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07/23/2013

~ Batter-Dipped Panko-Crusted Deep-Fried Zucchini~

IMG_0376It's that time of year: zucchini season.  If you have vegetable garden or a husband with a vegetable garden, you're looking for creative ways to use them before they fill the vegetable bin in your refrigerator to capacity.  There's all sorts of recipes out there:  zucchini bread, zucchini cake, zucchini muffins, zucchini fritters, zucchini pancakes, zucchini waffles, etc., which are fine if you're looking to sneak a vegetable into your family's diet without them knowing it.

Don't be shy, give it a try, everyone loves a zucchini deep-fry party! 

IMG_1208Personally, I will only eat zucchini that are picked when young and tender (not Guinness Book of World Records huge), and, I like it served on a plate in an identifiable manner:  lightly sauted as a side-dish, or batter-dipped as an appetizer.  Plain and simple:  I am a zucchini snob!

Dilled Summer Squash & Zucchini #9 Dilled Summer Squash & Zucchini #1My recipe for ~ Pure & Simple:  Summer Squash (Zucchini) Saute ~ can be found in Categories 4, 14 & 20!

A bit about zucchini/corgette: Zucchini is a dark green, cylindrical Summer squash which is best harvested around 8" in length, while the seeds are still soft and immature.  Its hybrid relative, the golden (yellow-orange) zucchini is identical is taste and texture.   IMG_9689Although similar in appearance, unlike cucumbers, zucchini is best and is usually served cooked. Culinarily, it is treated as a veggie and presented as a savory dish. Botanically, it is the fruit of the zucchini flower.  All squash is native to Central and South America, but the variety marketed as "zucchini" was brought to the USA by Italian immigrants in the early 1920's!  

A small, "baby zucchini", with the edible flower/blossom attached to it, designates a truly fresh, immature fruit.  Baby zucchini are a delicacy and are sought after by many for its sweet flavor:

IMG_0166FYI:  Batter-dipping, panko-coating and deep-frying zucchini!

PICT5240A bit about batter dipping:  The ties that bind are more important than you think.  After a showdown between traditional watery egg-milk-flour mixtures vs. my trendy beer batter, the beer batter won hands down.  In fact, it wasn't even a competition.  My beer batter doesn't use ordinary all-purpose flour either.  The day I started using pancake mix in place of flour, my batter went from ordinary to restaurant-quality extraordinary!

PICT5231A bit about panko coating:  Why in the name of crunchiness would anyone want to continue to use old-fashioned breadcrumbs to coat fish, meat or vegetables if they knew about panko?  They wouldn't!  

"Panko" is the Japanese word for "bread crumbs", and theirs are considerably crispier and crunchier than any of our Western bread crumbs.  What's more, they absorb less grease, more flavor and stay crispy a lot longer.  Panko is the "wow factor" in this recipe!

PICT5244A bit about deep-frying:  In my humble opinion, God put deep-fryers on this earth for a good reason and I now believe that zucchini may have been at the top of his list!

Put away that skillet or pot and enjoy the mess-free ease of how this relatively inexpensive countertop appliance regulates temperature and perfectly cooks each piece of food!

Who wants a crunchy, crispy coating on a perfectly cooked vegetable?  We all do.  Who wants a stovetop full of grease spatters and a ton of cleanup?  Not me, but this choice remains yours!

Now it's time to batter-dip, panko-coat and deep-fry zucchini! 

IMG_0186

6  8" zucchini, trimmed of both woody pole ends, cut lengthwise into 4 quarters, quarters cut in half to form 8 wedges, 48 total 3 1/2" wedges

2 1/2  cups pancake mix, for dredging

3 1/4  cups additional pancake mix, for batter 

2  12-ounce bottles beer

2  8-ounce boxes panko breadcrumbs

corn or peanut oil, for deep-frying

freshly ground sea salt

PICT5257~ Step 1, Part A.  Organize what I like to refer to as "a breading assembly line" (from left to right): 1) A plate of zucchine prepped as directed above.  2) An 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish containing 2 1/2 cups of dry pancake mix.  3)  A large mixing bowl containing 3 1/4  cups of dry pancake mix whisked together with 2 bottles of beer.  4)  An 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish containing 1 box panko breadcrumbs.  5)  A deep-fryer containing oil preheated to 360 degrees according to manufacturer's specifications.  6)  A baking pan lined with several layers of paper towels.  Note: You'll also need tongs, a salt grinder and a timer (if your deep-fryer does not have one).

IMG_8010~ Step 1, Part B.  When everything is measured and in place, whisk together the pancake mix and beer. Set aside for about 5 minutes before starting the frying process. This will give the batter time to thicken to a drizzly consistency.  If at any point during the frying process the batter gets too thick, whisk in a little more beer or some water. Also, add additional panko to that dish, as needed, throughout the process.

IMG_0191 IMG_0187~ Step 2.  NOW IT'S TIME TO FRY!  

Eight at a time, dredge the zucchini wedges in the dry pancake mix to coat it on all sides.  Give it a gentle shake, to let excess pancake mix fall back into the dish...

... Next, move up the assembly line IMG_0203 IMG_0195and using a small fork, dip the zucchini wedges into the batter.  

As you lift each one out of the batter, hold it over the bowl for a second or two, to allow the excess batter to drizzle back into the bowl.  

After each one is batter dipped...

... Move up the assembly line once IMG_0212again and place it in the dish of panko breadcrumbs.  Dredge the zucchini wedges in the panko breadcrumbs, to evenly coat each one...

Note:  In case you haven't noticed, I've been accomplishing the ongoing "breading task" with a fork held in one hand, keeping my other hand clean, dry and available deep-frying!

IMG_0221 IMG_0214... Carefully place (I use the fork) four of the coated zucchini wedges into the hot oil of the deep-fryer.  

Close the lid and cook for 3 minutes.  Using a pair of tongs, remove from the oil and transfer to a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan that has been lined with several layers of paper towels.

IMG_0242IMMEDIATELY, sprinkle with a fresh grinding of sea salt.  Repeat this process until all of the zucchini wedges are coated and deep-fried.

Serve hot (within 5 minutes of coming out of the deep-fryer), warm (within 30 minutes), or, at room temperature (within one hour). Trust me, they will still be very crunchy after 1 hour -- they still be quite crunchy after 2-3 hours too! 

IMG_0396Batter-Dipped Panko-Crusted Deep-Fried Zucchini:  4 dozen appetizers or snacks

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes; 1 large mixing bowl; fork; deep-fryer; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; paper towels

IMG_0124Cook's Note:  In my opinion, there is only one suitable dip for my deep-fried green zucchini:  refreshingly cool ranch dressing.  You can find my recipe for ~ Mel's "Happy Valley" "Hidden Valley" Ranch Dressing ~ in Categories 1, 2, 8, 10, 17, 19 & 20, or, by clicking on the Related Article link below!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 

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