Happy 4th of July to you and Happy 235th birthday to our country!! I hope that you have a wonderful day filled with great food, friends and family. We will be firing up the grill later this evening as I am sure many of you will too, but in the meantime, I have a very tasty recipe and a review to share with you.
I was excited when my friends at Metro Kitchen asked me to try Tfal’s Actifry cooker. I knew of the cooker and was fascinated with the concept behind it, but had never had the opportunity to use one before. I did know that you could prepare certain foods with less fat and that certainly was of great interest to me.
This countertop appliance rotates the foods while they cook in a nonstick base. The heat source is much like a convection oven method in that a fan circulates the heat while the foods cook. You use a tablespoon of oil (or a little more) for most dishes, so the idea is to “fry” without using much fat.
I really wanted to have success using the cooker and did with a few dishes. My featured recipe, Panko Shrimp with Chili Garlic Glaze, was excellent. However, I was disappointed with the way several recipes from their cookbook turned out in the Actifry and would choose to make them in a more traditional manner. I do think that some of this had to do with the recipes and not the cooker.
One of the first things I made was french fries, which is one of the foods that the cooker does a great job with. I made plain fries and we really liked the fresh potato taste. They were crisp and brown and not greasy. They were quite good.
I did not have the same success with sweet potato fries. They did not crisp and were overly browned in the process. I will be curious to try them again in the Actifry cooker to see if I have better luck next time. We enjoy them when roasted in the oven and I would like to have this method of preparation as an option.
I also tried to fry some okra with a cornmeal crust and had minimal success. The cornmeal did not stay on the okra because of the rotation of the blade in the cooker. Although I coated the okra with a double batter, it fell off most of the slices. It needed more oil to make a better crust (like traditional frying would do). Bread crumbs might have been a better option to try in the Actifry.
I tried two recipes from the Actify cookbook. I thought they would be interesting in that they were not fried food, which is how I was initially thinking of using the Actifry. One dish was an Asian stir fry and the other a version of Chili. I was very disappointed in both. I followed both of the recipes exactly but they never developed the flavors that I was expecting.
The first one I made was a Spicy Thai Chicken Curry dish. It was neither spicy nor a curry. Based on the recipe, I thought there would be great flavors in the dish, but it was very bland. I also think the chicken cooked too long because it was tough (again, I followed the recipe). I liked the convenience of putting foods in the Actifry cooker every few minutes and walking away to do other things in the kitchen while the Actifry keeps stirring the ingredients, but this recipe was not a success.
The meal was dry when done. I had to make twice the recommended amount of the sauce to have enough to put over rice. I added more curry paste and a few other ingredients to spice it up and add more flavor. The final dish was disappointing and did not produce the same flavors I would have found with traditional stir fry methods.
I had to attempt another recipe out of the cookbook to see if I was being too critical. The second recipe I made was a Chipotle Beef Chili. Again, I followed the directions exactly as they were written. Unfortunately, this did not turn out well either.
The flavors were okay, but the moisture in the chili cooked off. It was so dry that we added another whole can of tomatoes, but it still absorbed all the liquid, so the meat and beans had no sauce.
The heat source must have something to do with the absorption of the liquids in these dishes since both this dish and the Spicy Thai Chicken Curry needed much more liquid than the recipe originally called for. I guess I have to ask if someone really tested these recipes. I followed them precisely and these were my results. Once again, I would say preparing chili in a more traditional manner in a pot on the stove would be my preferred method of cooking it.
On the positive side (I saved the best for last!), I did have success with frying shrimp. I tried them several ways and they were all good. The coating stayed on the shrimp and it cooked evenly. I used bread crumbs and Panko and both worked well. I had the best success when I put the Panko in a food processor for a few seconds and made the flakes a bit smaller.
The shrimp was best when prepared in smaller batches and with a bit more oil than is suggested for “frying” in the Actify. I found that 1/2 pound of medium shrimp did well with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of peanut oil.
