Chanukah celebrations are steeped in traditions that are based around a miracle that occurred in 139 BCE. During the rededication of the Temple that was desecrated by Syrian forces under the reign of Antiochus IV, oil that should have only lit the Temple menorah for one night lasted a full eight nights. This was deemed a miracle, and, therefore, oil is an important component of Chanukah festivities.
Foods fried in oil are part of many celebrantsÕ Chanukah traditions. Desserts such as sufganiyot, or jelly doughnuts, and fried potato dishes called latkes can be found on Chanukah tables.
Although fried foods are usually enjoyed in moderation, such foods may be the centerpiece of Chanukah celebrations. Cooks can be intimidated by frying when faced with large quantities of steaming hot oil. According to Epicurious, when cooked properly, fried foods will come out crunchy, with the interior nearly free of grease. The following tips can help celebrants make Chanukah meals even more tasty while improving cooksÕ frying skills for other times of the year.
¥ Choose the right oil. Frying requires oil to be heated to very high temperatures so it cooks the food quickly and does not make it soggy. Oils that can withstand that kind of heat are those that are deemed to have a high smoke point. This is the temperature at which the oil will begin to smoke and start to give off fumes. Oils that can withstand 375 F and above will not break down quickly and smoke. These include canola, sunflower, peanut, and safflower oils. Avoid olive oils, which have a low smoke point and are less than ideal for frying. You will probably need between six and eight cups of oil to fry.
¥ Use the right equipment. The right equipment will make frying go smoothly. A deep fryer can be a handy tool for those who fry often. A deep, heavy-bottomed pot, such as a cast iron Dutch oven, can work as well. When cooking, keep the oil consistently hot and use a vessel thatÕs deep enough for foods to submerge and cook evenly. Other tools include a slotted spoon or frying basket, and a digital thermometer to confirm the oilÕs temperature. Remember, hot oil can quickly go from a smoke point to a flash point, which will ignite the oil. Adjust to keep everything safe.
¥ Keep surfaces and foods dry. Oil and water do not mix. Water will splatter in hot oil, which can cause burns and injuries. Try to limit splattering by drying foods and shaking off excess batter.
¥ Dredge foods in flour first. Flour will help the batter stick to foods and prevent it from sliding right off in the oil.
¥ Dress the part. Even with practice and caution, some oil can splatter. Wear old clothes and an apron so that you do not ruin expensive items. Oil stains are not easily removed from clothes.
¥ DonÕt overcrowd foods. It can be tempting to put several pieces of food in the fryer at one time. But this can lower the oilÕs temperature, resulting in soggy food. For even, hot cooking, avoid overfilling the fryer.
¥ Blot off excess oil. Allow fried foods to drain on paper towels to absorb any extra oil from cooking.
¥ Try to eat foods promptly. Fried foods are best enjoyed shortly after cooking for the ultimate in crispiness and flavor.
Fried foods can be a treat during holidays like Chanukah. When cooked properly, fried foods can be delicious.