Puttin' on The Mitts: Food that's fairly good for you
With the county fairs behind us, the Minnesota State Fair, which opens today, is your last chance at a corn dog this summer. Or is it? While my version of the corn dog isn't deep fried and on a stick, it still serves as a tasty but healthier substitute.
I've heard of recipes calling for cornbread muffin mix. You put your mix together, lay hot dogs in a pan and pour the mixture over them to create a corn dog of sorts. I've tried that before and while it's OK, it's not quite the same as having your own individual corn dog to yourself. Besides, I'm not a fan of how "corny" the muffin mix really tastes. By using the biscuits, you get the corn breading flavor but the texture of a biscuit, which I really enjoyed. It didn't seem as dense either.
Don't get the fair food blues just because summer is coming to an end. Have a carnival-themed night at home. Make some corn dogs, drink some lemonade and buy some cotton candy from the store. Take a spin on the merry-go-round at the local park. You'll feel right at home.
Baked Corn Dogs
Serving Size: 8
1 tube of corn biscuits
1 package of hot dogs (I used turkey franks)
Cheese slices, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Press and flatten the biscuits into about 6-inch circles. Place a cheese slice in the middle and a hot dog on top of that. Roll the biscuit and seal it around the hot dog. Place them seam-side down on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 16-18 minutes until golden brown.
For four years in college, I worked at the University of Minnesota Athletics booth at the Minnesota State Fair. It gave me the opportunity to explore all of the available food options without paying the cost of admission, a treasure trove of inspiration for someone as food-obsessed as me.
Among all the crazy concoctions that appear each year, my favorite fair food was relatively simple: garlic fries. A gigantic serving of french fries smothered in tons of garlic? Yes, please. Of course, I waited until after my shift was done to eat them - I did work in customer service, after all.
With this recipe, you can create a healthier, baked version of the once-a-year treat at home anytime. The dipping sauce is not low-cal, so use it sparingly or substitute plain yogurt for the mayonnaise if that's what you're going for. If you make this substitution, you'll likely want to add some kind of sweet ingredient - such as a tiny bit of honey - to achieve the sweetness mayonnaise provides.
I utilized a method popularized by the folks at America's Test Kitchen, an absolutely essential resource for the curious cook, to make the fries. You might be tempted to skip the soaking step, but as a frequent maker of oven fries, I can tell you it's worth it. It encourages the starches to create a creamy interior to the fry while maintaining a crispy exterior.
Garlic Oven Fries
5 large, similar-sized russet potatoes, cut into sticks
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
To cut the potatoes into french-fry sticks:
Place the potato lengthwise on a cutting board. Holding the potato in place, slice off one side, just enough to create a flat edge. Roll the potato so the flat side is on the cutting board. Repeat on the other three sides. Slice off each rounded end. The potato should now look roughly like a rectangle.
Next, slice through the potato lengthwise into three to four evenly sized pieces. The size of these cuts will determine the size of the fries. Flip the potato one-quarter turn, keeping the slices together. Make the same lengthwise cuts.
Fill a large bowl halfway with hot water. Place the fries into the water and soak them for 10 minutes.
Remove the fries and place them on a towel, patting them until they are very dry. Dry out the bowl and put the fries back in. Drizzle in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.
Spread the fries out in a single layer on a greased cookie sheet. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for five minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 10-15 minutes more.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the garlic, parsley and a pinch of salt.
Loosen the fries from the bottom of the cookie sheet and flip them using a spatula, careful not to break the fries or overlap them too much. Turn the sheet if necessary for even browning. Continue to check on the fries, shaking them occasionally, for another 5-10 minutes or until desired doneness.
Add a bit more salt to the fries when they come out of the oven.
To serve: sprinkle the garlic mixture over the fries and enjoy with the smoked paprika mayo dipping sauce.
Smoked Paprika Mayo
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt to taste
Combine the mayo, Dijon, lemon juice, smoked paprika and salt in a small bowl. It's good to prepare this ahead of time to allow the flavors to meld.