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Image: Deep-fried butter
Kevin Brown  /  State Fair of Texas
Abel Gonzales Jr. says his deep-fried butter invention tastes like “a mix between a biscuit or a croissant that is just stuffed to the gills with butter on the inside.”
By
TODAY contributor
updated 10/15/2009 12:20:19 PM ET 2009-10-15T16:20:19

Who among us hasn’t simultaneously marveled and shuddered over accounts of deep-fried Twinkies? Deep-fried Oreos? Deep-fried bacon?

Well, brace yourself, because a new deep-fried item has been invented that’s so bold, so audacious, so brazen, it’s bound to take your breath away. The invention is none other than:

Deep-fried butter.

That’s right. This artery-clogging, heart-stopping dish is among eight new deep-fried concoctions that will be unveiled to the public at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas later this month. Each year, fair concessionaires try to outdo themselves by dreaming up recipes that could send you racing to your cardiologist if they became regular staples of your diet. The friendly competition has become so intense that fair officials have dubbed the fairgrounds the “Fried Food Capital of Texas.”

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This year’s fried butter entry is the brainchild of 39-year-old Dallas resident Abel Gonzales Jr., winner of past state fair competitions for his Texas Fried Cookie Dough, Fried Peanut Butter, Jelly and Banana Sandwich and Fried Coke recipes.

(That’s right. Fried Coke.)

To make fried butter, the butter itself needs to have an outer coating, or shell, if you will — something that can withstand the bubbling cauldron of the deep fryer.

“I mean, butter by itself does not taste good,” Gonzales said. “Nobody just grabs a stick of butter and eats it. That would be gross.”

So here’s what Gonzales does: He takes 100 percent pure butter, whips it until it is light and fluffy, freezes it, then surrounds it with dough. The butter-laden dough balls are then dropped into the deep fryer.

For purists who just want the unadulterated taste of butter, Gonzales serves up plain-butter versions of his creation. For others who want a little more pizzazz, he offers three additional versions with flavored butters: garlic, grape or cherry.

“When you taste it, it really does taste like a hot roll with butter,” said Sue Gooding, spokeswoman for the State Fair of Texas. “It tastes great.”

“It’s like a mix between a biscuit or a croissant that is just stuffed to the gills with butter on the inside,” Gonzales said. “I think that’s the best way to describe it.”

An order of fried butter will get you three or four pieces of piping-hot dough in a little cardboard boat.

“Any more than that and I think it would be a little bit too much,” Gonzales said. “A little bit too rich.”

Pork chips and pecan pies
Other deep-fried creations to be showcased at this year’s state fair include:

  • Green Goblins: Cherry peppers stuffed with spicy shredded chicken and guacamole, battered, deep-fried and topped with queso.
  • Twisted Yam on a Stick: A spiral-cut sweet potato, fried on a skewer, then rolled in butter and dusted with cinnamon and sugar.
  • Fernie’s Deep Fried Peaches & Cream: Served with a side of vanilla buttercream icing for dipping.
  • Texas Fried Pecan Pie: A mini-pecan pie battered, deep fried and served with caramel sauce, whipping cream and chopped candied pecans.
  • Country Fried Pork Chips: Battered, thin-sliced pork loin deep fried and served with sides of ketchup or cream gravy.
  • Sweet Jalapeno Corn Dog Shrimp: Shrimp on a stick, coated with a sweet and spicy cornmeal batter, deep fried and served with a spicy glaze.
  • Fried Peanut Butter Cup Macaroon: A peanut butter cup wrapped inside a coconut macaroon, fried and then dusted with powdered sugar.

On Labor Day, all eight creations were judged in the categories of Best Taste and Most Creative. Gonzales bagged a trophy for Most Creative for deep-fried butter, and Christi Erpillo won the Best Taste award for her peaches-and-cream creation.

Image: Deep-fried peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwich
State Fair of Texas
Gonzales won the 2005 State Fair of Texas' Best Taste competition for his fried peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwich. (For the record, Elvis pan-fried his legendary peanut butter and banana sandwiches; Gonzales deep-fried his.)
The annual competition, now in its fifth year, has prompted concessionaires to push limits and become ever more imaginative and daring with their entries. Previous competitions saw the debut of deep-fried lattés, fried banana splits and chicken-fried bacon.

For his part, Gonzales has won four times in the past five years for his cookie-dough, Coke, PBJ-and-banana-sandwich and butter inventions. He still remains a little astonished that he didn’t win anything for last year’s creation, something he called Fire and Ice. That complex dish involved deep-fried pineapple chunks topped with strawberries, strawberry sauce and — here’s the kicker — banana-flavored whipped cream flash-frozen in liquid nitrogen.

“Smoke would come out of your nose or mouth as you exhaled,” Gonzales said. “Kids really loved it. It was something to see.”

This year, Gonzales decided to get back to basics with a dish that doesn’t pussyfoot around.

“Fried butter, I think, (was) his effort to come back with a vengeance,” Gooding said.

‘Special foods for a special time’
So what’s with this annual celebration of all things deep fried and deeply unhealthy? Should the Food and Drug Administration step in and ban the event?

No, said Jennifer Pereira, a registered dietitian in nearby Arlington, Texas. A firm believer in the “no bad foods” approach to dieting and healthy eating, Pereira said it isn’t such a bad thing for people to splurge occasionally on foods they truly enjoy.

“The state fair is only once a year,” Pereira said. “I would strongly encourage people not to binge. Don’t build up your hunger so you can eat everything in sight. Pick a couple of things that you really enjoy, savor them, and stop eating when you feel satisfied.”

Pereira pointed out that all foods contain some nutrition — even Gonzales’ fried butter dish.

“Fried butter has fats, and you need some fats,” she said. “The dough would have some carbohydrates. ...

“In my practice, once I get people to legalize all foods, it’s amazing how food loses its grip.”

Gonzales knows his deep-fried inventions aren’t healthy — but he also knows that they’re fun. “These are special foods for a special time,” he said. “The fair is the one time of year when grown-ups can be kids again. ...

“There are a lot of people out there that don’t get the fun in what I’m doing. I’ve gotten e-mails from people saying, ‘You’re a menace!’ But you know, if you’re really health-conscious, there’s always other alternatives. You don’t have to have it. ... And I tell people this is not healthy food. Be careful with it. Take it in moderation. Definitely get your exercise. Eat a salad.”

Frying for a living
For Gonzales, being such a successful concessionaire at such a huge state fair for the past seven years has paved the way to a measure of financial freedom — so much so that he recently quit his day job of 14 years as a computer analyst.

Image: Abel Gonzales Jr. at fair booth
Kevin Brown  /  State Fair of Texas
A family affair at a smoky booth: Last year Abel Gonzales Jr. invented Fire and Ice, a complex dish that involved deep-fried pineapple chunks topped with banana-flavored whipped cream flash-frozen in liquid nitrogen.
“It’s funny, because being at the state fair is the total opposite of being a computer analyst,” he said. “I finally kind of figured out that I was in the wrong field. ... I’ve been really lucky — really, really lucky. I can just do this for the three weeks out of the year and that’s pretty much it.”

His fair creations tend to be highly labor-intensive, and every year his entire family — parents, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews — helps him throughout the hyper-busy fair madness in late September and October.

“It’s like a little family reunion,” Gonzales said. “We all bond during the fair.”

Once the fair ends and the madness dies down, Gonzales chills out and spends plenty of quality time with his German shepherd, Scout.

“Mainly I just take it easy the rest of the year and think of new things to fry.”


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Video: Boy dances after tasting deep-fried butter

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