Cookbook Review: Matt Armendariz’s On a Stick
The summers of my childhood were filled with youthful laughter and not a care for the rush of daily activity that surrounded us as my friends and I swam and played under the hot sun. Now, I look back with fondness at this innocence and compare it to the reality of living in a busy world of work and stress. However, when I take a bite of a corndog or a deep-fried twinkie on a stick, I am transported back to those carefree summer days; all of my responsibilities just melt away. Something about the fried goodness and portability gives me a delighted smile of impishness. (I love fried food, love it!)
That is why the cookbook On a Stick by Matt Armendariz tickled my fancy and caused an instant sense of nostalgia to settle over me. The book, of course has the obligatory recipe for corndogs, but there is so much more to the world of stick foods than corndogs. Where once I was empty, I could be full; with that motto in hand, I set out to tackle my menu of food…on a stick.
I found three recipes that seemed so delectable, they could not be ignored, and I proceeded to make the miracle of fried food. The first was Chicken and Waffles. It sounds weird, I know, but it is like heaven swirling inside your mouth. Both sweet and savory, it is a perfect blend that creates appetizing pleasure.
First, soak chicken tenders in buttermilk and whatever assortment of spices that appeals to your tastes. I prefer a combination of chipotle powder, pepper and oregano, to give the chicken a little spice. Once the chicken is properly soaked for 24 hours, make some magic by frying those puppies up. Each piece is dipped in a flour mixture and fried 5 minutes per side. It takes patience, so while they are frying make the waffle batter in preparation for the next step.
Once all the chicken tenders are fried and the excess oil has had a chance to drain, roll them in waffle batter. They are now ready to be refried in new oil (trust me on this: the old oil will be disgusting and you want these chicks to taste amazing). Cook 3 minutes on each side and then you have Chicken and Waffles! To ensure the chicken got cooked all the way through, I didn’t put the stick through the chicken tender until both frying processes were complete. Now, to make the experience perfect, dab the chicken with butter and drizzle syrup over it to your heart’s content. It is sweet and savory, and, like I said before, truly heaven in your mouth.
While the Chicken and Waffles was amazing, I also thoroughly enjoyed the fried mushrooms. I chose both baby Portobello and Button mushrooms that could be fried in large quantities and easily popped into your mouth. First the mushrooms are rolled in flour until they are lightly covered and then transferred to another bowl where they are dipped in egg, and then they are rolled in a breadcrumb mixture. I got an Italian breadcrumb mixture because everything was already mixed in. Put the mushrooms in the freezer for 15 minutes and then pull them out, put a toothpick in them and fry them up. I reused the oil from the second frying of the Chicken and Waffles because it was clean after the second frying process. Why waste something already on hand? If the oil is disgusting, use new stuff. The mushrooms go well with garlic dip or onion dip. They really are quite amazing and perfect popables for any occasion.
The final delicacies I chose were not fried, but they still were unmissable. They are called pizza pinwheels and are perfect for children and adults alike. The recipe is so simple that it will definitely be in my arsenal of ready treats. All you have to do is take pizza dough from a can and roll it out. Spread sauce on it, and sprinkle on cheese and whatever else strikes your fancy. I put basil and extra cheese on mine. Roll the dough into a log, cut slices and then bake it in the oven. Before the pizzas cool, push popsicle sticks in them and they are ready. The pinwheels were delicious and perfect for any occasion, but I think I will use them specifically for future football games. Go Ducks!