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Backstory: If you can think of it, he can deep fry it

By Frank KosaContributor to The Christian Science Monitor / October 16, 2006


I am pressed into a corner of a trailer kitchen called Charlie's Chicken, where owner Charlie Boghosian, mixes batter with yogurt and M&M's. It is an epicenter within the rarefied world of Extreme Deep-Fry. In this long galley scarcely three feet wide, I count eight other people bustling with remarkable calm considering their proximity to giant vats of boiling oil. It's a strikingly thin space to be producing some of the world's fattiest food.

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Suddenly, Mr. Boghosian makes a move for a package of sour gummi worms. He tears it open, and drops them into the batter.

"This'll work great," he chuckles with the kind of delight that calls to mind a mad scientist about to throw the giant electric switch. "But you've got to make sure they're completely covered in batter – otherwise they'll liquefy."

I make a note of that.

Having heard that Boghosian could deep-fry anything, I hunted him up, dumped a bunch of ingredients on his counter and threw down the gauntlet. I'm not accustomed to bringing props to a news story, but I'm not above it either, particularly if I may have to ingest them. I will also add right here and now that no animals were harmed in the writing of this story.

Boghosian may not be the undisputed king of extreme deep-fry, because little is undisputed in this world – but he is certainly a king. In his realm, you will encounter deep-fried Twinkies; a deep-fried veggie platter that includes olives, asparagus, and artichoke hearts; deep-fried Oreos (Boghosian's personal favorite), and his hot new creation – a Krispy Kreme chicken sandwich. That's a Krispy Kreme doughnut cut in half, surrounding a fried chicken patty with a viscous wedge of cheese melted in. The whole thing is not, I repeat not, dipped in batter and deep-fried, which makes it some of the lighter fare that Boghosian serves up, and also the cause of recent protest from two San Francisco radio talk-show hosts.

"They were saying, 'We got gypped [because] it's not truly deep fried,' '' recounts Boghosian. "But why would you deep fry something that has already been deep fried?" (Never mind that Boghosian was recently observed deep-frying churros, deep-fried Mexican cinnamon treats.)

"The callers completely backed me up on this one," he says. (Customers backed him up, too, with $27,000 in sales in the first three weeks he offered the sandwich.)

If you haven't yet run from the room, you may be wondering, where could this phenomenon possibly have begun?

Deep-frying, it turns out, dates back to ancient Rome, like most cultural achievements of Western civilization, with the possible exception of space travel. There's a deep-fry recipe for chicken in a collection by Apicius – the Emeril Lagasse of his day. As near as experts can figure, he lived around the time of Jesus, which, had they met, could have had quite some impact on the Last Supper, to say nothing of "The Da Vinci Code." The name of the recipe sounds more like a Harry Potter spell, Pullum Frontonianum, as do some of the ingredients – liquamen, saturei, and defritum. Even if I could tell you what they were, I'll bet you'd be hard-pressed to find them at your local Whole Foods.

"And you should be glad of it," laughs Lynn Olver, editor of the website Food Timeline. She describes liquamen as a "nasty smelling" sauce made of boiled fish guts.