Wednesday, July 22, 2009
What's Cooking? Fried Sage Leaves
There’s a reason I don’t deep fry, and it’s not the calories. Ok, more than one reason, and you can include the calories. The heat, the mess – before, during, and after – and then what to do with the leftover oil. I’m sure my San Antonio grandmother, Minnie Lee, would sit up in her grave and berate me at the thought of life without fried chicken or fried okra or fried catfish, or that hallmark of southernness, fried hush puppies. She was a Louisiana girl, and I can still hear her soft, lilting voice as she talked to those little balls of cornmeal in the skillet, saying “Hush! Puppies,” as they spit and sputtered in the hot bacon grease. Mostly, though, I remember her perspiring in the heat and wiping her brow with a tissue she kept in a pocket of her apron. The heat would have been particularly intense because there was no air conditioning in her kitchen, only a big ceiling fan that pushed the air around.
So frying is something I now leave to others: restaurants, friends, TV chefs. Still, when you’ve got an overabundance of sage in your garden (Note: this photo is actually from my garden, so overabundance is not an exaggeration), and you mention fried sage to a friend who has invited you for dinner and she says, “Oh, I love fried sage leaves,” in the sort of husky tones one would usually reserve for late nights with one’s husband, it’s easy to forget those long-ago times when I cooked bacon in a skillet or Chicken Kiev.
I already had a recipe, which directed that the leaves be dredged in flour then fried 30 seconds to a side. It seemed like a long time to cook a little thing like a sage leaf, but what did I know? After working my way through a couple dozen of the little babies, I offered one to my husband. “What do you think?” I said.
“I think I won’t have a second one,” he replied.
So I did what I should have done first: I looked them up on the internet, and sure enough, two sources recommended 5 seconds total and no flour. Sprinkle a little salt on them and you are good to go. The second batch went a lot faster and looked a whole lot better. I didn’t bother having my husband taste them.