My State Fair regimen is rigorous.
First: There are my Must-Do’s, the things I do and see because I’ve always done and seen them. It wouldn’t be the State Fair otherwise: crop art; butterheads; the big pig; the DNR fish pond; 4-H exhibits; Little Farm Hands; the Little Brown Jug (God willing).
Next are the secondary items, the ones I only have time to rotate through bi- or triennially. Naturally, the more times any given activity appears in rotation, the more likely it will attain Must-Do status, further crowding my overly demanding schedule.
And then there’s the food. Must-Do’s: cheese curds, cream puffs, French fries, Sweet Martha’s cookies, honey sunflower seed ice cream, Pronto Pup, milkshake, corn roast, spaghetti and meatball-on-a-stick. And whatever improbable food item is new this year, bonus points if it has been pierced by a stick, is deep-fried, or involves potatoes in any form. Last year that was the Pig Licker. In 2006, Tater Tot Hot Dish-on-a-Stick.
This year, I have my sights on Blue Moon’s Fry Dog, which the food finder describes as “a French fry covered, deep fried hot dog on-a-stick.” Stick? Check. Fried? Check. Potatoes? Check. Clearly, a Must-Do.
I once was able to accomplish all of my Must-Do’s — culinary or otherwise — in a single, intense, sweaty day. Start early; wear practical shoes; watch out for stroller people. Lately, it’s expanded to two full days. And let’s face it, folks, things aren’t getting done, despite tense negotiations with my spouse over whose Must-Do’s need to get pushed into secondary rotation. For instance, I can’t understand why we need to wait in line every year to beg a free Star Tribune when a perfectly nice one appears on our doorstep every morning. He doesn’t understand the point of 10 quiet, blissful minutes in the Meditation Tent.
I’m in serious danger of failing at State Fair, one of my most sacred responsibilities as a Minnesotan. (And there are only two others: navigating the treacherous Mother’s Day vs. Fishing Opener Conflict and mastering the deadpan delivery for that joke about Minnesota having only two seasons.) I’ve considered calling in sick to work, but haven’t. Yet.
Something needs to change.
In the interest of efficiency, marital harmony, and continued employment, I present to you to the Heavy Table’s proposed new food item for the Great Minnesota Get Together, 2010: State Fair-on-a-Stick, an entire State Fair meal, from cheese curd appetizer to caramel apple dessert, dunked in a beer batter and deep-fried. On a stick, one stick. Consult your Blue Ribbon Coupon Book’s two-for-one coupon for a fizzy Alka-Seltzer chaser. No more racing from booth to booth, just one easy stop.
Sure, you’ll look silly carrying it, but what’s a small dent in your ego compared to losing your Minnesota cred?
1 sheet of caramel
1 wedge of Zestar apple (Aamodt’s Apple Farm)
½ hot dog (Kramarczuk’s or St. Joseph’s Meat Market)
1 cross-section, ¾-inch wide, of Minnesota-grown sweet corn on the cob, cooked
1 cheese curd ( U of M Dairy Salesroom)
1 wooden skewer
Canola oil, for deep-frying
Almost Pronto Pup Beer Batter:
1 c all-purpose flour (Gold Medal or Pillsbury)
1 c cornmeal (Swany White)
¼ c rice flour
2 tbsp powdered milk
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp salt
12-oz bottle beer (Summit India Pale Ale)
Ketchup, for drizzling on cheese curd (Chef Shack recipe)
Butter, for dolloping on corn (Hope Creamery)
Mustard, for drizzling on hot dog (Hell’s Kitchen)
Honey, for drizzling on caramel apple (U of M)
- Cut your bamboo skewer to slightly under the width of your deep-fryer.
- In a deep-fryer, heat oil to 375°.
- Wrap caramel around apple wedge, trimming any excess with kitchen shears. Pinch closed.
- Slide each item onto skewer in the reverse order that you would eat them: dessert (caramel apple first), then hot dog, corn, cheese curd. Leave enough room at the bottom of the skewer for you to be able to hold it.
- In a large bowl, whisk together batter ingredients until there are no lumps. Spoon beer batter over loaded skewer.
- Using kitchen tongs to hold skewer at the bare end, lower skewer into deep-fryer.
- Fry until coating is golden brown, turning once or twice, about three minutes.
- Remove with kitchen tongs.
- Drizzle with toppings.
By the way, if you just wanted to enjoy some battered and fried cheese curds at home? Say, in the dead of winter when you wish the weather would channel late August for just a day or two? Cheese curds+the above beer batter recipe+steps 2, 5, 7, & 8+Chef Shack’s bacon ketchup turns out pretty darn tasty.