When I moved north of the Mason-Dixon, I learned a lot of things. I learned that I say the words pen and pin the exact same way, with the latter being that way. I also do the same thing with ten and tin. I learned that college football, especially Big 12 or SEC college football, does not in any way carry the same weight up here, but that professional football is actually pretty fun to watch. I learned that Texas has more choices for fast food in a mile of highway that Boston does at all. I mean that as a good thing, for Texas that is.
In addition to those pearls of wisdom, I also realized that fried pickles are not generally part of the plate up here. I've seen them from time to time on menus and enthusiastically ordered them, only to find soggy, breaded, fried pickle spears. This is not acceptable. New Englanders do some great things with food; I've eaten very well up here. But I'm picky about my pickles and if they're fried, they better be done right.
Enter the deep fryer. My deep fryer was actually inspired by my dad's deep fryer, which he also got for Christmas. The very first thing we made, naturally, was fried pickles. The family that fries together stays together.
Good fried pickles, to me, mean dill pickle chips, a soak in a spicy buttermilk marinade, and a crunchy, crispy breading. And ranch dressing! Always ranch dressing. Let's fry!
Mix together buttermilk, hot sauce, and garlic powder in a large bowl.
Drain a jar of dill pickle chips and pat dry with two layers of paper towels.
Add the drained pickles to the buttermilk mixture and toss to coat. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
Add oil to a large pot, or, if your me, to your deep fryer (I still can't believe I can say that). Preheat the oil to 350 degrees.
Meanwhile, make the breading. Whisk together 2 cups of flour and a cup of cornmeal with salt and pepper. When the pickles are done marinating, add them directly to the breading and toss to coat. Shake off the excess flour and transfer to a wire rack.
Using either a wooden spoon or the spider strainer, gently move the pickles through the oil to prevent sticking.
When the pickles are deeply golden and crispy, remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with salt while they are still piping hot.
Continue until all pickles are fried. That's the most beautiful sentence I've ever written.
Serve immediately with ranch dressing. I use the packets of Hidden Valley Ranch mix and make it according to package directions, because while I can make a mean ranch dressing, those people have perfected the art. Plus, you just fried your own pickles, cut yourself some slack.
These fried pickles are everything. They're crispy and salty and sour. They've got just the slightest hint of a kick from the hot sauce which is paired perfectly with the cool, creamy ranch dressing.
Julia Child says, "Everything in moderation, including moderation." Repeat this mantra while you enjoy this incredible dish, because we can count our calories tomorrow. Remember the soup? See, moderation.
Here's the recipe!
Crispy Fried Pickle Chips (Adapted from none other than the Fried Queen herself, Mrs. Paula Dean)
- 1 24-ounce jar of dill pickles, drained and dried on paper towels
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup hot sauce (like Franks or Cholula)--use less if you aren't a spice fan
- 1 gallon canola or vegetable oil
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Mix together garlic powder, buttermilk and hot sauce. Add the drained pickles and marinate for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat oil to 350 degrees, using either a deep fryer or a fry thermometer and a large dutch oven. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper.
- Add marinated pickles to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Using hands, shake off excess flour and transfer to a wire cooling rack. Repeat until all pickles are breaded.
- Add pickles to oil using either the basket of your deep fryer or a spider strainer. Fry pickles in batches, until golden brown, about 4-6 minutes. You might need to move them around with either a wooden spoon or the strainer to prevent sticking. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt while hot.
- Serve with ranch dressing and forget about any guilty thoughts you may be having. It's in the recipe so you have to do it.