Pub Night: Piri Piri Breaded Pickle Spears with Buttermilk Dill Dipping Sauce

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Have you ever had deep fried pickles?  If you like pickles, and you like pub food, well let me tell you – deep fried pickles are where it’s at.  

The deep fried pickle connoisseur knows that although s/he may have a favorite way of making (or just eating) deep fried pickles, the style varies by pub, diner, region, and cook.  Some people like a hot and spicy pickle, other a tangy and garlicky dill, and occasionally they’re even made with sweet bread and butter pickles.  One of the best deep fried pickle dishes that I’ve ever had was made with home pickled sweet and spicy medallions.  Oh, lawdy Miss Lucy but were they good!!!  

That brings me to the shape – spear or medallion?  Fat or thin?  Long spindly pickle wedges or fat chunky flats?  My preference is for a moderately thin pickle spear, because if the piece is too chubby then it tends to release more liquid and the breading falls off.  As for the round vs. spear, well, I like that pickle spears look more like pickles, and I can nibble my way down to a nub.

Now don’t go thinking that it’s just about the pickle!  The breading is just as important as the interior.  Whether you opt for  a light and crispy tempura batter, a fat and frothy beer batter, a crispy cornmeal crust, or just good ol’ bread crumbs, the key is crisp.  Deep fried pickle batter, if nothing else, MUST be crispy. Which in my case is easy enough to do, because I have this thing….I don’t deep fry.  Well, perhaps “don’t” is a harsh word.  I have deep fried, and I probably will deep fry again, but if I can avoid deep fat frying I’ll usually take whatever bumpy road out of the school yard avoids adding more pot into my belly.  Hence, BAKED Piri Piri Breaded Pickle Spears.

Poor Mike got home when I was sticky fingered and in the middle of my pickle breading.  He peered down at what I was doing, paused, and then paused again.

Mike:  Uh….so, hey babe!  What…uh, what are we having for dinner tonight…?

Tina:  Deep fried pickles!!  But they’re not actually deep fried (of course), they’re BAKED, and they aren’t just pickles they’re PIRI PIRI PICKLES and there’s buttermilk dill dipping sauce and there’s pickles and they’re breaded and I’m going to bake them and – 

Mike:  We’re having PICKLES for dinner?

Tina:  YES!  We’re having pickles, but not just REGULAR pickles, they’re PIRI PIRI BREADED PICKLES and there’s buttermilk dill dipping sauce because it’s PUB NIGHT but, well, lightened up of course, and don’t you just LOOOOOVE pickles?  Because I DO!  I LOVE PICKLES!!!  And they’re Piri Piri pickles, and I think you’ll like them.  And there’s dip.

Mike:  We’re having pickles for dinner.  

Just because I have a phobia of deep frying doesn’t mean that I always make the healthiest choices.  But what of it?  Yes, we ate pickles for dinner.  And it was glorious.  

Piri Piri Breaded Pickle Spears with Buttermilk Dill Dipping Sauce

24-30 wedges
Serves 4-6 as an appetizer, or 1 woman and her truculent partner as a meal

Piri Piri Breaded Pickles:

  • 4-5 kosher dill pickles
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour *
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp buttermilk or regular milk
  • 1 tbsp Piri Piri **
  • 1.5 cups bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp dried dill
  • salt and pepper to taste

Buttermilk Dill Sauce

  • 1.5 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise ***
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 2 tsp garlic salt ****
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp dried dill
  • Small handful (about 3 tbsp) finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1.5 tbsp fresh lemon juice

* If you don’t have whole wheat flour you can use all purpose flour.  The whole wheat flour tends to be denser when it binds, and I find that using it to bread can often be more effective than using regular flours – as long as whatever you’re breading has a stronger flavor than the flour.  Whole wheat flour is what it is, and you can practically taste the chaff and the fiber.  But hey, if nothing else, I sometimes feel (mistakenly) like that wee 3/4 cup of flour for breading makes me somehow more virtuous, or heals the damage from my last bag of Sour Patch Kids.  When it comes to responsible eating,  I’ll take what I can get. 

** Piri Piri is a Portuguese hot sauce.  It’s quite spicy and generally also quite salty.  If you don’t have Piri Piri, you could substitute with 1.5 tbsp of Frank’s Red Hot or your favorite spicy wing sauce.

*** Mike bought that because he thinks I’m trying to make him fat.

**** I use garlic salt occasionally when I’m in a lazy-bones home cooking mode, but I usually prefer fresh garlic.  The thing is, fresh garlic would be really pungent in this dip, and it may also give you lumps and chunks that you don’t want (unless it’s pressed).   But garlic salt is a sneaky fox, and I rarely use it in recipes.  Why?  Because the salt content varies so much from brand to brand.  Some garlic salt is mostly dried garlic powder, and others are mostly…well, salt.  If you have garlic powder, I would recommend using that and adding salt to taste.  But if you’re as lazy as I am, and you only have garlic salt – and no powder – well, such is life.  And at the end of the day, you can add more garlic OR salt if you feel the yen.  I certainly won’t stop you.

