I am anxious about deep frying. More specifically, I am anxious about scalding myself with hot oil. I have never done it. Well, not to a staggering degree anyways, but I do fret about it whenever more than a splash of oil goes into a pan. It seems to be inviting injury or other kitchen disasters like, you know, fire. So I am usually happy to just leave the frying to the professionals. I’ll saute, I’ll roast, I’ll braise, I’ll grill like a mofo, but I’d rather not deep fry.
But then I see something like the recipe for Alice Waters’ Buttermilk Fried Endives and I know that if I go to my corner burger place, they aren’t going to make those for me. If I want to try those (and ho boy did I want to try those), I’m going to have to suck it up and make them myself. I found some pretty endives at the store and took the plunge.
Luckily, this recipe couldn’t be simpler. Cut the endives into wedges, season with salt and pepper, dip them in buttermilk and then dredge them in flour. Fry them up and eat.
So, hang on, I am basically talking about deep frying lettuce here? Yes. Yes, I am. If Alice Waters says you can do it, then you can do it. It sounds a little weird, but there is something about the eating of them that is super satisfying. They taste incredibly light for a fried thing. You almost believe you are eating something healthy. Almost. I find that they pair nicely with fish, like simple roasted tilapia or grilled sole.
You can serve them simply with some lemon wedges and just squeeze lemon juice on them or sprinkle some fresh herbs over them (which is how they are pictured above) but they also pair really well with Gremolata, which is something you should add to your recipe index even if you have no interest in the fried endives. Gremolata is a bunch of herbs and two different fruit zests (lemon and orange) combined with olive oil and left to sit for at least half an hour. You can use it accent dishes but my most common use for it is to use it to coat root vegetables (potatoes, cauliflower, parnsips, etc.) and then roast them. You get the most flavorful and succulent vegetables this way.
Buttermilk Fried Endives with Gremolata
(adapted from Alice Waters)
4 Belgian endives, cut into wedges
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups flour
Oil for frying
Lemon wedges or Gremolata (see recipe below)
Set buttermilk in one bowl and flour in another.
Season the endives with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil to 350 degrees in a heavy bottomed pot. (If you don’t have a thermometer to gauge the temperature, I know a great trick here. Put a single kernel of popcorn in the oil. When it pops, your oil is at the right temperature. Use a slotted spoon to retrieve the popcorn kernel, eat it and start your frying!)
Dredge the endives in the buttermilk and drain. Then dredge in the flour and shake off any excess.
Fry the wedges in the oil until golden brown, two to three minutes. Set on paper towels to drain. If using gremolata, drizzle it over the wedges just before serving.
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Whisk together all ingredients in a bowl and let sit for at least 30 minutes. (I usually do it in a pyrex measuring cup because it makes pouring it onto stuff easier.)