If you asked me, I would say that I like fried pickles. But, in truth, the only well executed fried pickles I have ever had were at Threadgill’s in Austin about 15 years ago. But like all good food memories, it seems like yesterday. They served it with ranch dressing and I swear I get that pickle pucker face just typing about it.
Back to this century…
In my weekend sojourns to the farmers markets of North Texas I have discovered many jewels. One product really stands out for me this year and that is the spicy, sweet pickles made by Karen Phelps of In a Pickle. She is a Ft. Worth gal and she and her husband, James, started this company dedicated to spreading the gospel of the sweet, pepper-heated, dill pickle. When’s the last time you stood at the counter and one by one scarfed down a half a jar of pickles straight out of the jar. I know, it sounds like a bad pregnancy joke. But these pickles are that good. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to make my pimento cheese recipe again soon, just so I can taste it with these pickles because I think they might be soul mates.
I digress, last week I asked Karen if she had ever fried her pickles and she not only said yes, but she was kind enough to share the recipe. I did one bit of tweaking in that I subbed in a dark funky Shiner Bock Beer called Shiner Bohemian Black Lager in the place of Guinness Stout. It performed admirably and added a nice manly, roasted, yeasty scent to the batter. I know that sounds bizarre and you probably don’t hear those words put together in a positive way often…however, make this beer batter and you will know what I mean.
The genius of the recipe is that the batter process goes in this order: seasoned flour to beer batter to panko bread crumb crust. The crinkle cut pickle holds onto the batter like crazy and you end up with wonderfully battered crunchy pickles. I also fried up some spears of my other non-spicy favorite, Best Maid Pickles. I feared that my kids might not go for the spicy ones…and while it worked fine, the batter definitely adhered better to the crinkle cut pickles. I read somewhere that a 20 minute post-battering stint in the freezer can help the batter adhere, but the crinkles didn’t need it and I didn’t try it for the spears. Let me know if you do. My spice fears were unfounded, by the way. The pickles are somewhat toned down in the frying process.
Karen also shared a quick and easy dip for the pickles, too. Her chipotle mayo dip is just that: good mayo, chopped chipotles (or chipotle salsa) to taste and some chopped up pickles and juice. Easy. Chipotles are red jalapenos that have been smoked. Ranch dressing would be a fine dip, too.
Now, I must say, frying is kind of a pain in the butt. I never want to deal with the aftermath. It is a little dicey when your son is doing laps in the kitchen dragging the dog on a “walk.” But this was fun and tasty and worth the fuss. There is no way around the fact that this is a “fry and serve” recipe. So make it with friends and enjoy the process and eat them hot off of the paper. The recipe, as written, will use up a whole jar of pickles. I halved this recipe, and it was probably enough for 4 big servings.
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour (divided use)
1 teaspoon garlic pepper seasoning (I used Johnny’s Seasoning Salt and no additional salt)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (12 oz.) bottle Shiner Bohemian Black Lager (or other Stout beer)
Panko Bread Crumbs/didn’t measure just enough to coat the pickles
1 (16 oz.) jar In a Pickle pickles or other crinkle cut pickle
½ cup Mayonnaise
1 to 2 Tablespoons of chipotle in adobo sauce or chipotle salsa
First, make your dipping sauce. Combine about ½ cup of mayonnaise with a tablespoon of chipotle salsa or ½ tablespoon of chopped chipotles in adobo sauce. Taste it for spiciness and add more chipotle if you like. Then add a few chopped pickles and about tablespoon of the spicy pickle juice if you are lucky enough to have some of Karen’s pickles available.
You will need 3 prep bowls (or a bowl and two plates). For the seasoned flour, put 1 cup of flour in a bowl and season it with the seasoning salt (or seasoned pepper and salt). For the batter, whisk together one cup of flour with the beer and buttermilk. Pour panko crumbs into the third dish.
Remove the pickles from the jar and pat them dry with a paper towel. Place each slice individually in the flour…tapping off the excess. Then dunk it in the batter, letting the excess drip off. Then dredge it in the panko crumbs. Set the battered pickle on a cookie sheet covered with a sheet of wax paper. Do this for all of your pickles.
Bear in mind, that while a tiny pickle slice doesn’t look like much, once it is battered and fried it becomes a substantial bite, so you really don’t need more than five or six per person if you are doing this as an appetizer.
In a cast iron skillet, carefully heat about one inch of vegetable oil to 350 degrees. Carefully (using tongs) place each slice into the hot oil. Working in small batches, fry each pickle until golden brown, turning them halfway through the process. Remove them to a rack or to paper to drain a bit. I believe that a cut up paper grocery bag is the #1 best material for this job.
Once they are done, don’t forget to turn off the stove and carefully move the skillet back to the back (if you have kids) so you can deal with it later, or just leave it alone until it cools. Hot oil frightens me a little. Please be careful.
This is good stuff and has me in the mood to go to the state fair. But, I guarantee you, you will like this better than most of the fried stuff at the fair. The panko is a brilliant turn. Thank you Karen! Karen also has this and other interesting pickle related recipes on her In a Pickle website.
Note: This might be a good time to make sure you own a good candy/deep frying thermometer…I mean before you actually make these. Also, if you don’t drink beer or you don’t drink beers this stout, Whole Foods sells all sorts of interesting beer by the bottle. I was able to get just the one bottle that I needed for this recipe, which I really appreciate.