Air fryers are taking center stage in the small appliance section of stores.
I wonder, will it quickly lose its popularity as the bread machine did? I use the air fryer feature of my multipurpose countertop oven way more often than I did the bread machine. My bread machine found its temporary resting place in the garage, not too long after I purchased it. After collecting dust for a while it found a home in a friend’s kitchen. Who knows where it is now; perhaps it has made the rounds to several thrift stores, after people used it a few times.
Despite its convenience, the air fryer takes some time to get familiar with to get to perfectly crispy french fries, chicken, and Brussels sprouts, “fried” with just a touch of oil. America’s Test Kitchen has taken out the guesswork and provides tips, discoveries and secrets in “Air Fryer Perfection: From Crispy Fries and Juicy Steaks to Perfect Vegetables” (2019, America’s Test Kitchen, $24.99).
Did you know that an air fryer really isn’t a fryer? It is actually a convection oven that cooks by circulating hot air with a fan, replicating the crispiness of fried food without a pot of splattering oil. It simplifies dinner preparation (no preheating necessary), doesn’t heat up the kitchen and minimizes cleanup. The device acts as a second oven, too.
It uses much less fat, often less than a tablespoon.
If you are considering purchasing an air fryer, the book suggests models based upon America’s Test Kitchen’s in-depth testing. The chapter, “Making the Most of Your Air Fryer,” provides helpful hints. I learned that adding a bit of honey assists in browning due to the sugar content. For achieving the perfect golden brown, pre-toast panko bread crumbs in the microwave with a little oil. Doing this avoids the crumbs from drying out in the hot air. And, I now know how to roast garlic and peppers, make croutons, toast nuts and seeds and yes, bake cookies, all in my air fryer.
You also can venture beyond frying, to preparing perfectly cooked steaks, fish and better-tasting homemade, frozen-food section favorites such as the recipe for Better-Than-Boxed Fish Sticks. For the recipe for french fries, visit https://bit.ly/2wbKQl2, and for roasted salmon filets, visit https://bit.ly/388cXPx.
Will the air fryer craze diminish and become yet another kitchen gadget item stored away in the garage? Only time will tell. Because of the diversity of food it can cook in a healthy way and with little cleanup required, I don’t think so.
The headnote says: “Why This Recipe Works: Don’t settle for bland, dried-out supermarket fish sticks. Making your own as a freezer staple guarantees fresh fish and a flavorful coating anytime, and the air fryer can cook a serving faster than it takes the oven to preheat. Meaty haddock stood up to a crunchy coating and held its shape during cooking. Brining the fish briefly ensured it stayed moist and well-seasoned after freezing, and a generous addition of Old Bay seasoning in the coating brought classic flavors.”
You can substitute halibut or cod for the haddock. For the crispiest fish sticks, cook one serving at a time, respraying the basket between batches. You can also cook fish sticks without freezing; reduce the cooking time to 8-10 minutes. Serve with Old Bay Dipping Sauce or tartar sauce.
Dissolve 1/4 cup salt in 2 quarts cold water in large container. Add haddock, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes.
Toss panko with oil in bowl until evenly coated. Microwave, stirring frequently, until light golden brown, 2-4 minutes; transfer to shallow dish. Whisk flour, mayonnaise, eggs, mustard, Old Bay, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper together in second shallow dish.
Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet and spray with vegetable oil spray. Remove haddock from brine and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Working with 1 piece at a time, dredge haddock in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, then coat with panko mixture, pressing gently to adhere. Transfer fish sticks to prepared rack and freeze until firm, about 1 hour. (Frozen fish sticks can be transferred to zipper-lock bag and stored in freezer for up to 1 month; do not thaw before cooking.)
To cook fish sticks, lightly spray base of air-fryer basket with vegetable oil spray. Arrange up to 5 fish sticks in prepared basket, spaced evenly apart. Place basket in air fryer and set temperature to 400 degrees. Cook until fish sticks are golden and register 140 degrees, 10 to 12 minutes, flipping and rotating fish sticks halfway through cooking. Serve. Makes about 20 fish sticks Serves 4.
The headnote says, “Why This Recipe Works: Our air-fried chicken comes out golden and crispy on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside, and needs only a light spray of vegetable oil to achieve that crunchy exterior. The secret was removing the fatty skin and finding a coating that would crisp up without needing to be fried in a pan of hot oil. In a side-by-side taste test, crushed cornflakes won out over bread crumbs and Melba toast, offering the best color and crispness, but the results tasted a bit like breakfast cereal. Spicing up the cornflakes with poultry seasoning, paprika and cayenne pepper gave the coating the savory element it needed. Dredging the floured chicken pieces in buttermilk added tang and ensured that the crumbs stuck to the chicken.
