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Bite into homemade versions of favorite State Fair foods

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information State Fair of Texas • Friday-Oct. 20 • Fair Park, Dallas • $17, $13 age 60 and over and children under 48 inches, free under age 3. Discounts available at Kroger stores and online. Parking $15 at State Fair lots. • 214-565-9931; www.bigtex.com
Mini corny dogs Makes enough for 34 cocktail weenies These are best right out of the fryer, State Fair-style, but you may also make them ahead of time, freeze them and reheat at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or so. • 1 quart vegetable oil, for frying • 3/4 cup flour • 3/4 cup cornmeal • 2 tablespoons sugar • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda • 1 teaspoon salt • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper • 3/4 cup whole milk • 1 egg • 34 or so 5 3/4-inch wooden skewers • 34 cocktail weenies, or about a 12-ounce package • Ketchup and yellow mustard, for serving 1. Preheat oil in a large, heavy pot (I use my deepest stockpot to prevent grease splatters) over medium-high heat to 360 degrees. 2. While the oil is heating, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir in milk and egg. 3. Thread cocktail weenies onto skewers. Dip each one in the batter, rolling until fully coated. Place mini corny dogs in pot (I could fit 6 to 8 at a time), making sure to put the entire stick into the oil. Fry each batch for 4 to 5 minutes or until they’re a nice golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Repeat for the remaining corny dogs. Serve warm with ketchup and mustard. Nutritional analysis per serving: xxx xxx xxx — Adapted from “On a Stick!” by Matt Armendariz (Quirk Books)
Baked drumsticks with herbes de Provence Makes 6 A great, easy, inexpensive way to make chicken in just an hour. • 6 chicken drumsticks with skin • 6 teaspoons butter • About 2 tablespoons olive oil • About 1 tablespoon herbes de Provence • Sea salt and pepper 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a small cookie sheet with foil. Put drumsticks on cookie sheet and slide about 1 teaspoon of butter underneath the skin of each one — this will make the skins crispy. Rub olive oil over each one. Sprinkle with herbes de Provence, sea salt and pepper, and bake for 30 minutes. 2. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook for 30 minutes more. You’ll know they’re ready when the juices run clear. Take them out, loosely cover with foil for 5 to 10 minutes and serve. Nutritional analysis per serving: xxx xxx xxx
Salty butter caramel apple slices Makes enough for 12 apples Just a drizzle of salty butter caramel over Granny Smith apple slices keeps the ratio of caramel to apple (and the easy-to-eat factor) high. • 1 1/2 cups sugar • 1/4 cup water • 1 stick butter • 1/2 cup cream • 1 teaspoon sea salt • 1 dozen Granny Smith apples, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces 1. Use your deepest, thickest pot to make the caramel, to reduce splatters and make for even heating of the sugar. Put sugar and water in the pot over high heat, and let cook; do not stir. 2. When you start to notice fat, constant blurp, blurp, bubbles, you’re getting close. You’ll soon see the color change along the sides of the pot. Pick up the pot and give it a very gentle swirl. Continue to cook until the color darkens and it’s just about to start smoking. Add pats of butter and stir as you do so. 3. Add cream and salt and keep stirring until it’s combined. Turn off the heat and pour caramel into a bowl to cool a little bit. 4. Caramel cools and hardens pretty quickly, so have your apples ready. Lay them out on a piece of parchment paper and, using a soup spoon, drizzle a bit of caramel on each one. Cowgirl tip: If you have any leftover caramel, it’s great on top of ice cream or pie. Warm it up over very low heat, stirring constantly. Nutritional analysis per serving: xxx xxx xxx
Chocolate-covered lime bar bites Makes 38 (1-inch) bites Chocolate and lime are such wonderful companions because one doesn’t overshadow the other. They both gently contrast and highlight what they’re not. • 14 Speculoos cookies (see note), ground into fine crumbs • 4 tablespoons butter, melted • 6 egg yolks • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk • 1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice • 10 ounces cream • 10 ounces good bittersweet chocolate (I like 72 percent) 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make lime bars: Mix Speculoos crumbs with melted butter. Press mixture into a foil-lined 8-inch-by-8-inch pan and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or just until the crust firms up a bit. Let cool completely. 2. Whisk together egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk and lime juice, and pour into the pan. Reduce oven heat to 325 degrees and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the lime mixture firms up. Let cool, then refrigerate for a few hours so it’ll be easier to slice. 3. Use foil to pull lime bars out of the pan. Slice into 1-inch squares and freeze. 4. Put cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Put chocolate in a bowl to the side. When the cream boils, pour it over the chocolate, let it sit for a few minutes, then whisk to combine the two, until the mixture is nice and shiny. 5. Dip frozen lime bar bites into chocolate and remove with a fork onto a piece of parchment paper. (They’ll harden up quickly.) Refrigerate until ready to serve; they’ll stay frozen in the fridge for an hour or two. Note: Speculoos are Belgian cookies that are reminiscent of both gingerbread and graham crackers. If you can’t find them in your grocery store, either one of those will work, too. Nutritional analysis per serving: xxx xxx xxx

