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Jeff Houck

The Tampa Tribune’s food writer since 2005, Jeff Houck covers the way people live through their food. He also hosts the Table Conversations food podcast and believes that everything crunchy is good.

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James Villas’ New Book ‘Southern Fried’ Should Be Battered, Eaten [Everything Crunchy Is Good]

Posted Oct 16, 2013 by Jeff Houck

Updated Oct 16, 2013 at 04:37 PM

James Villas photo

James Villas is one of my favorite food writers. His books on Southern food are full of traditional ingredients cooked in unique ways to bring out the maximum amount of flavor.

His latest book, “Southern Fried” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $29.99), is another enjoyable read about the great Southern art of frying food to a delicious crisp.

Along with recipes for such items as Catawba Pecan-Crusted Catfish and Fried Deviled Eggs (yes, that’s a thing), Villas has a great recipe for Fried Rosemary Zucchini that I wanted to share.

“Deep-fried zucchini rounds are relished as much on the Southern table as anywhere else, but savvy cooks know that if the rounds are to fry up nicely browned and crispy, they must first be salted and drained of excess water,” Villas writes.

“When shopping, look for zucchini about 6 inches long and 2 inches thick with skins that are free of blemishes and have a vibrant green color. Be sure to taste the fried rounds before possibly salting them; if you like, they can also be sprinkled lightly with grated Parmesan cheese.”

Villas and I hit it off in 2007 when he was promoting “The Bacon Cookbook.”

I remember our Q&A. Mostly because it is archived in our library:

  Q: How often do you eat bacon?

  A: Every day of my life. I can’t imagine a day without bacon. I’ve only got two slices in the refrigerator, so I need to buy some more.

  Q: Is there a favorite way you like to eat it?

  A: I like to dip it in brown sugar and make bacon candy. It’s the purest way in the world to eat beautiful bacon. It’s addictive.

  Q: When were you bitten by the bacon bug?

  A: I’ve always had it. I am a boy from the South, having grown up in Charlotte, N.C., and I was brought up eating bacon and sausage. I have to have a full, hot breakfast every day. Back then, we only knew bacon that was produced by specialists. You’d go out to farms and get bacon. My dentist used to cure his own bacon. On back of my stove I can always remember a coffee can full of bacon grease. I can’t tell you all the ways I cook with that stuff. It’s followed me through life.

  Q:  Bacon as a lifestyle, in other words.

  A: I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love bacon. Even people whose religion prohibits them from eating bacon have their knees buckle when they smell it.

This is a man I can deal with. Anyway, here’s his recipe for Fried Rosemary Zucchini.

* * * * *


Fried Rosemary Zucchini

Makes 4 to 6 servings

3 medium zucchini, trimmed and sliced into 1⁄2-inch-thick rounds
Salt to taste
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup dry bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Lemon wedges

Place the zucchini rounds in a large colander in the sink, sprinkle lightly with salt, tossing, and let stand for 20 minutes to drain. Pat the rounds dry with paper towels and set aside.

Place the flour in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, garlic, rosemary, and pep¬per till well blended. In a third bowl, place the bread crumbs.

In a deep fryer or heavy saucepan, heat about 1 inch of oil to 365°F on a deep-fat thermometer and fry the zucchini in batches till golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes, turning once with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels, season with extra salt, and serve hot or warm with lemon wedges.

Source: Reprinted with permission from the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, from Southern Fried by James Villas.


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