At least you can call them that if there’s someone who won’t try anything made with zucchini. Otherwise, Oven-baked Zucchini Fries would work just as well, although it doesn’t sound quite as fancy. Regardless of what you call them, we made them as part of an effort to eat up what’s probably the last summer squash of the season. Remember that squash? It was a eight-ball squash, named, presumably, because it’s about the size of a pool ball. Ours, however, had grown large enough to warrant the name of bowling-ball squash.
We knew the trouble that we have using summer squash, so we’ve watched for recipes that make good use of it. Somewhere along the line, we’d found this one in The Southern Vegetarian, by Justin Fox and Amy Lawrence, and we have to admit that it was the photo of the resulting fries that got us. They looked crispy. Very crispy! Surprising for a vegetable that seems mostly liquid. And these are baked in the oven, to boot. Really, now, was that just Photoshop talking, or was it the real deal?
Only one way to find out: bake ’em up in the Scratchin’ It Test Kitchen.
Makes a bunch of fries.
We make our own bread crumbs, of course. It’s not difficult: Just take some day-old bread, cut it into small cubes, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes while something else is baking. Turn into crumbs either by pulsing in a food processor or placing in a large plastic bag and crushing with a rolling pin. Egg, free range is the way to go. Olive oil, we use it here, but any light, neutral oil will work. Basil and oregano are really suggestions. We used them because the original recipe called for Italian seasoning (is it made from Italians?), but we think that other spices would work well, too. Curry fries, anyone?
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.
Season fries. Place the zucchini strips in a large bowl and toss with salt, basil, and oregano. Try to get the sticks coated as best you can.
Add flour. The flour is going to act as a barrier between the liquid of the zucchini and the outer coating, which will get crispy, so add the flour. It might seem like too much, but in this case you’re better off with more flour than too little. Toss until all the sticks are coated. Oh, just get in there with your hands and toss. Your hands will clean up nicely.
Beat egg and milk. Choose a wide, flat bowl, one that you’ll be able to get the fries into and out of easily. Whisk together the egg and milk; we used a fork for this step. Put the bread crumbs in another similar dish.
Dip and coat. Set up a little workstation with the fries, then the egg mix, then the crumbs, then the baking sheets, so you can work efficiently. Now for a trick. Try, try, as hard as you can to dip the zucchini stick into the egg wash with one hand, then transfer it to the bread crumbs with the same hand, then coat with crumbs and transfer to the baking sheet with the other hand. Why? It’s less messy. If you use both hands for each operation, you’ll get crumbs in the egg, and egg in the crumbs, and, before you know it, it’ll seem as if you just mixed everything together at the start.
Drizzle. Drizzle the fries with a bit of oil, which will help them crisp up and give them that deep fried crunch, without the hassle of deep frying. Yay!
Bake. Slide into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pans about halfway through to ensure even baking, until the outside coating is crispy and sizzling.
Serve immediately. Plate these and bring ’em out (garnishing if desired) before they get cold. We had a side of marinara sauce, so we didn’t bother with the garnish (besides, we didn’t have fresh parsley, either).
These were almost everything a zucchini fry should be: crisp on the outside, tender on the inside. Our only issue, and it’s a minor one, is that, as is, they lacked flavor. Next time, we’ll be adding seasoning to the bread crumbs: onion powder, a bit of garlic powder, maybe some celery seeds, possibly a bit of red pepper, because summer squash is bland and needs that extra kick in the pants. Otherwise, the coating is the real deal, light and crisp (we had also coated some with corn meal which worked nicely, too), reminding us of the coating that’s used on fried mozzarella sticks — and who doesn’t like fried cheese? We liked the coating so much that we might even consider using the same method when making fried okra. We could make a lot more at once in the oven. Four stars, until the coating is seasoned properly.