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No matter where I find myself in the world, this is the time of year I think of Big Tex (in his original dark and baggy Lee jeans) and Fletcher’s Corny Dogs, with ketchup and mustard that come out in long, squiggly red and yellow lines from the pump. There was a time when I could eat three or four, one right after the other. I loved corny dogs then and I love them still. A hot dog on a stick, dipped in cornbready batter and fried — what’s not to like about that?

A fair, for me, is about food you can eat while you walk — I’m talking old-school fair food, not fried beer and butter. Ears of buttery corn on a stick. Chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream bars rolled in peanuts. Turkey legs practically as big as my thigh. Caramel apples and puffs of pink cotton candy.

All of it, big messy food you eat just once a year.

Sadly, once again, I’m not going to be in Texas for the State Fair, which opens Friday and runs through Oct. 20. But this year, I decided to bring the fair to me — in miniature and bite-size, nearly guilt-free portions. My idea? To put together a mix of my savory and sweet favorites and serve them with something bubbly: champagne.

As it so happens, le hot dog “corny” — and yes, I just made that up — goes very well with France’s finest bottled export. Just ask my friends (one is from Dallas), who came over and happily ate and drank along with me as we tested one corny dog after another, these being small and all.

We had no pump-bottle ketchup and mustard, but the idea worked like a charm. Instead of gigantic turkey legs, I baked chicken drumsticks. With butter stuffed under the skin and herbes de Provence sprinkled on the outside, they were perfectly crisp and felt oh-so fairlike, though definitely Frenchy — which has nothing to do with the fair, I know, but I couldn’t help myself.

They were so juicy and delicious that these easy chicken legs single-handedly put birds back on my list of favorites. I will be making these in other variations/herbs/spices from now on. Stay tuned.

As pretty as they looked, I never actually ate caramel apples as a kid. This, I guess, comes from the warnings of my dentist dad, who said the sticky caramel might pull my teeth out. So I didn’t dare risk it. Caramel apples went onto the list of “foods too dangerous to eat,” along with catfish (I was warned I might choke on all of the tiny bones).

I still can’t imagine biting into a regular-size caramel apple, but I like the idea of caramel and apples together, so I came up with a recipe for salty butter caramel apple slices, which seemed less risky. I’m happy to report that I ate a whole bunch and my teeth are still intact.

I’ve never actually eaten frozen Key lime pie on a stick, but I’ve seen it. I love the idea of chocolate-dipped pie of any sort, but I especially like the idea of lime and chocolate together.

So I came up with a recipe for chocolate-covered frozen lime bites — a classic lime bar recipe, sliced and frozen, then dipped into a classic chocolate ganache. They look like fancy bonbons from a French chocolate shop.

And they were the perfect sweet ending to a champagne/State Fair food party. I’m not going to wait till next fall to do it again.

Ellise Pierce is the Cowgirl Chef and author of Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking With a French Accent” (Running Press, $25). www.cowgirlchef.com; @cowgirlchef.

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