In our second session of Haven’s Kitchen Summer School, our Kitchen Manager Zoe Maya Jones will guide us through the idea of “mise en place.” A fundamental lesson in building confidence in the kitchen, the art of “mise en place” helps unpack and organize the most complicated recipes. We find it especially useful in teaching people the technique of frying.
The first time one hears and learns the term ”mise en place,” it is an a-ha! moment. “Everything in its place,” that’s the dream, right?
What often sets home cooks and chefs apart is their ability to be organized and multitask. Once you master the art of mise en place, your confidence in the kitchen will grow. At Haven’s Kitchen, we teach this skill through frying fritters. Frying is one of the techniques that many students are afraid to tackle because things can get fast and hot. However, understanding mise en place — being ready with the right tools and a place to land — will alleviate these fears.
The other reason we love teaching fritters is because each food culture has its own version and every person has their personal favorite.
The fritter style we are focusing on in this session is tempura. These crispy, indulgent, light and airy fried vegetables are glorious with salt and lemon, or dipped in an easy soy vinegar sauce.
As stated, when frying organizing yourself is essential in creating the best crisp and crunch safely. Sauces are an important part of the fritter experience. So, we often recommend make the sauce first, so that when the fritters are fresh, they can be dunked and enjoyed immediately.
The beauty of tempura is that you can use any vegetable you have, and a medley of odds and ends is even better. Besides the ones we’ve prepared in this lesson, some of our favorites are sweet potato, broccoli, Japanese eggplant, and asparagus. You can even fry pickled vegetables, like carrots and green beans, for an added punch of flavor. When deciding what to fry, practice the art of being resourceful — peek in your fridge and see what you have. Remember, our goal is less about a following a recipe, and more about finding your culinary groove.
After you’ve prepped your vegetables, set up your station with your tools: a spider (or slotted spoon), chopsticks or tongs, a bowl for battering, a pot of oil, a sheet pan with a rack for landing, and your thermometer. The last thing you want to do is be waiting for your oil to come to temperature when everything else is ready, so slowly heat the oil over a medium-low flame while you start to get things in order. This ensures that the oil doesn’t get too hot before you finish prepping your vegetables or mixing your batter. For tempura, you’ll heat your oil to a higher temperature of 400°F because you want a crispy, airy coat and high heat to steam the vegetables to quickly cook. In comparison, our standard temperature for a deep fry with French fries, falafels or arancini is at 350°F because you want the interior to cook in relation to the exterior for a good fry.
While you’re slowly bringing the oil up to temperature, make your batter. The key to tempura is not to overmix the batter. Lumps are okay! Dip vegetable pieces into the batter using tongs or chopsticks, and carefully place them in the oil.
While you’re frying, don’t overcrowd the pot. Leave room, so the temperature of the oil doesn’t drop too much while leaving breathing room for the vegetables. Continue to monitor the oil temperature. When you add your fritters, the oil temperature will dip, which means you might need to adjust it so it’s higher.
Once they become a beautiful golden hue, take them out put them on your landing station to cool for a 30 seconds or more so you don’t burn your tongue.
We encourage you to choose a recipe you want to master, and find the most efficient way to execute it using the concept of “mise en place. “ This lesson is one you’ll take with you everywhere you go in your culinary adventures, from baking cakes to frying fish or composing a salad. It encourages you to fully read a recipe first before starting, so you know the steps you need to take to get to a successful end result. It boosts your confidence, your efficiency, and your success rate. Bonus: you’ll look like a professional when entertaining family and friends.
Mixed Vegetable Tempura
Vegetable oil, for frying
1½ cup rice flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup cold beer
¾ cup cold sparkling water
About 24 pieces of three or four different kinds of vegetables such as: broccoli, cut into large florets, onions, sliced into ½-inch rings, sweet potato, cut on the bias into ¼-inch-thick slices, green beans, ends trimmed, asparagus, woody bottoms trimmed
1. In a large bowl, stir rice flour and baking powder. While whisking, gradually pour in the beer and sparkling water, mixing just until combined. Be careful not to overmix; there should be lumps in the batter.
2. Set up your landing station: Place a baking sheet lined with a wire rack next to your frying area with a slotted spoon or spider.
3. Fill a large, heavy-bottomed pot with enough oil to cover the tempura by at least 1 inch once added. Heat the oil to 400°F over medium heat. Unlike other frying temperatures, the oil temperature should not drop too much, so you’ll keep it steady at 400°F the entire time.
4. When the oil has reached 400°F, use chopsticks or long tongs to dip the vegetables into the batter and allow the excess to drip off before carefully placing in the hot oil.
5. Fry the vegetables until lightly golden and crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Using the slotted spoon or spider, scoop them out and transfer to the prepared rack, sprinkle with salt. Continue frying the remaining vegetables in uncrowded batches, making sure to allow the oil to return to 400°F before starting the next batch.
6. Serve hot with a ginger garlic sauce, or salt and lemon.Recipe excerpted from The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School by Alison Cayne (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017.
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