Making Fair Food at Home | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Making Fair Food at Home

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Stephanie Pahaut, visiting from Belgium, eats a chicken-on-a-stick at the Mississippi State Fair.

You might go for the extra-long corn dog, or choose an old favorite and navigate a Penn's chicken-on-a-stick. My favorite part of that stick of food is the fried pickles, but I digress. Or you might stick to consuming the sweets: funnel cakes and elephant ears made with lots of sugar, shortening and cinnamon. Any path you choose to take will likely lead you to a bit of a stomach-ache, but knowing that you got yourself into it on purpose might make you feel a bit better.

The delightful thing about fair food is this: You can make it at home. I have had a semi-regular supper club with friends for several years now and often think of themes to make the pot luck a little easier. My friend, Kate, recently came up with the idea of having a "Fair Food Goodness" supper club while standing over a bubbling sheet of homemade pretzels. By the way, soft homemade pretzels are sinfully delicious, especially when they're still warm from baking in the oven. What do you love best about fair food? If it is pizza, make it at home with a thinner-than-usual crust, bigger slices and serve on paper plates. Maybe you love the aforementioned chicken-on-a-stick. All you need are skewers, pieces of fried chicken, fried pickles and onions. Also, consider "frying" battered kabobs in the oven, making them a little healthier. Fair food is not exactly healthy for your little heart.

For my vegetarian friends, no worries. You can also enjoy this delicious treat by either using a wet batter on pre-seasoned seitan (I use the West Soy vacuum-packed seitan strips) or rolling it in flour and nutritional yeast. Alternate pieces of chicken or seitan with battered pickles and pieces of sweet onion.

Speaking of skewers, another beauty at the fair comes only on a stick: corn dogs. I love the crunch of fried corn meal and the salty insides. I've mostly replaced pork and beef in my diet with turkey and chicken, though. In my house we salivate, almost embarrassingly so, over turkey-cheddar dogs and the coveted chicken-apple sausage. So I decided to replace traditional hot dogs with our favorites. Making corn dogs will probably make a mess of your kitchen, but they're totally worth it. You can make all sorts of changes to the basic recipe to fit anyone's taste bud, and your friends will inevitably descend on your home when they know you're making them. When making the batter, try adding herbs (rosemary or basil for subtle punches), diced, pickled jalapeƱos or chopped sundried tomatoes. When deciding on that meaty inside, think about alternative sausages instead of Oscar Meyer's. And as always with frying, keep safety in mind. You never want your oil to get too hot, or it will splatter.

Make sure to visit those fair stalls at least once to inspire your culinary god or goddess. Admission to the State Fair is free every day from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m

Corn Dogs

Batter
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup corn meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup beer (try Pabst Blue Ribbon)
1 egg
Seasoning (rosemary, basil, etc)

You'll also need:
8 wieners
Wooden skewers
2 to 3 cups vegetable oil

Mix all dry ingredients together in one bowl. Whisk wet ingredients together, slowly adding the beer last. (The rest of the beer is for you, cupcake.) Add dry ingredients little by little to wet bowl and when all mixed together, place into shallow pan or dish. Skewer meat and let batter set. Heat oil in a large skillet to about 350 to 375 degrees.

One by one, dip and swirl skewered meat into batter and place in hot oil, turning as needed. When brown and crispy, place on paper towels to drain or on cooling rack to crisp. Use a variety of sauces to accompany, whether plain yellow mustard and ketchup or maple syrup, Chinese hot mustard or mango chutney.

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