Friday, April 15, 2016

State Fair Food- An Experiment in Delicious

This is a post from City Girl Country Life, centering around fair foods and Iowa Maytag Blue Cheese. The blog City Girl Country Life is heading into retirement so many of the recipes originally shared there will make an appearance here over the next several months. This story was originally published in September, 2014.


It's September, the summer is officially over and with that, the end of the state fairs in the midwest region. I didn't make it to the Iowa State Fair this year and I felt a little envious as read posts by my friend Jeni, of Jeni Eats, as she visited the Minnesota State Fair. After her fair trip she posted pictures on Facebook and talked about Corn Fritters with Blue Cheese, and since I was unable to attend the fair, I began a quest to find a recipe!

From the beginning this seemed like an easy enough thing to come up with. Corn fritters are pretty basic- cornbread-type batter, along the lines of a hushpuppy, with some corn kernels added. Easy to update that with some blue cheese and some savory elements to punch up the flavor. Chopped scallions, finely minced garlic. As I soon would discover, it is NOT easy to "recreate" something you have never tasted before.

You may know, Iowa IS blue cheese country. From the little city of Newton, the world famous Maytag Blue Cheese is crafted in the Maytag Dairy Farms. Instead of the ages-old method of using sheeps milk, in 1938 researchers at Iowa State University developed a way to use cows milk and Maytag Blue Cheese was born! In the early years of the company even the cows were owned by the Maytag family. They have of course grown significantly since their founding in 1941.

Let's get back to our fritters. Using a basic cornbread mixture is the easiest way to start for me. As a baker it's easy to whip up and change it around with some additions. To start with the basic batter, you will need:
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. In a small bowl beat the eggs and milk together. Make a well in the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients all at once and stir/fold JUST until combined.

NOW.......we need to make this into something really spectacular. You will need:
  • 1 1/2 cups corn kernels*
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • several grinds black pepper
  • 1 cup blue cheese
* You can use frozen corn, thawed, canned corn, drained or cut your corn fresh off the cob and cook it briefly- cool before using

Add the corn, scallions, garlic and cheese to the batter. Set it aside and let it rest just a bit. Cornmeal batter plumps up and firms and gets a little thicker- you want that.

Heat about 3-4 inches of cooking oil in a heavy saucepan or deep fryer (have that fire extinguisher handy- you know me- scared of frying!!)  Use a thermometer to test the heat and when you've reached 350-375 degrees, drop the batter carefully into the oil with a spoon, cook and turn over once til golden brown and cooked through. Remove and drain on paper towel. Season with salt immediately. I struggled with this. Since I hadn't had the state fair original I was guessing on size. Think SMALL. Like one bite small. Of course, it might have worked better if I had a deep fryer- I don't so I used a deep heavy pan.

Now we need a dipping sauce. At the Minnesota State Fair Jeni said they were accompanied by a chimichurri-type sauce. Being unable to taste that I have no idea where to begin, so I'm going to start completely fresh. We will be using:
  • 1 cup packed parsley leaves, no stems
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • one big pinch dried marjoram
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tb balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
Blend everything in a food processor or blender until pesto-like. 

I like this version of chimichurri. It has the peppery bite of the fresh parsley, heat from the garlic and a little hint of sweet from the balsamic vinegar, and it's refreshing change from blah old ranch as a dipping sauce!

Not the best picture, we were having a storm !!
Overall, we really liked these fritters. Would I make it again? Yes, sure. I think I have the kinks worked out. The flavor was good, the chimi was very yummy (we had plenty extra for our steaks for dinner). The sweetness of the corn and the salty blue cheese were a great combination.The fritters were crispy and crunchy on the outside and very tender on the inside. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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