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Bite into homemade versions of favorite State Fair foods

09/24/2013 12:00 AM

10/02/2013 11:47 AM

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.

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