Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen: Fried food, lightened by air

By JANINE GILBERTSON April 25. 2018 1:53AM
Air-fried French toast looks and tastes as good as the pan-fried version. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Fried foods are typically high in calories, salt and fat — what makes them taste great also makes them bad for a healthy diet. But what if you could enjoy the taste and texture of fried foods without the negative associated health risks?

A friend of mine recently bought an air fryer, a kitchen gadget that circulates hot air to “fry” food. Her excitement over the air fryer piqued my curiosity, so last week I managed to pry it out of her hands so I could try it for myself.

Now I see what all the buzz is about.

Every dish I’ve served since has been cooked in the air fryer— breakfast, snacks, dinner, sweets, you name it. It’s easy to use and cooks food quickly with an easy cleanup. I love that you can get crispy, browned food in minutes without having to wipe up splattered grease from frying in oil. A few blasts of cooking spray or a couple swipes of olive oil brushed over the food you’re cooking is sufficient to give a “fried” effect without dropping your food in a puddle of hot oil.

The dish that seemed to get the most rave reviews of the week were my air-fried onion rings. I long ago gave up on making onion rings from scratch, because it made such a mess and seemed like too much work for a dish that got eaten up in seconds by my teenage boys. I revisited onion rings using the air fryer and everyone was happy when the golden, delicious rings turned out even better than they did when I cooked them in hot oil.

Another big hit was my raisin-bread French toast; although this dish is easy enough to make on the stovetop, I usually cook it in butter, then watch as my kids slather on more butter and drown it in maple syrup. When cooked in the air fryer, you can achieve the same texture with fewer calories without sacrificing any flavor. (Of course, the kids still slathered it in butter and syrup, but at least there was less butter to begin with.)

I was also excited to try making egg rolls in the air fryer. Whenever I make them, they’re eaten before I can even drop a second batch in the fryer basket. I usually make them as a treat or when company comes over because they’re such a great appetizer.

Making egg rolls in the air fryer is definitely a game changer: No more trying to squeeze a batch of egg rolls in the little Fry Daddy I have, which only fits four at a time. Roll up your ingredients, brush the wrappers with a little oil and pop them into the air fryer for a few minutes, and you have crispy egg rolls with fewer calories.

I also used the air fryer to cook chicken breasts I seasoned with cumin, coriander and lime juice and added some green and red peppers and sweet onions. The peppers and onions had a nice roasted flavor while the chicken breast was juicy and flavorful. We wrapped the chicken and vegetables in tortillas with a little salsa and it made a delicious fajita-type meal that cooked in less than 15 minutes. Next time, I’ll cut those tortillas up, spray them with a little cooking spray and make tortillas chips.
Air-fried onion rings are as popular as the oil-fried version, but lighter and easier to make. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Panko Crusted Onion Rings

3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 large sweet onion, sliced 1/4 in thick, separated into rings

1 egg

1 egg white

1 tsp water

2 tbsp flour

Cooking spray

Add the flour to a plate and set aside. 

Add the bread crumbs, salt and pepper to a shallow dish and mix to combine. 

Add the egg, egg white and water to a shallow bowl and beat until lightly foamy. 

Coat the onion rings with flour, then dip in egg mixture and dredge in the bread crumbs. 

Spray the cooking basket of an air fryer with a light coat of cooking spray and set the onion rings in the basket. Lightly spray the top of the onion rings with cooking spray before cooking. 

Set the air fryer to 400 degrees and cook for about 5 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.

Air-fried egg rolls (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Chicken Egg Rolls

1 cup cooked chicken, shredded

2 carrots, peeled and shredded

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup scallions, chopped

3 cups shredded cabbage

1 tsp fresh ginger, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp fish sauce

1 tsp sugar

1 lb package egg roll wrappers

Vegetable oil for brushing

In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce, ginger, fish sauce and sugar. 

Add the olive oil to a sauté pan over medium high heat and add the garlic. When the oil is warmed and the garlic starts to brown, add the carrot and cabbage and sauté for about 4 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. 

Stir in the chicken and soy sauce mixture and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring well to combine. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Fill a small bowl with water and set on a clean workspace. Working with one egg roll wrapper at a time, place the wrapper on the work space so it looks like a diamond with a corner pointing towards you. 

Add about 2 tablespoons of filling to the center, then fold the left corner to the center to wrap over the filling, then repeat with the right corner. Fold the bottom corner, which is pointing toward you, up to the center, then tightly roll the wrapper around the filling. 

Repeat with remaining wrappers then brush each with vegetable oil. 

Set the egg rolls in the air fryer and set the heat to 400 degrees. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the egg rolls are golden brown and crispy.

Raisin Cinnamon French Toast

1 loaf cinnamon raisin bread, sliced

4 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

Lightly spray the basket of an air fryer with cooking spray. 

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla. Dip the bread in the egg mixture, then set each slice in the air fryer. Set the air fryer temperature to 325 degrees and cook for two minutes on each side. 

Remove from air fryer and serve with maple syrup, if desired.


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