It started with a simple desire to steer State Fair goers away from lesser grub. I was ready to take things one step further than Alice Laussade, who opined in her State Fair guide that the Big Tex Choice Awards for most creative were fried bullshit. In fact, I wanted to argue, most of the fried everything at the annual spectacle in Fair Park is overrated.
And it's only going to get worse as all of that bubbling oil starts to deteriorate over the next few weeks. Sure, everything tastes OK opening weekend, but as that fry-bath starts to break down, deep-fried everything begins to taste like spent diesel lubricant. It leaves that odd coating in your mouth that even a Funnel Cake Ale can't cut through, which makes me frightened to think of what it does to the rest of your insides.
So I set out to find some delicious foods at the fair that were not deep fried. I recalled sausages, Cuban Sandwiches and a Philly cheese steak served at the food court that might actually be worse for you than deep-fried butter. I wasn't interested in heath food, exactly; I just wanted to find dishes that were actually good. I thought it would be easy. Then I started walking around the fair grounds.
I'll admit I hadn't eaten anything that day and it was well after noon. Obviously, I'd be stupid to pound a breakfast burrito before heading to the fair to sample sandwiches, but the protective measure turned against me when I'd covered half the fairground and sill came up empty. I was starving. I was cranky. It was hot, and my skin was sticky, and people kept bumping into me. Sticky people.
I ducked into the food court to bask in the AC, only to find the Philly cheesesteak place I'd visited in the past was missing. The fruteria in the same building was selling mangos and pineapple that were so bruised they looked like they'd been spent some time being tossed around in the Starship 3000. And then there was the Greek Stand that offered greaseless french fries. How are you going to trust a food stand willing to lie so blatantly?
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So I gave up. I was tired and hungry and I craved the very best thing you can eat at the fair, fried or otherwise: The Corny Dog. And not just any corn dog but what turns out again and again to be a really good one. It was two years ago I got a lesson on what makes for a great corn dog, and the specimens served around the fair grounds nail every tenet, every time.
The breading is just thick enough and doesn't' cover the hot dog like a tube sock, and it's cooked so that no trace of wet batter remains inside. The outside of the corn dog should be crisp and not greasy, and the breading should be moist and not too dry.
I hit my corn dog with an artful squiggle of mustard and washed it all down with a paper cup of lemonade that was so sweet it made me pucker. I'm pretty sure it had no real lemons in it, but that's OK. When even bubble gum and beer are tossed in the deep-frier, nothing is what it seems.