The quest for fritters

Dec. 04, 2012 @ 03:00 PM

Everybody in our family except our sofa-sized dog, Riker, loves broccoli (the nutty pup does love blueberries, though). When The Kid started eating solid food, steamed broccoli was a huge hit.
One night, Petey was in the living room helping our toddler devour what I thought was a huge amount of the stuff. I was in the kitchen fixing some more, just in case.
Suddenly, I heard a scream of heart-rending anguish coming from the other room.
I was sure someone was mortally injured. “What’s wrong!?”
I heard a touch of panic in the voice of my characteristically quiet, tranquil husband. “We’re out of broccoli! Hurry, we need more!”
The screaming continued as I rinsed the piping hot veggies with cold water as quickly as I possibly could. The yelling only abated when greedy little fingers were stuffing broccoli into a now contented face.
It’s still the same (except there’s usually no caterwauling when we run out).
I honestly think The Kid would pick broccoli over chocolate every time.
Recently, in phone calls from Vermont, our scholar has mentioned a new creation: broccoli fritters.
I was intrigued. As much as we enjoy it, I’m always on the lookout for new takes on our old favorite.
The Kid gave me directions for the fritters, and I decided to make some.
One night, I mixed a box of thawed chopped broccoli, flour and an egg. They seemed kind of loose, so I added a bit more flour. I portioned them, and patted them into cakes.
I put them into the fridge for an hour so they would hold up better while frying.
When I got ready to cook them, I dredged them in a bit more flour, so they would brown up nice and pretty. They cooked up beautifully; little golden patties. I couldn’t wait to try them.
I took a bite. They were, in a word, awful.
The flavor wasn’t completely horrible, but the texture was distressing. They were gummy and gross. The center seemed uncooked, and just wrong.
I was disappointed and confused. These were the wonderful fritters that The Kid couldn’t stop talking about? I really thought my child had much higher standards.
The next phone call, I questioned my child. Really? This was a new favorite dish?
I may have been paying less than complete attention during the earlier instructional phone call (it might be possible that “Fashion Police” had been on TV at the time). The Kid informed me I’d made them all wrong. The only similarity was the vegetable. They did contain broccoli.
I had gotten that part right.
So this time when my little chef recounted the recipe, I listened closely and took notes.
The next attempt, they turned out to be quite yummy. They came out crispy on the outside, and moist and delicious in the middle. Petey and I both enjoyed them.

The Kid’s Broccoli Fritters
1 16 oz. bag frozen, chopped broccoli, thawed
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese (not the stuff in the green can)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
Put broccoli into food processor, and chop until it is uniform size and shape, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl so everything gets worked.
Put broccoli into a large bowl along with beaten egg, flour, cheese, salt and pepper. Mix with a wooden spoon until everything is incorporated.
Heat frying pan with a couple of tablespoons of oil. When the oil just begins to shimmer in the pan, take ¼ to 1/3 cup of the mixture and form into patties about three inches around and ½-inch thick.
Turn burner to medium. Drop carefully into pan and fry each side about 3 minutes or so, until they’ve browned.
As the fritters finish, place them on a plate in a 200 degree oven to keep warm until they’re all done.
Makes six.

I tried making the patties early again, and placed them in the fridge for an hour, so they would hold their shape.
Bad idea.
They’re delicate, and there’s not enough egg and flour to set up in the chill chest. Getting them off the plate in one piece was quite problematic. So form them right before they go into the pan.
You could form them and freeze to cook later. But set them on parchment paper in the ice box while they freeze, before wrapping and labeling. Don’t thaw before frying, just cook them a bit longer.
Make sure, before flipping, that they’re ready to flip. To do this, give the pan a little shimmy. If they slide around a bit, they’re good to go.
We had them with some New York strips I’d picked up at on sale Carlie C’s. It was a good combo. The original, unsuccessful broccoli pucks needed lashings of sour cream to choke down. The new versions were delicious all by themselves.
I think they would be good for breakfast, too. Serve them either in place of hash browns, or as a substitute for the Canadian bacon in one of my favorite dishes, Eggs Benedict.
You could even make miniature fritters and top with a bit of brie, some crispy bacon, or even a dollop of caviar to serve as finger food at a party, or for an appetizer.
So, The Kid did good. I only wished I had paid attention the first time, to spare myself that earlier, dreadful episode.
Thanks for your time.
Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is momsequitur@gmail.com.