Between glamping season and summer holidays, I decided to try my hand at food I never eat. Ever. Recently, I was hosting some die-hard fans of fair food and accepted the challenge of making their favorites — basically, food on a stick that's been fried to crispy perfection.
The basic batter recipe is based on one by The Pioneer Woman, who also advises keeping any leftover batter and making pancakes with it the next morning; I added in some blueberries and they cooked up fluffy and with a bit of crunch from the cornmeal.
As for the batter itself, the challenge is getting the right consistency — neither too thick nor too runny, but rather like a heavy cream — so that it creates a nice thin crisp outside without being too doughy. As with all frying, be careful to make sure your pot is large enough to avoid any mishaps. Since I already had the fans going and the pot boiling, it seemed that the guests took it as a sign to deep-fry and batter a variety of ingredients. Some neighbors rushed back home and brought back handfuls of candy bars to cook up along with the dogs and cheese.
Lesson learned: Almost anything is edible with the right batter and frying technique. Although, I did finally put the lid on the pot when someone mentioned deep-frying doughnuts …
Homemade corn dogs and fried cheese
5 3/4 cups pancake mix, such as Krusteaz Original Mix
2 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 to 6 cups water
12 to 15 hot dogs, such as Hebrew National kosher beef franks
6 to 8 cheese sticks, such as cheddar and pepper jack
Vegetable oil, for frying
In a large bowl, combine the pancake mix, cornmeal and black pepper. Stir just to combine. Add in the eggs and start by stirring in 4 cups of tap water. Add a little water at a time and up to 2 cups more total; you want the consistency to be thick enough to adhere to the hot dog without being clumpy or too runny.
Pour enough oil in a large deep pot to at least 4 inches deep, making sure to leave enough room so the oil doesn't bubble over when adding the dogs. Heat the oil to 360 degrees. In a shallow plate or pie plate, add some cornstarch. Run the chopsticks through the hot dogs and the cheese sticks, leaving a few inches at the bottom to hold the stick.
Pour the batter into a tall glass. Lightly dredge the hot dogs and cheese sticks in the cornstarch, using fingers to tap or rub off any excess cornstarch. (Note: you'll want to test the oil. Drop in a bit of batter or flour; it should sizzle and dance and float at once.) When the oil is ready, gently dip, one at a time, the hot dogs into the glass of batter and drop in the whole dog, stick and all, into the hot oil. It should start to dance and sizzle right away. Repeat with two to three more corn dogs. Let cook, gently turning with tongs or a spider, until golden, for about 2 minutes. If browning too quickly, reduce heat slightly.
Remove from oil to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining dogs and then the cheese sticks, frying them a few at a time, and allowing oil to return to the proper temperature between batches. Note that the cheese sticks will take a little less cooking time. Let cool slightly before serving with mustard or other favorite condiment.