Fried Zucchini with Crispy Lemons and Crispy Herbs

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 25 min (includes chilling time)
  • Active: 55 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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Ingredients

1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs 

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 large eggs 

5 medium zucchini, ends trimmed and cut lengthwise into 10 wedges (like pickle spears) 

Kosher salt 

4 cups canola oil 

2 large lemons, one cut into very thin rounds and pitted and the other cut into wedges

8 to 10 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley 

2 sprigs fresh basil 

4 to 6 sprigs fresh oregano 

Directions

Special equipment:
a deep, heavy-bottomed pot with a fitted lid; a deep-fry thermometer
  1. Combine the panko, plain breadcrumbs, Parmesan and cayenne in a medium bowl. Whisk together the eggs with 1 tablespoon cold water in another medium bowl. Arrange the zucchini in a single layer on a baking sheet, flesh-side up, and sprinkle with salt. Submerge the zucchini wedges in the egg mixture. Remove the pieces one by one, shaking off the excess egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs, pressing well so they are coated on all sides and the breadcrumbs adhere. Arrange in a single layer on the same baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.
  2. Fry the lemon and herbs: Pour the oil into a deep, heavy-bottomed pot with a fitted lid and attach a deep-fry thermometer. Heat to 325 degrees F.
  3. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Drop the thin lemon rounds into the oil and fry until lightly browned and crisped, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and spread on one half of the lined baking sheet to cool.
  4. Raise the oil to 350 degrees F. Herbs tend to splatter when they hit hot oil, so have the fitted lid for the pot ready in one hand. Dry any excess moisture from the herbs, then drop the parsley and the basil in the oil with your other hand and immediately cover and fry until they turn darker green, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove with the slotted spoon and spread on the other half of the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat the same process with the oregano.
  5. Bring the oil back to 350 degrees F. Test the oil by dropping in one piece of zucchini. It should rise to the surface fairly quickly, begin to bubble and fry gradually. Line two baking sheets with kitchen towels. Drop half the zucchini into the oil and gently, slowly "swirl" the oil with the slotted spoon as they fry so they cook evenly. Cook until light to medium brown, 2 to 3 minutes, then remove them slowly with the slotted spoon and lay them out on a kitchen towel to cool. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining zucchini.
  6. Layer the zucchini with the herbs and lemon slices on a large serving plate, and serve with the lemon wedges.

Cook’s Note

Zucchini is the ideal ingredient to fry: It's filled with water, healthy and tasty and ready to take on the cheese and breading this recipe requires. This dish is designed like a vegetarian version of "Fritto Misto" with the lemons and herbs rounding out the flavors and textures. I like oregano and parsley the most here but basil or tarragon is equally tasty if you have that on hand instead. You can also bread and freeze the zucchini and fry as needed. Frying them from cold or frozen is best.

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