Sometimes when I'm reading a new cookbook and looking for recipes to test, I'll make my way over to the book's Amazon page. There I'll peruse the comments to see if there are any particular dishes that stand out for the reviewers. Usually, there is little consensus, and I'm left to my own devices. But when it came to Kelsey Nixon's new cookbook, Kitchen Confidence, it was a different story entirely. Almost every review mentioned two words: fried pickles. These words were likely followed by at least a few exclamation points and written squeals of glee.
Quality research accomplished, I vowed to make said fried pickles—despite the fact that I'm not a huge fan of the concept. Nixon's fried pickles start, appropriately, with cucumbers, which she quick-pickles in a sweet brine spiked with red wine vinegar. The pickles are drained from the warm brine as soon as they begin to soften (a key step to frying pickles with texture) and breaded with a crust laced with dill and garlic powder. For ease and speed, Nixon shallow-fries the pickle slices in a skillet instead of worrying about heating up a big pot of oil. Finally, the pickle chips are served with a punchy ranch dressing, which echoes the flavors in the pickle brine and breading.
Why I picked this recipe: Amazon spoke; I listened.
What worked: I actually ended up enjoying the dish, and was particularly impressed with how resonant the flavors of the pickle brine were throughout the remaining components.
What didn't: The cucumber skin was a distraction in the final fried pickles. Since the cucumbers only brine for a few minutes, the skin never has a chance to soften. Next time, I'll partially peel the cucumbers before slicing to help mitigate the problem. Also, the fried pickles soften relatively quickly, so be sure to eat them right after frying.
Suggested tweaks: If you don't want to buy garlic powder and garlic salt, as well as dried dill and the fresh herb, you can likely use just garlic powder and fresh dill. Just be sure to add some extra salt to the ranch dressing.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. She blogs at Cooking Wolves. Follow her @KateHWiliams.