Despite the fact that I am a food writer and recipe developer, it’s amazing how often my husband and I end up making pretty ho-hum dinners. As such, I am always looking for a magic bullet: a fast, easy bonus ingredient to keep on hand that will make our worn-out-from-work, no-ideas-left cooking sing. And thanks to an under-sung condiment—capers—our plates are now Masked-Singer-season-finale-worthy.
But not just plain old, straight-from-the-refrigerator-door-shelf capers—you know, the ones you bought to make chicken piccata a week ago? No, these beauties are rocking my life because I’m frying them. That’s right, fried capers are my new spirit garnish, and now they’re yours too.
RELATED: What Are Capers and What Do They Taste Like?
Capers, Plain and Fried
Those briny nuggets that taste of the soul of the Mediterranean are actually the tiny flower buds of the caper bush, pickled for better flavor and then packaged both salted and in liquid. They range in size from teeny tiny nonpareils to large ones the size of your fingertip, and they bring bright pops of intense flavor to everything from swordfish and pasta sauce to sandwiches and salad dressing. But nowhere do they shine as brightly as they do as a crispy fried garnish—the large ones bloom in the high heat and become like tiny crisp flowers while the tiny ones just pop and then melt away in your mouth. Either way, it’s genius.
A no-carb alternative to a crouton, a bit of texture on top of a soft pot of beans, a welcome surprise in a pilaf, fried capers are fast and easy to make. You can even use them in a snack mix—I like to pair them with crisp, roasted chickpeas in a bowl at cocktail hour.
RELATED: Ten Ways to Use Capers (That Aren’t Chicken Piccata)
How to Make Fried Capers
Fried capers could not be simpler to make. If you bought the salted ones, rinse the salt off and let soak in warm water for 10 minutes just to get the bulk of the super saltiness out, then roll between paper towels to make really dry. If packed in brine, drain and roll in paper towels. You can press down on them to really get the moisture out; you won’t damage them.
Heat about a quarter inch of canola oil in a skillet, and when shimmering, fry the capers in a single layer until crispy and lightly browned. They may sputter a bit, especially when you first add to the pan, so step back. It should take only maybe 30 seconds for bitty ones and maybe a minute or so for large ones. Taste one to be sure it is crisp enough, and drain on paper towels, cooling to room temperature.
You can use them on the spot or store in an airtight container in the fridge, where they will last up to two weeks. Then toss them on anything coming out of your kitchen (including these delicious Brussels sprouts or beet and fennel salad). And get ready for some plates that steal the show.
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