Sunday, March 30, 2014

Fried Caper Berries

























So years ago when I was traveling a great deal for work, I had the, ahem, pleasure to spend six weeks in the, ahem, great city of Houston, Texas.  Yes, I kid Houston.  There’s not a lot of great things I can say about it—the place is crowded, hot and humid.  But, one saving grace:  Houston has a nice amount of great restaurants.  I didn’t go hungry while I was there.  In fact, I probably gained a few pounds. 

One of the dishes I discovered there (and which I’ll be telling you about here) was fried caper berries.  I wish it had a fancier name.  Put the word ‘fried’ in front of anything these days and it just sounds so passé, so State-Fair-of-Texas.  (They fry everything there)  But rebuke those visions of fried banana splits or whatever crazy fried dish they’ve come up with at this year’s fair.  This dish is fit to be served on the finest tables of Europe, or at least some of the swankier hash houses of Houston. 

This dish was actually on the bar food menu at the swank hotel as I staying at in the Woodlands, which is a swank suburb of Houston.  (Have I used the word ‘swank’ enough in the past few sentences?)  Anyway, I was having a drink at the bar (one must entertain oneself whilst on the road, right?) and the barkeep served me these amazing fried capers.  And I’m not talking the little, corn kernel-sized nonpareil variety known as capers (sans ‘berries—because these aren’t berries, but the buds of the plant), no, these were big, mature caper berries, the size of grapes, with their stems still attached to provide a convenient handle.  



The frying had awakened the natural oils in the caper berries, warming them and amping up the already delicious, tart flavor that is present in the berries.  The crisp, breaded crust wrapped everything up in a nice little package that could be grasped by the stem and popped in the mouth.  Mmmm, they were delish. 

So, I knew I had to replicate this dish at home, and replicate I did.  It turned out to be a simple affair, as you will see below.

  
Fried Caper Berries

20 or so Large Caper Berries, Stem-On
2 Eggs, Beaten
1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Italian Breadcrumbs
2 Teaspoons Garlic Salt
  
Drain the caper berries, then set aside.  Next, beat the egg whites and yolks together until they are nicely combined.  



Set up a dredging station:  Put the flour in one bowl, then set the egg mixture next to it, then in the last bowl combine the bread crumbs and garlic salt. 



Dip each caper berry in the flour, then the egg mixture, repeat this, and then finally roll it in the bread crumbs.  



When you are finished, you should have a nice, well-coated berry with no gaps in the breading.



Reserve on the plate and repeat with the rest of the berries. 

Heat some vegetable or peanut oil to 375F...



...then fry about half your berries for around three minutes or so, until they are golden brown.  Repeat with the other berries. 

Allow them to drain on a paper towel...



...and then serve immediately.  They are best when they are hot from the fryer, and their internal oils are still hot. 



Here we’ve served them with some veal picatta (topped with some of the caper berries’ smaller, nonpareil-sized cousins).  They go great with French or Italian cuisine, or just as a snack all by themselves. 

Additional note:  You can get some pitted Greek or Kalamata olives and treat them the same way;  that is, batter and fry them using this recipe.  They won’t have a little stem-handle, but they will taste out of this world.  Do this and mix some in with the caper berries for an out-of-this-world experience. 

Until Next Time,

Fry ‘em if you got ‘em,


Chris

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