April 11, 2013

Deep-Fried Brussels Sprouts

As soon as I brought home my copy of Modernist Cuisine, I was eager to try cooking from it. For one of my first attempts, I had a bunch of friends over for a barbecue and decided to try four or five recipes. The sort of precise cooking this book called for was still new to me, but I carefully weighed and mixed all of the ingredients until, finally, I only had to deep-fry my Brussels sprouts.

I’ve deep-fried on the stove many times, but never had it occurred to me to measure the temperature of the oil (in retrospect, this probably would have saved me from overcooking some meals throughout the years). Relaxing now because I thought the hard work was over, I heated the oil. I then grabbed the only thermometer I owned at the time—a glass analog thermometer that came with a cocktail kit someone gave me. Without thinking, I stuck the glass thermometer in the hot oil, causing it to shatter! Luckily, the thermometer was alcohol-based, not mercury-based.

Naturally, we pulled out a new pot to fill with oil, continuing to make the Brussels sprouts. They were a huge success, as was the rest of the party. In fact, I’m often asked to bring them to potlucks and dinner parties. And now that I have a digital probe thermometer, my Brussels sprouts are even better than that first time. I never have to worry about burnt food or shattered thermometers. It is amazing what a little precision and the right equipment will do.

—Judy Oldfield-Wilson, Online Writer

Recipe Tags

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Deep-Fried Brussels Sprouts

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Use a long pair of tongs, a slotted spoon, or a deep-frying basket to safely add and remove foods from the hot oil.

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Drain the deep-fried sprouts on paper towels to remove any excess oil.

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These Brussels sprouts are best when eaten right away.

Tips & Substitutions

Steps 1 & 2
  • Peel off the darker outer leaves before frying. The outer leaves are tougher than the inner leaves.
  • Use a neutral oil with a flash point above 190 °C / 375 °F, like peanut oil. For more on the smoking and flash points of oils, see page xxii of Modernist Cuisine at Home or 2·126 of Modernist Cuisine.
Steps 3 & 4
  • If you don't have a deep fryer, check out this article for tips on frying on your stove. Most importantly, use a long pair of tongs, a slotted spoon, or a deep-frying basket to safely add and remove foods from the hot oil. And only use thermometers that can measure temperatures above 190 °C / 375 °F, such as a thermocouple.
  • Peel off the darker outer leaves before frying. The outer leaves are tougher than the inner leaves.
  • Make sure the sprouts are dry before adding them to the oil. Wet food can cause the hot oil to splatter violently.
  • Work in small batches, if necessary, in order to avoid overcrowding your pot or deep-fryer.
  • The sprouts will cool the oil when you first lower them into the pot or deep fryer, so let the oil reheat to 190 °C / 375 °F between each batch.
  • Deep-fry the sprouts until the edges of the leaves are golden brown. The inner layers will still be green.
  • Drain the deep-fried sprouts on paper towels to remove any excess oil. Because the oil does not penetrate food during deep-frying, draining fried food will remove much of the fat. Don't remove too much, though—that oil also provides much of the flavor.
Steps 5 - 8
  • In this recipe, we've called for simply dressing the sprouts with lime juice and salt, but tossing them in fish sauce is another easy preparation. In Modernist Cuisine, we offer a more elaborate dressing of ­­fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, vinegar, minced chili, garlic, and xanthan gum, along with puffed rice and fresh herbs.
  • These Brussels sprouts are best when eaten right away.

Discussion

  1. Derrek April 12, 2013 Reply

    I think it would look and taste better if the Brussels sprouts were blanched and battered similar to deep fried mushrooms. With a nice sauce to dip them into…?

    • Judy April 12, 2013 Reply

      Frying without a coating, called naked-frying, works really well with plant foods that either have a high starch content, or brown easily. Since Brussels sprouts brown so readily, they don’t need to be battered. The goal in frying Brussels sprouts in this way is browning and flavor development, not necessarily crispiness, though some crispiness will still occur. For more on this technique, see page 3·320 of MC.

  2. Kate February 6, 2014 Reply

    Derek – You seriously need to try before you criticise, they are amazing. I usually quarter them as it helps them open up.

    Deep Fried Sprouts are amazing, the deep frying caramelises the leaves and imparts some serious flavour, that just would not happen were they blanched and battered. Also with the blanching you risk adding more water which is a real no-no when deep frying.

  3. Peter October 24, 2014 Reply

    The right temperature is key to great deep frying. If the oil is too cold, the food will be soaked with it. If the oil is too hot, the food will get burned. I like to use deep fryers exactly beacuse the built-in thermometer helps me measure the temperature of the oil accurately.

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