~ Deep-Fried Pork Fingers w/Bone Suckin' Sauce ~
Appetizers. Snacks. Pub grub. Whatever you want to call it, the Winter just brings out the best/worst in me. I'm completely contented to hibernate indoors, let the snow pile up on the doorstep, and, watch movies while drinking cocktails and munching on hot, crispy snacks until Spring. Trust me when I tell you, during the Winter, deep-frying is one of my of favorite sports.
There's more. I've recently "gotten into" purchasaing those big, boneless pork loins at Sam's Club -- they're extremely economical considering ALL the things you can cook with just one. Pork is indeed "the other white meat" and my motto is: "Almost anything chicken can do, pork can do better" -- you can't make chicken wings with pork. Sometimes I roast or braise the whole loin and sometimes I slice it into chops (thick ones for stuffing or thinly-pounded ones for a flash-in-the-pan sauté). Other times I dice a bit of it for a quick stir-fry and still other times I grind it up and freeze it 'cause I've got a whole host of uses for ground pork loin. I truly love pork.
Just like chicken fingers, pork fingers are popular with everyone. That said, my guys prefer them to chicken tenders, and, they like to dip them in barbecue sauce -- any kind that goes great with pork ribs but their all-time favorite is Bone Suckin' Sauce (read Cook's Note below). As for me, I love and have served them with Asian dipping sauces which is super-good too. I'm posting this recipe today because I'm going to be serving them with beer and cocktails as an appetizer at a Happy Hour get-together this Friday the 13th. That said, while pork fingers are great pub grub, when put on a plate next to a salad and a baked potato, they make a great dinner entrée too.
12-15, 4"L x 1/2"W x 1/2"H pork loin fingers, cut from 4-5, 1/2"-thick, 4-ounce pork loin chops trimmed of fat (Note: 1 pound of pork loin = 4, 1/2" thick chops = 12 pork fingers (three from each chop). 1 1/4 pounds of pork loin = 5, 1/2"-thick chops = 15 pork fingers.)
Setting up the deep-frying assembly line (left to right):
One medium bowl containing 1 1/2 cups pancake mix whisked with 1 1/2 cups beer.
One 8" x 8" x 2" dish containing 8-ounces panko breadcrumbs.
Deep-fryer w/peanut oil heated to 360 degrees according to manufacturer's specifications.
Misc: 3-minute timer, tongs, cooling rack, paper towels, sea salt grinder.
~ Step 1. When everything is measured and in place, whisk together the pancake mix and beer. Set aside for about 5 minutes before starting the frying process. This will give the batter time to thicken to a drizzly consistency. If at any point during the frying process (even at the outset) if the batter seems or gets too thick, whisk in a little more beer (or some water) to maintain a drizzly consistency.
~Step 2. Working in batches of 3 pork fingers at a time, dredge each one in the dry pancake mix to coat it on all sides. Note: I fry 3 at a time because that is what fits comfortably in the basket of my fryer without overcrowding it. Next, move up the assembly line and dip each finger into the batter. As you lift each one out of the batter, hold it over the bowl for a second or two, to allow the batter to drizzle back into the bowl. As you batter dip each finger, place it into the dish of panko. Dredge each finger the moment it enters the panko meaning: don't wait to coat 3 until all 3 are in the dish. Why? You do not want to give the thin coating of batter time to drip down off the sides.
~ Step 3. Place each finger into the fryer basket, then carefully lower the basket down into the hot, 360° oil. Close the lid and fry at 360 degrees for 6-7 minutes. Pork fingers will be a beautiful golden brown. Do not overcook.
~ Step 7. Open fryer lid and slowly lift basket up and out of deep-fryer. Transfer fingers to a wire rack in a baking pan that has been lined with paper towels. Tip: To transfer the fingers , I simply tilt the basket onto its side directly over the rack. Using tongs is a mistake -- an easy way to damage their crust.
Immediately sprinkle pork fingers w/a grinding of sea salt.
Repeat the dredging, dipping and coating process until all fingers are deep fried. Serve hot (almost immediately), warm (within 30 minutes), or at room temperature (within 1 hour). There's more: trust me when I tell you, pork fingers will remain crunchy well past the four hour mark!
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 2 shallow 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes or 9" pie dishes; medium-large bowl; whisk; deep-fryer; 3-minute egg timer; tongs; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; paper towels; cooling rack
Cook's Note: Tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, honey, molasses, mustard, horseradish, lemon juice, onions, garlic, peppers, natural hickory smoked flavor, natural spices, salt and xanthan gum. It's the xanthan gum, which they used in place of cornstarch as a thickener, that makes it gluten-free and keeps it a transparent light-red color. Bone Suckin' Sauce hails from Raleigh, NC, and, is the brainchild of Phil Ford. Back in 1987, Phil was trying to copy his mother's recipe for a western North Carolina-style barbecue sauce. His creation was so delicious his sister-in-law, Sandi Ford, convinced Phil to partner with her and her husband to sell it. It was coined "bone suckin' " because it made Sandi suck on the rib bones to get every last bit of flavor from them.
It's brighter, fresher and crisper than any other barbecue sauce too -- nothing is overdone. It is a well-balanced blend of sweet-savory BBQ perfection. Its texture is thin-ish, but, don't confuse that with watery, because it not. It is perfect for dipping, drizzling, slathering, or basteing, and, there is nothing from A-Z in the world of grilling or barbecuing it isn't fantastic on.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)