The advantage to deep-frying seafood is
that it comes out of the oil intensely hot, crisp and flavorful. No other
cooking method creates such a satisfying and distinct contrast between the
moist interior and the fragile, crunchy crust. Lean white-fleshed fish
fillets are excellent deep-fried, as are shrimp, squid and baby octopus.
Prepare seafood for frying by coating it
with something that produces a crust: flour, a bread crumb coating, a
light flour and water (or club soda) batter, or a tempura batter. Flour
results in a subtle crust that is barely noticeable; you taste more of the
fish. Breading and batters make a more apparent, crunchy outer coating,
Tempura batter makes the crunchiest coating of all. If you want to
emphasize the fish, use a flour coating. If you want to emphasize the
crust, use a breading or batter. For lots of crunch, use a tempura batter.
Tempura batter is fundamentally different
from other flour-based deep-fry batters. While other batters are mixed
until perfectly smooth (and perhaps strained) and then given a rest period
to allow the gluten to relax before frying, tempura batter is mixed
together at the very last minute. The ingredients are just barely blended
together (and therefore contain lumps) and so quickly that the gluten in
the flour is never activated.
Japanese cooks usually serve shrimp tempura
with a simple dipping sauce made by combining dashi, mirin ( a sweet wine
used for cooking), soy sauce and ginger. Leave the small tail flippers
attached when you peel the shrimp.
egg yolks and ice water with chopsticks. Don't worry if the yolks are not
fully blended. Pour in flour all at once and stir for a few seconds with
the chopsticks until the batter barely comes together in a lumpy mass.
Just before frying, dip
the shrimp into the batter.
Gently lower the shrimp,
holding the tail flipper with tongs, one at a time into 370oF
oil. Fry for about 1 minute.
Take the shrimp out of the
oil with a slotted spoon. You can also use a wire frying basket. Drain on
paper towels and serve immediately.
Deep-fry seafood at 370oF.
Fillets of lean white-fleshed fish such
as cod, scrod, sole and flounder can be cut into thin strips called
goujonettes. Goujonettes should be thin. If your fillet is thicker than
3/4 inch, cut it horizontally into 2 layers.
You can cut fish into goujonettes
several hours in advance and refrigerate them, but don't flour until
just before frying.
Tempura batter should be mixed only
until the ingredients are barely combined, so as not to overwork the
flour. Expect some lumps of dry flour in the batter, as well as dry
flour remaining on the sides of the bowl. Japanese cooks like to mix
tempura batter with chopsticks to avoid overworking it.
Serve deep-fried seafood as soon as it
is cooked, while it is still very hot.