Ask Eric: How to make crispy coating

Dear Eric: Would you have recipes for different batters? I am thinking fish and a crispy/crunchy batter for chicken, such as preparing strips, etc.

Reg Blackmore

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Dear Reg: Below are three recipes to try. The recipes for the fish and prawns use a batter. The chicken uses a soak-and-dredge method.

When making batter, remember more viscous liquids such as milk will yield more tender results. More fluid, bubbly ingredients, such as beer, which I used for the fish, and soda water, which I used for prawns, will yield a lighter, crisper batter.

Keeping the batter very cold, which I did by setting it in a bowl of ice, is another way to ensure it fries up crisply. When the cold batter hits the hot oil, it causes a bigger reaction, making it crisp and light.

Cornstarch is added in both batter recipes. Doing that reduces the amount of gluten in the batter, making it more delicate when fried.

For the chicken, instead of a batter, I used a fried-chicken technique. That meant soaking the strips in a buttermilk mixture before coating them in seasoned flour.

After coating, the chicken sits a while so the flour absorbs the liquid and better adheres to the chicken. When fried, the chicken takes on that crispy coating you were looking for.

When deep-frying, work with quite small batches, the oil will remain at a consistent temperature and cause the food to absorb less of it.Fish in Beer Batter

This batter could be made with regular or alcohol-free beer. For a light-coloured batter, use lager. Dark ale gives a darker batter.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 5 to 6 minute per batch

Makes: 4 (2-piece) servings of fish


• vegetable oil for deep-frying

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

• pinches of paprika and white pepper

1 cup ice-cold beer

• tartar sauce for dipping, to taste

• lemon wedges for garnish

Heat the oil in your deep fryer to 375 F. Preheat oven to 200 F. Set a wire-rack over a baking sheet.

Thoroughly combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, paprika and pepper in a bowl. Set a second bowl in a bowl filled with ice. Pour the cold beer into that bowl. Add the flour mixture and whisk until a smooth batter forms.

Working in batches, dip fish in the batter and fry five or six minutes, turning once, or until richly coloured and crispy. Set cooked fish on the wire rack; keep warm in the oven until the rest is fried. Serve fish with tartar sauce; garnish with lemon wedges.


Tempura Prawns

Crisply coated Japanese-style prawns with an easy-to-make dip.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 3 to 4 minutes per batch

Makes: 20 prawns

For the dip

1/2 cup teriyaki sauce

1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

1 green onion, very thinly sliced

Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Cover, refrigerate until needed.

For the prawns

20 large prawns or shrimp

• vegetable oil for deep-frying

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup ice-cold soda water

1 large egg yolk

Peel prawns, leaving the tip of the tail attached. With a paring knife, cut almost all the way through the flesh down the centre of each prawn. Pull out or rinse out the dark intestinal vein. Open the flesh of each prawn until it sits flat. Pat prawns dry and refrigerate until needed.

Heat the oil in your deep fryer to 375 F. Preheat your oven to 200 F. Set a wire rack over a baking sheet. Thoroughly combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set a second bowl in a larger bowl of ice. Add the soda water and egg yolk to that bowl and whisk to combine. Add the flour mixture and whisk until a smooth batter forms.

To fry prawns, working in batches, hold onto the tail, dip into the batter, and then let excess drip away. Deep-fry prawns until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Set the cooked prawns on the wire rack; keep warm in the oven until the rest are cooked. Serve the prawns with the dip.

Options: The batter could also be used to coat about 24 pieces of sliced vegetables, such as peppers, yams, onion, broccoli and zucchini. They would take the same time to fry as the prawns.


Crispy Southern Fried Chicken Strips withHoney Mustard Dip

Nicely spiced, fried-until-crispy strips of chicken paired with a sweet and spicy dip.

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus marinating time

Cooking time: 5 minutes per batch

Makes: 24 chicken strips

For the dip

1Ú3 cup Dijon mustard

1Ú4 cup honey, or to taste

Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate dip until needed.

For the chicken

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground sage

1/4 tsp ground savoury

1/4 tsp marjoram

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 large egg, beaten

1 to 2 tsp hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

24 chicken breast fillets, or 24 long, 1.25-cm thick slices of boneless, skinless, chicken breast (see Note)

• vegetable oil for frying

Combine the first 10 ingredients in a bowl. Cover and set aside until needed.

Combine the buttermilk, egg and hot sauce in a second bowl. Add the chicken, cover, refrigerate and marinate four hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using one hand, remove a piece of the chicken from the buttermilk mixture and then set in the flour mixture. Now use your clean hand to turn, dredge and coat the chicken in the flour mixture. Set chicken on the baking sheet.

Repeat these steps with the remaining chicken, ensuring strips do not touch on the baking sheet. Let chicken sit 15 minutes to allow the flour mixture to set.

Heat the oil in your deep fryer to 375 F. Preheat your oven to 200 F. Set a wire rack over a second baking sheet.

Working in batches, deep-fry chicken until golden brown, crispy and cooked through, about five minutes. Set cooked chicken pieces on the wire rack; keep warm in the oven until the rest are cooked. Serve the chicken with honey mustard sauce for dipping.

Note: A chicken breast fillet is the centre portion of the breast sold separately in the meat department of most supermarkets. Some supermarkets label them “chicken tenders.”


Eric Akis is the author of the hardcover book Everyone Can Cook Everything. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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