UNITED STATES—We are now in the thick of summer, with shorts replacing jeans, and sandals being worn in lieu of boots and sneakers. Fans and air conditioners blast left and right. Ice cream cones are everywhere, chocolate bars and marshmallows are prominently displayed at every market, and iced coffees are selling a mile a minute.
I love every moment of it. I’m one of those people who need a thick jacket when the temperature dips below 70 degrees. I bask in the heat whenever I venture outdoors. I enjoy the sense of relaxation that seems to float around during these warmer months, when we can actually move at our leisure instead of rushing around with our coats tucked tightly around us. And the activities: walks down the pier, visits to museums, picnics, and barbecues.
With summer also comes the arrival of the local county fairs, and with fairs, of course, comes food. When I was younger, I would race around from game to game, trying to figure out which giant stuffed animal I wanted most. I rarely stopped for a bite of food, and even then, I went for the familiar corn dogs or fries. During college, I visited the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar and found that my attention had shifted from games to food. I tried a turkey leg, about the size of my head. I had a frozen chocolate-covered banana on a stick, which was rather messy to eat. I tried a variety of fried foods, including the famous fried Oreo, which was surprisingly tasty.
The Orange County Fair is set to open next week, with the Los Angeles County Fair to follow. I’ve gotten to wondering what fair foods can be made at home, for those who miss the opportunity to attend the fairs this year. What can we recreate from the comforts of our own kitchens?
Funnel cake is one of the first treats I crave when I visit fairs or theme parks. After a few bites, however, the fried batter becomes overwhelming, especially if it’s topped with whipped cream and syrup. These Funnel Cake Cupcakes, with cinnamon vanilla cake, cinnamon vanilla buttercream, and bits of funnel cake, are a great alternative. Soft cake contrasts with crispy funnel cake, with hints of cinnamon throughout. The best part is, these can be eaten without spilling powdered sugar all over the place.
One trend I’ve noticed in recent years is food on sticks. We’ve grown up with corn dogs, corn on the cob, and meat and veggie skewers. But now there are tornado potatoes, which are deep-fried, spiral-cut potatoes on skewers, or waffles on sticks, drizzled with chocolate and sprinkles. As far as desserts on sticks go, how does chocolate-covered cheesecake sound? A whole cheesecake is cut into thin slices, and Popsicle sticks are inserted into each slice. The cheesecake is frozen, then dipped into chocolate and crushed candy bars. Sounds like a perfect on-the-go dessert!
Craving more food on a stick? Try these Chocolate Strawberry Waffle Pops, which involves making chocolate-covered strawberries and dipping them into waffle batter. They are then fried until golden and dusted with powdered sugar. This is practically breakfast on a stick, with crunchy golden batter, warm chocolate, and sweet strawberries.
We’ve all eaten cookie dough at one point or another, whether from the bowl or straight from the refrigerated package. Here is a recipe that takes plain chocolate chip cookie dough to the next level—by shaping them into balls, covering them with batter, and dropping them into oil. They are served with a drizzle of chocolate and powdered sugar. Move aside, deep-fried Oreos. I’ll always have a soft spot for them, but gooey, chocolate-laden cookie dough wins my heart every time.
Let’s take a break from the deep-fried desserts and try this healthier version of churros. These treats always remind me of trips to Disneyland, the beach, and yes, county fairs. The pastries are piped onto parchment paper, baked until puffed, and broiled until brown. While the churros are still hot, they are rolled in a cinnamon-sugar mixture. These churros are less crisp than their fried counterparts and soften up quickly, but they can easily be crisped up again under the broiler. Serve with chocolate sauce, dulce de leche, or even marshmallow fluff.
As I mentioned, my go-to fair food was the corn dog, which is safe, albeit a little boring. These Bacon-Wrapped Corn Dogs combine two comfort foods and increase the flavor factor. Cheddar hot dogs are wrapped in bacon and grilled, then dipped into cornmeal batter. They are fried until golden and served with preferred side dishes and condiments. These corn dogs appear unassuming, but one bite will reveal the smoky bacon inside.
I used to leave the pickles accompanying my sandwiches for my friends. I only recently began appreciating their tang and crunch, and now I keep them for myself every time. These fried dill pickle slices are fitting for pickle lovers. Pickle slices are coated with a cornmeal and spice mixture and placed onto a strainer, which is lowered into hot oil. They make a convenient snack or appetizer, especially when paired with dipping sauce.
I’ve seen the “food in cones” trend make the rounds online, filled with sausages and mashed potatoes; cheese, tomato sauce, and pizza toppings; and even macaroni and cheese, topped with bacon. I would never have thought these could be made at home, until I came across a recipe for meat and vegetable-filled Tortilla Cones. Flour tortillas are cut in half, brushed with egg wash, and rolled into cones. The cones are stuffed with balls of foil, to help maintain their shapes, and baked until lightly golden brown. Cooked steak, peppers, and cheese are spooned into the prepared cones, and topped with sour cream and diced tomatoes. An easy, handheld dinner, made in minutes.
I’m not sure I’ll make it to the fairs this year, though I’ll certainly try to make the time. Regardless, it’s nice to know that I can make a number of these popular fair foods at home. I imagine some of these recipes can be brought together to form a fair-themed menu for a dinner party, and look forward to trying them out soon.