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Slice each pickle into 6-8 wedges, depending on how fat it is.  For your average good large kosher dill pickle there will be about 6 wedges, each about 1/2 inch thick.

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Dry the pickle spears well between two layers of absorbent paper towel.  When most of the exterior moisture has been removed, put the pickle spears between two NEW layers of paper towel and leave them to sit and continue drying just a little bit more, for 10-15 minutes.  If the pickles are too moist then the breading won’t adhere properly, or it will slide off when you bite into the pickle.  Having a hellishly hot pickle spear whip down and bludgeon your chin is no fun, believe you me.

In the mean time, preheat your oven to 425ºF.  Place a rack on top of a large cooking sheet and coat it with non-stick cooking spray.

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Lay out 3 medium sized and relatively shallow bowls.  Put the whole wheat flour in the first one.

In the second bowl, crack both eggs and add the 2 tbsp of buttermilk and the Piri Piri (or other hot sauce).  

In the third bowl, measure out the bread crumbs, garlic salt, dried dill, cayenne pepper, and season it with a tiny bit of salt and a generous grinding of pepper.

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Whisk the egg mixture until it’s evenly combined.  Stir the breadcrumbs with the seasoning.

Coat each pickle spear in the flour and then shake off the excess.  Dip it in the egg mixture, making sure that it’s well coated, and let any additional egg drip off before laying the pickle spear in the seasoned bread crumbs.  Turn it around in the bread crumb mixture, squeezing rather gently with your hands to make sure that the bread crumbs adhere and completely coat the pickle.

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As the pickles are breaded, lay them down on top of the non-stick sprayed rack.  Make sure that the pickles aren’t touching and that there is room between them for air to circulate.  This will help the pickles to cook evenly and dry the breading out.  If you like, spray the tops of the pickles with more cooking spray – it’s really not necessary, and I rarely do it, but you’ll get a browner breading.

Tuck the pickles into your pre-heated 425ºF oven for 20-25 minutes, or until they’re golden brown.

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As the pickles are cooking, we might as well make the buttermilk dill dipping sauce.

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Pour the buttermilk into a medium sized bowl and add the finely chopped chives and all of the remaining ingredients. 

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Whisk it well until it’s combined with no lumps of mayonnaise.  Chill the dip until the pickles are ready.

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Serve the baked, breaded Piri Piri pickle spears with a generous bowl of buttermilk dill sauce to dip them in.

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Uh huh.  That’s a crispy coated breaded pickle.  The Piri Piri adds just a bit of heat, echoed by the cayenne in the dressing. Don’t be afraid of the spice though, because it’s really not overwhelming at all and the creamy-cool dill dip is a perfect foil for any smoldering fires.

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See?  Just a pickle.  A glorious, breaded, seasoned, slightly spicy pickle.  You can see why I was A-OK saying that this was dinner.  And hell, neither one of us has gotten scurvy yet, so no harm no foul. 

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Jeez louise, but do I ever love pub night.  Making pub food at home is always a special treat for me because:

a) It’s so darn tasty.
b) You can control the fat and eliminate any chemical ingredients.  
c) It’s a whole lot cheaper than hitting up the bar every Thursday night.
d) When I get my honey drunk because I want to take advantage of him, there’s no need to scrounge in the bottom of my purse to see if I can pull together the cab fare home.

Win, win, win, WIN.

I love pub night.  And pickles.  And Piri Piri.  And Mike, who knows that sometimes that actually IS all he’s going to get for dinner, but somehow he’s okay with that.

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  • http://mariam.elnaggar.googlepages.com/ marm

    These look super dill-icious. Ohno. The occasional pickle for dinner you’re even LESS likely to get scurvy as pickles tend to be high in vitamin C.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      You have been assigned bonus points for a dill pun. Well done to you.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Ooooh, I didn’t know that about the vitamin C! I guess I’ll let Mr. Orange Flintstone sit tight until tomorrow 😉

  • erica

    MMM. The pizza place down the block (NOT a pizzeria, since they don’t serve slices, heathen Connecticans that they are…) has fried pickle chips and dill sauce as an appetizer. It was one of our first meals here in CT, and it holds wonderful bittersweet memories. They’re also greasylicious and fantastic with beer.

  • quoudten

    You rock! First off, I am NOT a cook and I know nothing about cooking, but I do like eating and I do my best to recreate and/or change what I see appropriately for my own pleasure. That being said, I really liked this recipe. It was well written and easy to follow and I used it as a template (mainly because I was interested in the breaded pickles part) to combine it with avocado, bacon and goat cheese. The recipe I had in mind turned out alright, but I’m still experimenting and I would like to, maybe, get more pointers in a good direction. The previous was an alpha experiment, for the beta I want to try a really-mini-really-simple-meatloaf (I’m only using a quarter avocado, and will probably only use tomato, onion, corn and some sort of hot pepper, kind of an awesome snack really), stuffed with goat cheese, stuffed in an avocado, wrapped in a layer of pickles (2 sandwich slices) and another layer of bacon (2 slices), then breaded and baked. If you have any awesome suggestions I would appreciate it…

  • http://www.mikealt.com Mike

    I know I’m late to the party, but I just realized that I love pickles. Naturally, this looks amazing