Bacaro-Style Frying Batter

La Pastella dei Bacari

It’s possible to argue that the best cooking technique is that which alters as little as possible the natural character of food, and if one accepts that proposition, one must conclude that frying, when properly executed, is the ideal way to cook. It seals in the juices of vegetables, meats, and fish; it protects their texture; and it enhances their surfaces with a crisp, light crust.

In the wine bars of Venice they fry with a lovely batter that tastes good and stays crisp for hours. Particularly good with this batter is eggplant, the large kind, cut into ½-inch-thick round slices; or artichoke, trimmed down to the heart and cut into wedges; or firm-fleshed fish fillets. For the latter, in Venice, they use cod a lot, but if I am somewhere in the States where I can get fresh grouper, I prefer that. Wash the grouper fillets and cut them into boxy pieces about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. Dip in the batter and fry in very hot vegetable oil that comes at least ¾ of an inch up the sides of a large skillet.

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Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1⅛ cups whole milk
  • Salt
  • Black pepper ground fresh
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • cups flour

Method

  1. Break the eggs into a deep dish and beat them with a fork or whisk, adding the milk a very little bit at a time.
  2. Stir in salt and liberal grindings of black pepper.
  3. Separately, mix the baking powder into the flour. Add the flour and baking powder mixture to the eggs a little bit at a time, beating constantly with the fork or whisk.
  4. Let the batter rest for at least 40 minutes but no more than 2 or 3 hours before using it. After that time, leftover batter must be discarded.

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