Q. Doesn't fritter mean to waste time?
A. Not the kind you eat, and eating them definitely is not a waste of time. Fritters are small amounts of batter mixed with chopped ingredients and sauteed or deep-fried. They can also be made by dipping large pieces of food into the batter and frying, such as the apple fritters accompanying New York State Chicken.
Q. Sounds a lot like a fish fry to me. What's the difference?
A. Basically, the size of the item to be fried. Fritters are always small. If you were to cut a fillet of haddock in small chunks, dip them in batter and fry them, you could rightly call them haddock fritters.
Q. Aren't fritters usually served as a dessert?
A. Yes and no. Fritters made of fruit -- apple, peach, pear, strawberry, banana, prune, you name it -- frequently are dusted with powdered sugar and served for dessert. But they also are a nice accompaniment, unsugared, to poultry or pork. So-called savory fritters -- to distinguish them from sweet fritters -- nearly always are served as a main course for a light lunch or supper, or even breakfast.
Q. What's the secret to making perfect fritters?
A. Having items for dipping or mixing as dry as possible. Also, whether sauteing or deep frying, the oil must be sufficiently hot to produce a morsel crisp on the outside but moist on the inside.
Q. What ingredients make good main-course fritters?
A. Corn and crab are popular. The French are fond of fritters made of cheese or pate. Just about any kind of leftover meat works. Also sweet potatoes, carrots, black beans and cheddar cheese. Then there's the truly bizarre, such as salt cod fritters, whose ingredients include allspice, coriander and hot chilies. Yum. They're served with a spicy Caribbean dipping sauce called Sauce Chien. Now, we all know that chien means dog in French. Makes you wonder.
-- Lois Baker