out crispy and juicy. The batter was light, and not thick.

We did the same thing with onions. We cut the onions into half inch wide rings (about a fourth of an onion. As I have said before, I am a sucker for good onion rings.

Just like the chicken, the onions were first dredged in a mixture of flour and cornstarch. They were then battered and deep fried, using the same swim method.

We used a commercial tempura mix. Tempura batter is generally based on a low gluten wheat flour, and commercial mixes may include rice flour, corn starch, or leaveners like baking powder. We used it plain, with just some salt and pepper, for the onion rings. The batter for the chicken was more interesting. It was flavored with curry powder and cayenne pepper.

It is important for the batter that the water used is ice cold. It should be mixed as little as possible, it's OK to have some lumps left. You do not want to develop the gluten. If you develop the gluten, you will get a tough and chewy coating. Not what you generally want in fried foods.

We made a spicy aioli as a dipping sauce to go with the chicken and onion rings. An aioli is essentially a mayonnaise. It is an emulsion of oil and water (in this case lemon juice and vinegar) stabilized by the lecithin in egg yolk. Soy lecithin can be used to produce a vegan mayonnaise. The secret is to slowly drizzle the oil into the vinegar and egg, while whisking vigorously. We included onion, garlic, and sambal for flavor.

If you are concerned about potential salmonella contamination, you can use pasteurized or irradiated eggs. Alternatively, you can heat the egg yolks in a double boiler to 160 F, while whisking to prevent coagulation.

The aioli went really well with the chicken and the onion rings. The acid from the lemon brightened the flavors, and the heat from the sambal enhanced them.

As always, all recipes courtesy of chef Joe Orate.


Chef Joe's Spiced Tempura Batter

2 cups Tempura Mix
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Ice water as needed

Mix together tempura mix and spices. Add ice water while whisking, until batter resembles thin pancake batter.

Chef Joe's Spiced Aioli Sauce

5 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. minced onion
juice of 1/2 a lemon
10 oz. by vol. olive oil
1 tsp. sambal chili paste
salt and pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, and onion. Slowly drizzle in oil, while whisking vigorously. Whisk in sambal, salt, and pepper.

Happy Eating!

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