Make your own festival fare at home with hot oil and skewers | Summer Survival Guide | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Make your own festival fare at home with hot oil and skewers

click to enlarge Make your own festival fare at home with hot oil and skewers
CP Photo: Maggie Weaver
At-home attempt at chicken-on-a-stick
This year, with fairs and festivals canceled around the city, bring the fairgrounds to your backyard by making your favorite overpriced, fried, and delicious treats at home.

Make your own festival fare at home with hot oil and skewers
CP illustration: Abbie Adams
Most of these are easy to recreate outside of a fair, as long as you have lots of oil on hand and a container to fry in. And with a vat of hot oil in mind, I opted out of frying for my first fair-food-at-home experiment, turning to chicken-on-a-stick instead.

This skewered, saucy chicken shows up at almost every festival and outdoor event in the summer, and for good reason. It’s a simple, delicious dish that walks well through crowds of people.

The chicken was, quite possibly, one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made. The ingredient list was short: chicken cut into strips, skewers, teriyaki sauce, and honey mustard for dipping. Prep involved slicing the chicken thin and marinating it for about an hour, then stabbing the meat with a skewer and tossing it on a grill.

(Now, I did take an even easier route and bought pre-made teriyaki sauce; if you really wanted to get fancy, I encourage you to make the sauce from scratch.)
click to enlarge Make your own festival fare at home with hot oil and skewers
CP Photo: Maggie Weaver
At-home attempt at funnel cakes
After a few minutes on the grill, the skewers were nicely charred and ready to eat. It tasted as I remember: a great mix of sweet and savory, especially when dipped in the tangy honey mustard. One benefit of eating them at home was that I didn’t have to dodge oblivious fair-goers and could pair them with a healthy mix of veggies.

click to enlarge Make your own festival fare at home with hot oil and skewers
CP illustration: Abbie Adams
But it wouldn’t be a summer at the fair without something fried, so I braved hot oil for funnel cakes, a decadent fried dough brought to us by the Pennsylvania Dutch. Mixing the batter — a combination of egg, flour, sugar, vanilla, and milk — was simple enough, but as I started to fry, things got dicey.

I do not own a funnel, and instead, used a ladle to try and imitate the squiggly pattern of a typical funnel cake. This did not work well, and the cakes turned out sad and flat, not puffy.

Frying in hot oil is not something I like to do often, and these cakes only reinforced why. Drizzling the batter in my substitute for a fryer, a cast iron pan, led to an interesting game of dodging hot oil as it spat and splattered.

But once I got past the initial drop, the cakes fried pretty well. The flatter part was too doughy, but the edges — the only part that actually got golden brown — were crispy and to my surprise, had the sweet, pancake-like taste of a typical funnel cake. After dusting the cakes with powdered sugar, I ate them sitting in the grass in the heat of the sun, attempting to recreate the feeling of sweaty, people-packed days at the Three Rivers Arts Festival.