After being cackled at by my crack-team of octagenarian Roman matrons for my fiori fritti fiasco last week, I asked for a “refresher course” again a few days ago, bouquet of zucchini flowers in hand, just to be on the safe side before attempt n.2.
“Ohh bravo! You bought the special frying flour.” Now I understood, they had suggested this other flour for me, basically saying “because you’re nowhere near ready for the real stuff so you need to use the one made special for the inept.”
“Yes,” I answered (!?), “but how does one get a substantial yet light pastella (batter) at the same time?” This is the real secret of a properly fried fiore.
“Oh don’t worry, it’s written right here, just follow these rules,” referring to the instructions on the package of the “special” frying flour, which they were all passing around, commenting on, reading, etc.
Sig.ra Clara began officiating and reading out loud, “ONE! Mix the flour, milk..” AAArgh! I bounce out of my socks as absolute pandemonium erupts around me for the next 5 minutes! I’m sure I haven’t done anything. Conferring among themselves, one finally turns to me and states, “yes, but we don’t do it that way.”
Over the next fifteen minutes as Sig.ra Clara ceremoniously goes through steps 2-6 on the package, this scene repeats itself over and over again, ending each time with an earnest “yes, but we don’t do it that way,” communicated in a low soft voice to me, as one would speak to a child. Gotcha, girls, I will not do it that way, promise. Here is what I managed to piece together . .
1. Add cold water to flour in bowl until smooth, consistency of a loose yogurt. Add salt . . . quanto basta (as needed). No, the girls do not use beer, milk, eggs, vinegar, or anything else. What they do do (Girlfriends’ SECRET!) is then put the batter in the fridge.
2. Wash zucchini flowers, remove pistils, most of each stem, the pokey bits around the side, and refrigerate.
3. An hour later, fill a deep fry pan with 3/4 inch of oil (there was debate here between the faithful of olive oil and the devotees of peanut oil). Heat until . . get this . . a wooden stick such as a shishkebab or chop stick begins to fizzle with little bubbles. Turn heat down slightly to keep at this temperature.
4. Remove flowers from the fridge, place one small anchovy inside each one. No mozzarella, I was sad to hear. It “makes water”, runny fiori basically. They said it is a trick done at restaurants to cover up the flavor of bad fry oil. Oh, and the package was wrong here too. Don’t argue, I didn’t.
5. Quickly batter two flowers, and place gently in the oil, turning them over only once when golden on a side. Remove and place on a some sort of absorbent paper. Eat within moments.
You’re welcome to fry fiori any other way . .. but they don’t.