It’s traditional fondue with a western twist.
For attendees at the monthly Saturday Night Alive Christian singles gathering, the pitchfork fondue last weekend was also part dinner show.
“I’ve seen it done at Medora (N.D.). It’s unique,” said Laurel Moen. “Medora is the same principle, but on a much bigger scale.”
The idea for the fondue came from a survey of members a couple months ago, said Darcie Decker, one of the organizers of the pitchfork fondue.
Jeff Miller and Kenny Ryman were the steak wranglers. They used a stainless steel turkey fryer placed away from the diners on the concrete driveway of Decker’s home on Maple Avenue to cook the steaks.
“And yes, we started with a new pitchfork,” Miller said jokingly. “I was going to use a used one to start with, but that didn’t fly.”
Decker said she, Miller and Ryman went online to learn all they could about deep-frying steaks. Before Saturday night’s fondue, they had a trial run using the pitchfork to cook steaks in an outdoor propane-powered fryer. From that practice session, they learned that steaks were cooked to rare in 3 minutes and medium in about 5 minutes.
But after cooking the first batch of steaks Saturday, they realized they needed to modify their cooking time. After cooking for 5 minutes, the steaks were still raw in the middle, but more done as you worked your way toward the outside of the steak.
“It’s all about trial and error,” Ryman said.
Decker said she bought about 50 pounds of 12- to 14-ounce sirloin steaks, which were dusted with McCormick’s Montreal Steak seasoning before frying.
Miller said he initially worried that the steaks would slide off the tines of the pitchfork when he turned the fork into the hot oil, but learned that the hot oil helps the meat adhere to the tines.
“They look more well-done than they are,” Miller said as he lifted the steak-laden fork from the oil. He carefully moved the pitchfork over a cake pan where Ryman used hot pan holders and tongs to pull the meat off the tines.
Decker said they set up the fryer earlier in the evening and used vegetable oil instead of the more-expensive peanut oil. They heated it to 350 degrees before starting their onion blossom appetizers.
Decker crafted her own recipe for the onions from a variety of online recipes. The one she settled on called for slicing the onion at the top and bottom and removing the skin. Then the onion is cored almost like an apple. After that, slice into sections, somewhat like cutting a pie.
The onion is then dipped in an egg wash and a batter made with flour and other spices. It is submerged in the oil and fried for about 10 minutes.
“The recipe I used said to boil the onion for one minute in water then put it in an ice bath. It’s supposed to help them open up more so they will take the batter better,” she said. “We cooked six large onions and perhaps a couple more could have been eaten.”
The sweet onions were a hit with the nearly 40 people in attendance at the event Saturday. But the steaks were the star of the show.
“It was very good, but I always eat too much at these things,” said Derald Ronfeldt.
Vicky Williams said she waited for a more well-done steak from those cooked, but still found it very juicy.
“My son has a fryer and if I had one, I might try it,” she said.
Bob Whay said his steak was moist and flavorful.
Whay said he shied away from the urge to use a turkey fryer for cooking after seeing Allstate Insurance’s “Trouble Never Takes a Holiday” commercial, in which the narrator says 2 million people fried a turkey at Thanksgiving and 15 burned down their garages in the process.
“It seems like a lot of trouble to go to cook a steak,” he said.
12- to 14-ounce steak
Oil for frying
Season steaks. Place fryer in open area — either in a garage or outside away from the house. Place oil in fryer. Heat oil to 350 degrees. Keep the pot and burner as low to the ground as you can. Using a new, clean pitchfork, pierce the steak with the tines and thread the steak downward. Place three to four steaks on the pitchfork. Place the fork tines side down in the oil. Hold the pitchfork the entire time so that it does not tip over the hot grease. Cook the steaks 5 minutes for rare, 7 minutes for medium and 10 minutes for well done.
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 large onion, white
Vegetable oil for frying
Onion batter: In a medium bowl, beat egg and add milk; mix well. In a separate medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.
To slice onion: Cut about 1 inch off the top and bottom of the onion; remove skin. With a knife, cut 1-inch diameter out of the center of the onion (if you have an apple corer, this works great for cutting out the center). Using a large, sharp knife, cut the onion from top down to 3/4 inch from the bottom of the onion into quarters. Cut each section after that into halves. Keep cutting each section in halves until you have 16 sections. The smaller the halves get, the harder it will be to cut another section, so be careful.
Frying the onion: Spread the petals of the onion apart. If you are having difficulty keeping the petals open, dip in boiling water for 1 minute and then immediately into cold water. Dip the onion into the egg/milk mixture, then coat liberally with the dry mixture. Be sure to spread the petals and sprinkle in between to coat evenly.
After the onion is completely covered in the dry mixture, repeat, dipping the onion in the wet mixture and then the dry mixture a second time. Make sure to “double dip” the onion; when you fry in the oil, some of the mixture will wash off. Heat oil to 350 degrees. Be sure you have enough oil in the fryer to completely cover the onion; if you need to add more, do so carefully. Fry the onion right side up for 10 minutes or until onion is golden brown. Remove from oil and let drain on paper towels.