A Culinary Experiment in Boiling Oil
Deep-frying is as American as cursing is French. The culinary rights established by our founding fathers give us the right to deep-fry anything under the sun. But should we? To save you the trouble (and get paid for doing weird shit), we took over the deep fryers of U-District frat-standby Dante's (5300 Roosevelt Way NE, 525-1300). We deep-fried a collection of innovative items, determining their palatability, texture, mouth feel, and umami—then tested the results on the unwitting but game patrons of Dante's. Now we report back to you with the results.
We dipped the muffin in beer batter and dropped it in the fryer. Upon retrieval and dissection, we realized it was still cold in the middle. The muffin was again dipped in beer batter and returned to the hot oil.
Assessment: The muffin came out golden brown, absorbing an inordinate amount of oil. We cut it into pieces and slathered them with whipped cream. We didn't think it tasted that different from a regular muffin, but the patrons gave it a resounding thumbs-up.
Verdict: We say "meh." They say "yeah!"
Pepperoni Hot Pocket
The Hot Pocket was fried sans batter, like a giant pizza stick. It was burn-y on the outside and cold in the middle, which is typical of Hot Pockets prepared in any manner.
Assessment: Every single person Jonah offered the Hot Pocket to refused it outright. Dicks. But when Ari offered the goods (along with a wink and a smile), a group of young men decided to take the plunge into flavor country. After one bite, they decided the dish would be better as "beer soup," pouring a half-pint of beer into the bowl. They seemed pleased with the fried delight and their own ingenuity.
Verdict: Everything is better with beer.
Like their living counterparts, the Gummi worms squirmed out of our hands and back into the batter repeatedly. After depositing them in the fry basket, the Gummi worms promptly melted into a gelatinous, sticky, battered lump.
Assessment: The lump was surprisingly devoid of taste, but was immediately devoured by one young woman, who exclaimed, "It tastes like doughnuts!" It most definitely did not taste like doughnuts.
Verdict: Gross—don't do it.
Bacon-Wrapped Matzo Balls
After we experimented with a few matzo balls not wrapped in bacon (to determine the proper cooking time), our sacrilegious beauties came out a beautiful golden brown.
Assessment: Holy Christ, these were amazing! Our kosher grandmothers will probably never forgive us for this, but of all the things we tried, this was the tastiest. We didn't even make enough to serve to the patrons. We ate them all, huddled over the deep fryer.
Verdict: Delicious—just don't tell your rabbi.
Spam, Olives, and Pickles
These three items, pickled in their own juices, seemed like they'd make good flavor friends. The olives and pickles maintained batter integrity, but the Spam's moistness would be its downfall. The Spam's batter peeled back from the "meat," leaving half of the small square a deep shade of red, while the other half blackened in the heat of the oil.
Assessment: We cut everything up into bite-size pieces and arranged them on a plate, studded with toothpicks. We paired the "tapas" with an exquisite ranch-dressing reduction. The olives were delicious, but a pit almost broke the tooth of one patron who refused to heed our warnings. The Spam tasted like a mixture of dim sum and dog food. But the pickles were a success.
Verdict: Skip the Spam, but everything else is good eatin'.
Safeway-Brand Snack Pie
As the apple, mixed-berry, and chocolate pies were lowered into the fryer baskets, their glazed exteriors liquefied and rehardened. When retrieved and cut open, their molten interiors oozed out like a partial-birth foodbortion.
Assessment: The seeping chocolate filling burned a tester's hand. We took the pies out to the bar full of taste testers, who refused the addition of whipped cream, shoveling the crisped sweet treats into their mouths with reckless abandon.
Verdict: Who doesn't like pie?
Mac and Cheese
After dropping small slabs of still-frozen Banquet Macaroni and Cheese Dinner ($1!) in batter, we placed them in the fryer and promptly forgot about them. Fortunately, we were reminded of their presence by the bar manager, Kelly, who had been eagerly anticipating its appearance on our menu.
Assessment: Crispy on the outside and mushy in the middle, the fried mac and cheese didn't disappoint, despite its frugal, low-quality beginnings. Of course, devoting your Kraft Deluxe to such a venture would probably yield the same delicious result.
Verdict: A taste sensation! (Kelly scooped it into his mouth by the handful and asked if there was any more.)
A Whole Fucking Tilapia
The pièce de résistance of the night was a whole, head-on, lifeless-eyes-staring-at-you tilapia, which cost a whopping $1.14.
Assessment: The eyes did not explode as expected, but the unbattered fish still stunk up the joint. When the fish emerged from the fryer, neither of us would touch it, so we sent it—whole—to the beer-swilling patrons out in the bar. Only one man was brave enough to try it, giving it a positive review. We took the fish back to the kitchen and dug in ourselves, determining it to be a bit fishy, if not excessively oily.
Verdict: Tilapia is a boring, cheap fish—but as we've learned tonight, everything gets better when you fry it.