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Fair food: All calories? All fat? Yes, please!

Is there anything more American than the state fair?

Small-town pride. Prize-winning bulls. Proud children showing off their favorite ponies and sheep. State fairs are so American, they even have a contest for the best apple pie.

Some of us go for the music. Some go for the exhibits. Some go for the rides. But let’s be frank: A lot of us go for the food.

Fair food is a world unto itself, a secret, guilty place we visit to indulge in the foods that we would never ordinarily consume, the artery-clogging, brain-rotting, heart-stopping, certain-death foods that taste soooo good even while you suspect they may not be the healthiest things you could eat.

Only at a fair would you even think of trying a deep-fried Twinkie or Snickers bar. Only at a fair would anyone ever serve deep-fried butter. Only at a fair would anyone even consider the concept of deep-fried Coke – and yes, if you haven’t been to a fair lately, that’s a real thing.

The Illinois State Fair runs through Sunday. If you want, you can get all of your fair-food cravings of there and can also enjoy the music, the exhibits and the rides.

Or you can make your favorite fair dishes yourself. Just be sure to have a defibrillator nearby and an ambulance service on speed-dial.

Making your own fair food is easy. Just:

1. Take something that is very bad for you, and

2. Fry it.

I have too much respect for my arteries for that.

Yield: 8 servings

½ gallon vegetable oil;
1 cup yellow cornmeal;
1 cup all-purpose flour;
2 teaspoons kosher salt;
1 teaspoon baking powder;
¼ teaspoon baking soda;
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more if desired;
1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely minced, optional;
1 (8.5 ounce) can creamed corn;
1⁄3 cup finely grated onion;
1½ cups buttermilk;
4 tablespoons cornstarch, for dredging;
8 hot dogs;
8 wooden skewers.

1. Heat oil in a deep fryer or large heavy pot to 375 degrees; use fryer thermostat or candy thermometer for accuracy.

2. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cayenne. In a separate bowl, combine jalapeño, if using, corn, onion and buttermilk. You can keep this liquid mixture covered in the refrigerator for hours or even days; the dry mixture may be held at room temperature indefinitely.

3. When ready to cook, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients all at once, and stir only enough times to bring the batter together; there should be lumps. Set batter aside to rest for 10 minutes.

4. Fill a large drinking glass almost to the top with batter. Place cornstarch on a plate. Stick skewers into hot dogs. Roll 2 of the hot dogs in the cornstarch to cover them completely; you can use your hands to help. Be sure to knock off all excess cornstarch – the hot dogs should only be coated lightly.

5. Quickly dip one prepared hot dog in and out of the batter, and immediately (and carefully) place it in the oil; if making 2 at a time, do the same with the other. Do not fry more than 2 at a time, because that will lower the oil’s temperature too much. Fry corn dogs until coating is golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. With tongs, remove to cooling rack and allow to drain for 3 to 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining hot dogs.

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown, via Food Network

Yield: 6 servings

Vegetable oil for frying;
1 pound thick-cut sliced bacon;
1 egg;
½ cup milk;
½ cup all-purpose flour;
1⁄8 teaspoon (2 pinches) garlic powder, optional;
Salt and pepper.

1. Pour oil into skillet at least an inch or 2 deep. Heat to 375 degrees; use a candy thermometer for accuracy. Cut bacon slices in half.

2. Whisk egg and milk together in a bowl. In another bowl, season flour with garlic powder, if desired, and salt and pepper.

3. Double dip a bacon slice, dunking it first in the egg mixture, then the flour mixture, then back in the egg mixture, then back in the flour. Fry in oil, no more than 4 slices at a time, until golden brown, about 4 or 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Recipe from


Vegetable oil for deep-fat frying;
2 eggs;
1 cup milk;
1 cup water;
½ teaspoon vanilla extract;
3 cups all-purpose flour;
¼ cup granulated sugar;
1 tablespoon baking powder;
¼ teaspoon salt;
Confectioners’ sugar.

1. Heat oil in a fryer, electric skillet or large, heavy pot to 375 degrees. Use fryer or electric skillet thermostat or candy thermometer for accuracy.

2. In a large bowl, beat eggs. Add milk, water and vanilla and stir until well blended. In a different bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

3. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, and stir until smooth.

4. Ladle 1 cup batter into a large funnel with your finger over the bottom or into a mixing cup. Pour into oil in a spiral motion.

5. Cook, turning once with a large spatula or spider, until golden brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm, dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

Recipe from Taste of Home

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