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Cactus Fries

Cactus friesJay McCarthy, president and executive chef of Jay’s Mesteña in San Antonio, often serves these fries as a side dish with shrimp or scallops, or as an appetizer with habanero-laced ketchup.

2 lbs. nopalitos
3 T. cornstarch
2 T. achiote paste (look for it in the Mexican specialty-foods section)
2/3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 egg white about
3/4 c. ice water
Peanut oil

Remove thorns (if any) and “eyes” from cactus, and trim edges of pads. Cook cactus, covered, for 2 minutes in enough boiling salted water to cover; drain. Cut cactus in 3- to 4-inch strips similar to French fries; set aside. Combine cornstarch and achiote paste in a blender or food processor, and pulse until smooth. In a medium-size bowl, combine flour and baking powder, add cornstarch mixture, and blend well. In another bowl, beat egg white until stiff peaks form. Fold into flour mixture, alternating with enough ice water to make batter the consistency of unbeaten egg white. Chill batter. Dredge cactus strips in batter, and fry in deep hot oil (375°) 2-3 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Drain well. Yield: 3-5 servings.

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