I really wanted to be able to say that I thought the Tfal Actifry cooker was awesome and that you should run out and get one, but I can’t quite yet. I do like this cooker very much and the concept of the cooking process. I have had a great deal of fun playing with it and will continue to use it for certain dishes. I do like the idea that we can have some fried foods using just a couple tablespoons of oil. The recipes I tried from the cookbook that is included were what was disappointing and not the actual cooker. I plan to adapt some of my own recipes that I believe can be successfully prepared in the Actifry based on what I have learned so far.
Now for the best recipe…We really enjoyed this Panko Crusted Shrimp! The shrimp were crisp and browned nicely. They were not oily tasting like you would expect with traditionally fried shrimp, so we were excited. I bought medium-sized local Georgia shrimp. I served the shrimp with a Chili Garlic Glaze for dipping (the recipe is from Chef Craig Deihl at Cypress in Charleston, SC). I made an Asian Slaw that was perfect with all the other flavors. You could add some other ingredients to the slaw if you like. I wanted something simple since the dipping sauce is so flavorful.
* If you do not have an Actifry cooker, you could fry your shrimp in a little peanut oil.
Panko Crusted Shrimp with Chili Garlic Glaze and Asian Slaw
Yield: 3 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
1 pound medium shrimp (31-45 per pound) I used local Georgia shrimp
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you may need more)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
2 cups Panko, crushed slightly in a food processor
3 - 4 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
For Chili Garlic Glaze:
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 tablespoon sambal oelek
1/2 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/2 tablespoon chopped mint
1/2 tablespoon chopped basil
For Asian Slaw:
1/2 head Savoy Cabbage
4 green onions, sliced thinly
3 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 package Ramen noodles (you will only use the dried noodles)
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
Clean and devein shrimp. Pat dry. Set aside. Season the flour with salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Set aside. Add the milk to the beaten eggs in a small bowl. Place your Panko crumbs in a shallow bowl. Make an assembly line of these ingredients in that order.
Dip the shrimp first in the flour mixture. Fully coat in the flour and then tap off the excess flour. Dip the shrimp next into the egg mixture, letting excess run off. Finally, dip each piece of into the Panko, being sure to coat completely. Set aside in a single layer on a large plate.
When ready to cook, if using the Actifry, place half of the shrimp in the cooker in a single layer. Drizzle with 1 1/2 tablespoons (or a little more) of peanut oil. Turn the cooker on and set the timer for 7 minutes. Check after that time to see if the shrimp have browned. You may want to cook them for another minute or two to brown a bit more. Watch them closely to be sure they don't overcook. Keep first batch warm. Repeat cooking process with last half of shrimp.
Serve with Chili Garlic Glaze and Asian Slaw.
For the Chili Garlic Glaze:
In a saucepan combine rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt. Place over medium-high heat and reduce by one-fourth. Mixture should have a syrup-like consistency.
Remove from heat and add garlic, ginger and sambal. Incorporate evenly and allow mixture to cool completely.
Add cilantro, mint and basil to cooked mixture. Adding herbs to mixture when hot will cause herbs to turn brown.
Place in a container and keep refrigerated.
For Asian Slaw:
Shred or thinly slice the cabbage to a desired thickness for your slaw. Add the sliced green onions and toss lightly.
Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the Ramen noodles, almonds and sunflower seeds. Stir and cook over medium heat until all of the ingredients are lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Place the mixture in a bowl and cool.
Whisk together the salt, oil, sugar, apple cider vinegar and soy sauce in a small bowl until dressing comes together. Set aside.
When ready to serve slaw, add dressing to the slaw, to taste. Check for seasoning. Serve topped with the Ramen noodle, almond and sunflower mixture. * Do not mix the dressing into the slaw until you are ready to serve it. It will wilt quickly.
Panko Crusted Shrimp & Asian Slaw - Bunkycooks
Chili Garlic Glaze - Executive Chef Craig Deihl, Cypress - Charleston, SC