To crush the cornflakes, place them inside a zipper-lock bag and use a rolling pin or the bottom of a large skillet to break them into fine crumbs. To help remove the skin from the chicken, use a paper towel to grasp the skin. If you prefer, you can use a combination of two 5-ounce thighs and two 5-ounce drumsticks instead of the chicken breasts; if using drumsticks and thighs, be sure to cook them until they register 175 degrees, 20-25 minutes.
Lightly spray base of air-fryer basket with oil spray. Remove skin from chicken and trim any excess fat. Halve each breast crosswise, pat dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper. Whisk buttermilk, mustard, garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in medium bowl. Spread flour in shallow dish. Combine cornflakes, poultry seasoning, paprika, cayenne, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in second shallow dish.
Working with one piece of chicken at a time, dredge in flour, dip in buttermilk mixture, letting excess drip off, then coat with cornflake mixture, pressing gently to adhere; transfer to large plate. Lightly spray chicken with oil spray.
Arrange chicken pieces in prepared basket, spaced evenly apart. Place basket in air fryer and set temperature to 400 degrees. Cook until chicken is crispy and registers 160 degrees, 16-24 minutes, flipping and rotating pieces halfway through cooking. Serve. Serves 2.
The headnote says, “Why This Recipe Works: Looking for an elegant meal or appetizer you can assemble with little effort? Make crab cakes in the air fryer; they come out well and there’s no messy pan frying. Any good crab cake starts with lots of sweet, plump crabmeat and minimal binder. After blotting away excess moisture, we found that 2 tablespoons of panko bread crumbs and an egg were all ours needed. Mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and cayenne added richness, tang, and gentle heat, and minced scallion contributed subtle freshness. While the cakes chilled, we air-fried some crispy shallots to garnish a green Bibb lettuce and apple salad, which we served with our crab cakes.
“Buy crabmeat (fresh or pasteurized) packed in plastic containers in the refrigerated section of your fish department. We do not recommend canned crabmeat.”
Line large plate with triple layer of paper towels. Transfer crabmeat to prepared plate and pat dry with additional paper towels. Combine egg, panko, scallion, mayonnaise, mustard, and cayenne in bowl. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in crabmeat until combined; discard paper towels. Divide crab mixture into 4 tightly packed balls, then flatten each into 1-inch-thick cake (cakes will be delicate). Transfer cakes to now-empty plate and refrigerate until firm, about 10 minutes.
Toss shallots with 1/2 teaspoon oil in separate bowl; transfer to air-fryer basket. Place basket in air fryer and set temperature to 400 degrees. Cook until shallots are browned, 5-7 minutes, tossing once halfway through cooking. Return shallots to now-empty bowl and set aside.
Arrange crab cakes in now-empty air-fryer basket, spaced evenly apart. Return basket to air fryer and cook until they are light golden brown on both sides, 8-10 minutes, flipping and rotating cakes halfway through cooking.
Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice, salt, pepper, and remaining 21/2 teaspoons oil together in large bowl. Add lettuce, apple, and shallots and toss to coat. Serve with salad, passing lemon wedges separately. Serves 2
Uczta: A Vodka Dinner, March 5, 6:30 p.m., Shell & Bones, 100 S. Water St., New Haven, 203-787-3466, $125, plus tax and gratuity. Four-course menu with vodka cocktail pairings. Menu and tickets at https://bit.ly/2T4HiKn.
Shenanigans Irish Festival, March 7, noon-8 p.m., Stony Creek Brewery, 5 Indian Neck Ave., Branford. Tickets: $20 ($25 at the door) includes admission, one beer and a commemorative stein. Live music, dancing, games, a special Irish ale and food from Oak Haven, Munchies, and Naples Pizza; 21+ with valid ID. Details and tickets at https://bit.ly/2HXnfHw.
Limoncello-Making Workshop, March 13, 7 p.m., The Wine Press, 118 Quinnipiac Ave., North Haven, $40; 203-777-9463. Enjoy tasty desserts as we all perform the first step in limoncello-making. We will then demonstrate the second step and give written instructions to take home (which you will then perform 5 days later). We will also provide a demonstration on making fresh mozzarella, including samples. Tickets and important event details at https://bit.ly/32f8bhx.
Consiglio’s Mystery Dinner Theatre: “Leprechaun 13” March 13, 7 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, reservations at 203-865-4489, $65 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). An interactive comedy show that goes on throughout the evening during a 3-course meal. Cast mingles table to table, dropping clues for a mystery only you can solve. Dress in your finest green attire to compete for top prize. Menu at https://bit.ly/2vLEwk0.
Treasures of Tuscany Frescobaldi wine dinner, March 20, 7 p.m., $109 plus tax and gratuity, Saybrook Point Resort & Marina, 2 Bridge St., Old Saybrook. Menu and tickets at https://bit.ly/3c6VF8q, 860-339-1318.