Autumn is here. There’s a chill in the air, and Cranky, Whiny and Punch are already thinking about Halloween costumes. The other thing that comes around this time of year happens to be some of the greatest culinary events the world has ever known. I am, of course, referring to the State Fair.
State fairs have always been on the culinary cutting edge. They’ve been credited with making corn dogs and funnel cakes household names. About a decade ago, something magical happened at a state fair: the deep-fried Twinkie. It’s a Twinkie, dipped in batter, placed on a stick and deep-fried. Now this may seem like just a delicious way to top off your chili brat and onion blossom, but oh, it is so much more. The deep-fried Twinkie sent three important messages to the purveyors of state fair fare: 1) The line between sweet and savory can be blurred, 2) anything can go on a stick, 3) and, there is no food that cannot be battered and deep-fried.
SWEET MEETS SAVORY
Master chefs throughout the world have been tearing down the wall that separates sweet and savory flavors for years. The Barefoot Contessa bastes her bacon with maple syrup and Iron Chef Morimoto once made smoked trout ice cream. But those pale in comparison to the Florida State Fair’s fried ice cream burger—a bacon cheeseburger topped with a scoop of deep-fried ice cream. The Orange County State Fair serves a chocolate-covered corn dog with sprinkles. What about the Krispy Kreme barbecue chicken sandwich or the hot beef sundae? The sundae actually is all-savory, with a scoop of mashed potatoes, shredded beef, gravy and a cherry tomato. But, here’s the genius: It looks like an ice cream sundae.
How hard is it to put something on a stick? Can you put spaghetti and meatballs on stick? Because the folks at the Minnesota State Fair can. They take the meatball mixture, combine it with cooked spaghetti, dip it in a garlic batter, deep fry it and, voila!
INTO THE DEEP
The folks at the Texas State Fair are deep-frying Coke. That is, deep-fried Coca-Cola flavored batter balls topped with Coke syrup, cinnamon sugar and whipped cream. Sounds like the perfect palate cleanser after a donkey tail. What’s that, you say? It’s only a foot-long beef sausage pumped full of cheese, battered, deep fried and topped with chili, nacho cheese and salsa. I think I found the one item that they can’t put on a stick, but I may be eating my words, among other things.