I habitually have a bottle of half-used capers in my refrigerator at all times. The edible buds are perfect for tossing in a tomato sauce, cooking with rice, or using as the salting agent for a simple lemon-butter sauce.
But recently I found myself getting bored with my briny friends — so I started frying them. It’s a trick I learned back in the day as a line cook, but it’s an easy way for any cook to pack a lot of flavor into a dish. Frying turns capers into crispy salt bombs that can add a pop to any Mediterranean-inspired weeknight dish you make.
How to Fry Capers
To fry capers, wash them (if they’re the kind packed in salt) or drain (if they’re packed in brine) and dry them on a few layers of paper towels. Drying the capers is important because it will minimize the amount of oil that will splatter during the frying process.
To start, heat a small saucepan to high heat with about an inch of a neutral oil such canola or vegetable. The capers fry within a few minutes, so the oil has to be hot for the skin to puff up properly. Use a kitchen thermometer to ensure that the oil is around 350°F to 355°F. You can also drop a caper into the oil to test the heat before you fry the rest of the batch. Have a slotted spoon or spider nearby to fish out the capers once they are fried.
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When your oil is heated, gently drop the capers in the saucepan and fry them for three minutes, or until they are no longer soft. The outer layer of the capers will fan out and form an airy and crunchy crust, while the center should hold its circular shape.
Remove the finished capers from the oil, and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Note that it’s hard to keep the capers from popping and splattering a little oil because of the internal water content, but the popping usually ceases after the first minute.
Storing Fried Capers
You can make a big batch of fried capers ahead of time and then store them directly on the counter. The capers stay crispy for about two days in an airtight container, but if they’ve started to soften, just refresh them by popping them back in hot oil for about a minute.
Using Fried Capers
There are many fun ways to use your newly fried capers. I am a fried egg advocate, and I’ll toss a few capers on top of my morning sunny-side-up egg and forgo the salt. If avocado toast is your thing, drop some of those bad boys on the smashed avo. Pack them up and take them to work to sprinkle on your lunch salad. They also make a tasty garnish for soups, and at the restaurant where I worked we topped them over crab cakes with a citrus butter sauce. The creative uses for these salty, crispy puffs are seemingly endless!
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