I’m not even going to pretend this is a healthy meal. If there’s one thing we all know about fried food it’s that it’s not very good for us. However, if there’s another thing we know about fried food it’s that it’s abso-freakin-lutely DELICIOUS.
I have many times uttered the words: everything is so much better when it’s deep-fried. And it’s true! I try my best to eat healthy the majority of the time, but I will not deny the fact that I love all things indulgent. I think everybody has a little bit of that in themselves (some more so than others), whether or not they choose to admit it. We’ll, I’m not afraid to. Golden brown, crispy, deep-fried delight calls to me. And it’s singing my favorite song.
Every now and then, my family and I like to whip out the deep fryer and have a Fried Food Night. Let’s be clear, this is not something you turn into a once-a-week staple. It’s more of a once-in-a-blue-moon deal. It may not be good for you, but man, is it good. There’s something really fun about deep-frying your own food then settling in with the family or whom ever is closest to you to dig in. It’s like a food party. And I guarantee that frying your own food is ten times tastier than the sub par appetizers you’ll find at any restaurant. This is one of the million cases of “homemade is better.”
So, what are we fryin’ up tonight?
For those of you who have successfully averted the deep fryer until now, steady your racing heart. There’s good news! For one, you can make the eggplant & zucchini without touching a deep fryer. I just fry them up in a shallow pan with vegetable oil. You get golden, deep-fried deliciousness without totally immersing them in a pool of oil. In fact, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t do the other two in the pan as well.
Now, that being said, I do love what legitimate deep-frying does to pierogies. Their filling is soft and the outside gets slightly crisp and golden. It’s a delicious effect I’ve never seen in pan-frying. If you’ve never tried a fried pierogi, then man, are you missing out! Deep-frying isn’t as scary as it seems. Give it a go and you’ll never look back!
This dinner is just about as tasty as tasty gets. The eggplant and zucchini get wonderfully crunchy and golden on the outside with a tender inside that’s still slightly crisp. Better yet, they aren’t coated in one of those super thick batters that take away from the veggies themselves. It’s a light and crisp coating made from a mixture of panko & breadcrumbs to achieve the perfect texture, plus oregano, kosher salt, and grated parmesan for great flavor. You get a yummy golden coating that enhances the veggies rather than suffocating them. It’s delightful. Serve ’em up with some smooth marinara sauce and you’ve really got something there!
I highly suggest having a Fried Foodapalooza like I did, but you don’t have to make a meal out of it. You could make just one or two of these delectable fried delicacies for an appetizer or side dish. It’s up to you!
So, ready to get fryin’? I sure am!
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- Don’t like some of my fried foods of choice? French fries are DELICIOUS when you make ’em at home. If you don’t feel like peeling and slicing potatoes, I won’t judge you if you use the frozen kind! It’s still delicious. Tater tots also come out AWESOME in the deep-fryer. Other options include onion rings, mozzarella sticks, and more!
- You want to have everything set out and and ready to go before you start. I say that all the time, but I really mean it today! The veggies can fry up quick and if you don’t handle multitasking well, you may get overwhelmed. That’s why it’s good to have your breading station all set up so you can work quickly & efficiently.
- If you get two people in the kitchen, one can fry the veggies and the other can man the deep-fryer with the pierogies and poppers. Then you can cook twice as fast.
- Feeling a little guilty about eating all this fried food? Follow up with a light dessert like my Caramel Macchiato Pudding for only 85 calories or Classic Creme Brulee for 104. Then, detox some more tomorrow with a healthy meal like my Kickin’ Italian Veggie Skillet for 140 calories or a Zesty Black Bean Taco for 240 calories!
- If you’re feeling really fancy, you can make a homemade marinara sauce for dipping the fried veggies in. If not, jarred is just fine.
- I LOVE Wegman’s pierogies. They’re available in the freezer section and there’s a million flavors to choose from! Tonight, I tried the Whole Grain Pierogies with Cheddar, Mozzarella, and Swiss cheese inside. Delicious! I also love the Spinach and Feta kind. But you can’t go wrong with the Onion, Garlic, or classic Cheddar!
Fried Zucchini & Eggplant
Recipe by The Smart Cookie Cook
- 1 eggplant, sliced
- 1 zucchini, sliced
- vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 cup Panko
- 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 3 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 cup flour
- kosher salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- marinara sauce, for dipping
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil & spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- Fill two large skillets with a quarter-inch of oil. Bring to medium-high heat.
- Get out three bowls. Fill one with the flour. Fill the second with the eggs and milk. Whisk to combine. Fill the third with the panko, breadcrumbs, oregano, salt, pepper, and parmesan. Mix to combine.
- Bread the veggies: One at a time, dip the zucchini/eggplant first into the flour, then the eggs, then the breadcrumbs. Make sure you coat the veggies evenly in each layer!
- Use tongs to lay the breaded veggies into the oil. Cook on each side until golden brown. Continue breading veggies and adding to the pan as space is available. When golden brown on each side, remove veggies and transfer to baking sheet. Keep warm in oven while you finish cooking the others.
- When all the veggies are fried, sprinkle with kosher salt & serve with marinara sauce.
How to Fry Pierogies, Poppers, and More!
How-To by The Smart Cookie Cook
- 1 box frozen pierogies (like Wegman’s)
- 1 box frozen jalapeno poppers (like Popper’s)
- Or any frozen snack food of your choice, like french fries, tator tots, onion rings, or mozzarella sticks!
- Vegetable Oil, for frying
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Take your snacks out of the freezer and let them thaw for a little.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Line a large bowl with paper towels & set aside.
- Heat fryer to 350 degrees. Fill to line with vegetable oil.
- Load batches of food into fryer basket (don’t overcrowd the basket; it’ll lower the temperature of the oil). Carefully and slowly lower the basket into the oil.
- Foods like the pierogies and poppers will float when they are almost done. The pierogies take about 7-8 minutes and the poppers take about 3-4 minutes. Cooking time may vary depending on your deep fryer. Once your food is golden brown to your liking, carefully and slowly lift the basket out of the fryer. Shake to remove extra oil.
- Dump the fried snacks into the paper towel-lined bowl. Let sit for a minute so excess oil can soak up while you add another batch of finger foods to the oil.
- Transfer the cooked food from the bowl to the baking tray. Keep warm in oven while you finish the other batches.
- When you’re done frying everything, load up a plate and enjoy!
Now, you’re ready for a fried festival of deliciousness! Deep-fried finger food nights like this are great for New Year’s Eve or Super Bowl parties. However, you don’t need a special occasion to celebrate yummy food and good company. Enjoy a night in with you family and some fried-up fun!