No fry zone

Baked crispy chicken

Fried foods are downright tasty, but sometimes you don't want all the fat, or all the mess, that comes along with the frying process. Getting a crisp texture without frying is not easy, however. Heidi Knapp Rinella of the Las Vegas Review-Journal interviewed several chefs who have developed low-fat techniques that preserve the crunch.

Glenn Rolnick, corporate chef of Carmine's, uses a colander, which he upends and places over a dish that's baking in the oven to ensure that it'll come out crispy. He developed the method for chicken breast stuffed with broccoli rabe, smoked mozzarella and prosciutto (pictured above). Chef Rolnick also uses the method to make baked, crispy mozzarella sticks and crabcakes. 

Anyone who's tried baking tortillas might have been disappointed in the texture. That's because they didn't use the technique developed by Chris Keating, executive chef at Border Grill at Mandalay Bay. He frequently bakes tortilla chips and tostadas. Some people think of this technique as inauthentic, but as Chef Keating points out, many restaurants in Mexico do "baked tortilla chips and baked tostadas. We do baked tortilla chips, which I think is kind of an interesting take on it. It produces a different flavor profile, different crunch and is obviously a little bit healthier in that they're not deep-fried."

The trick to get a good crunch, according to Keating, is to make corn tortillas as normal, but then brush them with warm water, and bake them at 375 to 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. The water reacts with the tortilla to create steam, "So it steams the inside of the tortilla and produces little bubbles on the top of the tortilla that give it the appearance that it was actually fried when it wasn't," he said. "Brush it with a little oil, dust it with salt. It's crunchy, it's savory, it tastes to me like it's been fried, but at the same time it's a little healthier.

The article describes even more chef-inspired techniques for making crispy foods from plaintain chips to chile rellenos, eggplant, and calamari, all without frying.

Photo courtesy Las Vegas Review-Journal



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