Mediterranean Flavors: The Frying Station
The frying station was one of my favorite stations during the class. I was a bit nervous (as always) that I wouldn’t be able to handle the volume of orders that come in, but I happened to have two slow nights, so it was okay. One of my classmates showed me the ropes.
There are two different pots on induction burners. One pot is for “land” and one for “sea”. Sometimes kitchens separate frying oils because seafood can flavor the oil, and give some dishes (i.e. non-seafood dishes) unwanted aromas. So we have one for the calamari, and the other for everything else.
The calamari are really mini-squid that we cut up and batter with a salt and pepper dredge. Dredge is the name for the dry mixture you drag the items to be fried through. It’s served with a gremolata (garlic aioli with parsley and lemon). This is one of my favorite items on the tapas menu.
One thing I learned on this station was that when you fry things in small pots like this, you have to watch the temperature of the oil, because it will drop quite significantly when you add food to it. The large fryolators generally used in large production aren’t that sensitive. In any case, you also can’t fill the oil all the way to the top, because many items make the oil bubble ferociously and splatter everywhere. I have a couple of scars/burnmarks from hot oil splashing on me.
These are the croquettas. They are small balls of chicken and ham with bechamel, and coated in breadcrumbs. The sauce served with it is a delicious spicy ketchup.
This is a special that a classmate ran one night, it’s deep-fried risotto balls, also known as arancini. Here, the student has made a pesto, red sauce, and almond sauce to go with them, and it looks like the colors of the Italian flag, how fitting!
The chickpea fries are super yummy. They are basically panisse (cooked seasoned chickpea flour) cooled in a form and then cut into French fry-like pieces. Then we deep-fry it. We serve it with an aioli mixed with harissa, which is called rouille. One of the fun things about this is that we fold our own parchment paper cones!
We also made duck empanadillos (small empanadas), which are kind of like ravioli, stuffed with duck meat and other flavorful ingredients.
The falafel comes on a pita with tahini (sesame seed sauce), tomato, lettuce, and also hummus, tzatziki, and some pickled vegetables (escabeche).
I’m really glad I got to experience the saute, grill, and fry stations. I learned so much about how to handle food, heat and maintain oil temperatures, use the grill, multitask saute orders (not that easy), and cook food to the correct temperature. Plus, I learned about tempura batter, salt and pepper batter, breading, panisse, and keeping food for service cold without a cooler. In the photo below, the olives in the middle are fried in a tempura batter.
Until next time!