Our dog, Bud, is a very bad dog. I’ve already taken him through dog school twice and now my wife is taking him through a third course.
It happens to be at a facility that’s about 4 miles from home. In between our house and the dog school there just happens to be one of the best pizza places on the South Side of Chicago, called Papa Joe’s.
Papa Joe’s is one of those restaurants that has been around forever. The house I grew up in is only a few blocks away and when I was a boy, whenever I smelled roasting garlic, I knew that they were making the marinara sauce at Papa Joe’s that day.
Through the years, we’ve gone there for countless birthdays, graduations, first communions, funeral luncheons and so on.
Every Wednesday night, since Sandi and Bud just happen to be going past Papa Joe’s anyway, I’ve been ordering a pizza for them to pick up on the way home. The first time I did this a few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the restaurant runs a promotion on Wednesdays: Order any large pizza and get your choice of any appetizer for free!
Whoa. Way better than a free liter of Diet Rite Cola!
Among the choices — garlic bread, tomato bread, fried mushrooms — the one I like most is the fried zucchini. The vegetable is cut into think strips, breaded and deep fried, then served with a roasted garlic dipping sauce on the side. Mmmmm.
It was delicious and almost momentarily made me forget about the amazing pizza that came with it. After I finished off the last peice, I knew I had to reproduce Papa Joe’s fried zucchini in my own home kitchen.
Sadly, I don’t have a deep fryer at home, so it was going to be a little more of a challenge. But with a little ingenuity, I was able to overcome it.
For the roasted garlic dipping sauce, I had only my taste buds to rely on because I didn’t have a recipe. Although I guess I could have asked my younger brother, who worked at Papa Joe’s in the early ’90s.
The sauce has rich butter and roasted garlic flavors, yet it’s thick and creamy. My guess was melted butter whipped into some mayonnaise with pureed roasted garlic cloves, a touch of cayenne, some cumin and a little water to adjust the consistency. I was close enough.
This appetizer can also be served with marinara sauce, if you prefer. Also, it can be made with yellow squash instead of zucchini, which is actually the way I went. The zucchini plant in our garden for some reason didn’t yield any fruit this year, but our crookneck yellow squash plant is doing fine, so I substituted. There’s really no flavor difference.
1 large Zucchini or Yellow Squash, but into discs or sticks
1 cup All-Purpose Flour, seasoned with a little salt and pepper
2 Eggs, beaten
1 cup Bread Crumbs
2 TBS Parmesan Cheese
1. In one bowl, add the flour and season with a little salt and pepper. In a second bowl, add the eggs. In a third bowl, combine the bread crumbs and parmesan. One peice at a time, dredge the zucchini in the flour mixture, then cover with the egg mixture, and finally coat with the bread crumbs/parmesan mixture. Set aside on a plate. This is the three-stage breading method. It helps if you use only one hand for the dry ingredients and one hand for the wet ingredients, otherwise you have to stop and wash your Hulk hands every few minutes.
2. Put a cast iron pan over a medium heat. Add oil and let it get hot, but not smoking hot. Place each breaded zucchini into the pan, being careful not to splash yourself with the hot oil. Don’t crowed the zucchini peices, leave enough room in between so they can slide around. Cook them until nicely browned one one side, then flip them over and brown the other side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb the excess grease.
Because of the pan size, this recipe has to be made in batches. The zucchini will stay hot enough while all the peices are being cooked, but if you want to make sure, you can heat your oven to 200F and
store the paper-towel lined plate in there until everything is done.
In a way, I’m kind of glad Bud is a bad student at dog school because it means I have an excuse to get Papa Joe’s pizza PLUS a free appetizer every week! It almost makes all the chewed-up shoes worth it!