Saturday, October 5, 2013

Foodie Fare - Fair Food - By Brian Rounds

How is it even possible that it is October? I could swear that yesterday was the last day of school! It’s time to talk about fall foods! With the harvest afoot, one can only drool over the myriad of produce available at this time of year: Apples, squash, pears, kale, Brussels sprouts, figs, and, yes, pumpkin. Such great and versatile ingredients for any home or gourmet chef, right? Indeed they are but there are other fall foods out there. No, I’m not talking about candy corn, either. I’m talking about fair food.

As a child, I remember spending a day out at the Cumberland Fair with my parents and brother. We would eat lunch and dinner at the Fair once our stomachs settled from the spinning of the Gravitron or the gyrating of the Tilt-A-Whirl. I think my favorite fair food was always the sausage subs. They were always on super fresh rolls, grilled to perfection and piled high with onions (I did not like peppers as a child). I’d make sure there was plenty of mustard and mayonnaise on that sub before devouring it. Even the fries at a fair taste amazing, something about the air, I think.

We can’t forget the sweet stuff, right? Candied apples, cotton candy, and pie – I love pie. There is something about sweets that, as an adult, I have a hard time dealing with, but as child I think when I went to the fair, I would have one of each of these delectable tidbits. I even gorged on kettle corn because back then (and I’m not that old) the fair was the only place you could buy it – and the fair, to this day, is the only place I will buy it – who knows what manufacturers put in the stuff on the grocery store shelves? Anyway, even the kettle corn isn’t what made the fair so foodtastic. We’re all thinking it, I’m just going to say it, the fried dough – there is something about bland dough fried in oil and topped with sugar that can make someone’s mouth water.

At the Cumberland Fair one could top their fried dough with the traditional butter and powdered sugar, but also could pile on cinnamon –sugar, or maple syrup (the real stuff, of course), but they also had a bucket of pizza sauce and parmesan cheese (the grated variety). I remember upon one trip to the fair, I scrunched my nose up when I saw the sauce and the vendor convinced me to tear a piece of my golden dough off and dip it in the sauce. I was amazed – I couldn’t understand what was happening in my mouth! My mouth was saying “what are you doing to that dough?!” Soon, though, I found myself slathering the top of my dough with red sauce and parmesan cheese.



Of course, I ordered another dough and got the maple syrup, butter, and cinnamon –sugar toppings for dessert.

Once again I had found a fair food that one could only get at the fair. I had to wait an entire year for fried dough until my mother accidently messed up making Portuguese sweet bread. When she realized that it wouldn’t rise as much as she needed it to in order to have it be delicious bread, she broke down the dough into balls and heated up her fry daddy. She’d stretch the dough out to the size of her palm and down into the oil it would go. I must admit, the house smelled very much like the fair (minus the animal smells, that is). She sprinkled the dough with sugar immediately after letting it drain on paper towels. She told me that her mother and grandmother would make these when she was a kid and she called them dough boys. I don’t care what they are called, they are fantastic! I would not suggest, however, the pizza sauce route, as the dough is sweet and is perfectly complimented by either simple sugar or cinnamon-sugar. Nothing like a pillow of goodness from my childhood to set the mood for fall.

Recipe: Dough Boys
Since I refuse to be “that guy” and give out the family recipe for sweet bread, follow the recipe on the King Arthur Flour website, the directions are long so I’ll spare the space.

After the first rise, break the dough down into balls, roughly the size of your palm. Let them rise for 15 minutes while you heat your oil to 375 degrees. A caveat, hot oil can burn so please be safe while making these – use a heavy Dutch oven with an oil thermometer or a countertop fryer and monitor the temperature constantly. Also never, ever, leave a fryer or a pan of oil unattended and children should be told the kitchen is off limits while making these, just to be safe.

Back to the goodness: stretch the dough balls to cover your hand and then drop them into the oil. Cook for 3 minutes then flip using chop sticks (wooden ones, please). Cook for another 3 minutes. Drain on a paper towel then top and enjoy – they are best hot, but I loved my mother’s when they were cold, too!

Granulated Sugar
Powdered Sugar
Maple Syrup (for dipping)
Chocolate Sauce (for dipping)

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