Now that Halloween’s over with—except for the mountains of candy collected by my son and his pals that are sitting in neat little piles on the living room carpet—it’s time to turn to healthier, heartier fare, foods that fit the chillier nights and darker days upon us as winter approaches.
At least that’s what all the foodie websites are urging: ’Tis the season for rolling out the comfort foods.
At the top of most people’s list of classic choices in that category is old-fashioned meatloaf. It’s hearty, satisfying, relatively inexpensive and makes great leftovers.
But are you aware of what’s become a hot new trend with meatloaf? As a way to “jazz it up,” as the Mr. Food website styles it, the latest twist is Crispy Fried Meatloaf.
That’s right: Crispy Fried Meatloaf is now joining a long and distinguished list of deep-fried favorites, including Country-Fried (or more properly, “Chicken-Fried”) Steak, Deep-Fried Pork Chops, Deep-Fried Cajun Turkey, along with more exotic entrées such as Crispy Deep-Fried Bacon, Deep-Fried Mini-Reuben Sandwich Bites, Deep-Fried Buffalo Chicken Skewers and Chicken-Fried Chicken Livers.
As the Mr. Food Test Kitchen blurb phrased it, “Crispy Fried Meatloaf keeps the timeless flavor we all love, but gives meatloaf a golden coating we can really sink our teeth into.”
For those of you playing at home, to make Deep-Fried Meatloaf you prepare a typical meatloaf from your favorite recipe, refrigerate the finished product for several hours, and cut into inch-thick slices. Then prepare a coating from eggs, vegetable oil, flour and Panko bread crumbs, then coat the slices in flour, dip them into the egg mixture and deep-fry ’em until golden brown.
Serve them with salt, pepper and—what else?—ketchup, and maybe a pile of mashed potatoes and you’ve effectively banished whatever winter blues might be looming, at least for one evening meal.
Pizza: The new breakfast
In addition to the Crispy Fried Meatballs, there are three other items on the list that sounded intriguing. The first is a creation called Deep Fried Breakfast Pizza with Sausage, Eggs, Parmesan and Hollandaise Sauce.
Like I said, “interesting.”
The recipes I’ve seen for this item call for pizza dough made from scratch, but who’s got time for that? C’mon. This is breakfast. Better to substitute pre-made pizza dough, which is allowed to rise and formed into a 10-inch diameter circles.
They’re then lowered into a deep fryer (or a wok filled with heated oil) and held under with a spatula until “puffy” and lightly crisped on bottom side, about 45 seconds. The dough is flipped over with tongs and cooked until second side is crisp, about 45 seconds longer. Then it’s flipped it back over and transferred to a pre-heated skillet.
Sausage is scattered over top of pizza, leaving a one-inch border all around and a two-inch wide hole in the center for the egg. You break an egg into the center of pizza, drizzle the sausage with maple syrup, sprinkle everything with Parmesan cheese, transfer to the broiler and cook until edges are charred, or about 90 seconds. Add hollandaise to the finished pizza and serve immediately.
A second interesting concoction is called Deep Fried Spaghetti and Meatballs. These are basically meatballs made with extra-lean ground beef and seasonings that are formed around mozzarella cheese cubes, wrapped with spaghetti noodles and baked in a moderate oven for half an hour,
After cooling, the meatballs are dredged in flour, egg wash and Italian breadcrumbs and dropped into in a deep fryer. As a finishing touch, the meatballs are topped with marinara sauce, plus a full-on blizzard of grated Parmesan cheese over the top.
I imagine the flavor’s over-the-top, too.
Finally, there’s one truly strange recipe from deep in the deep-fryer category: Deep-Fried Brains.
I kid you not.
Specifically, the recipe calls for one pound of lambs’ brains, which raises the question: Where the heck are you supposed to get those?
Assuming you can, you boil a two-quart pot of water, add in garlic, peppercorns and herbs and simmer for 15 minutes. Then lower the brains into the pot and simmer for an additional six minutes. Remove the brains, let them cool and separate the lobes into two-inch chunks.
Roll each lobe in flour, coat it with the egg mix, then breadcrumbs and deep-fry until golden brown and crispy, or about three minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with green sauce made from finely chopped herbs, anchovies, garlic, and capers and olive oil.
M-m-m-m. Who needs winter as an excuse to serve this kind of comfort food?
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.