In my frittura mista platter–along with crisp morsels of ribbony mozzarella in carrozza, tasty calamari and shrimp fritters, feather-light fried zucchini blossoms, tiny chicken nuggets, a handful of sweet potato French fries, and golden fried artichoke hearts–I always include a batch of deep-fried sage leaves.
The key element in proper frying is the batter. It must be very cold and fluffy, while on the other hand, the frying vegetable oil should be very hot. Quantity is also important, don't spare on the oil, glug glug away. The more the better.
1 cup large sage leaves
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1 glass of beer, chilled or 1 glass of chilled sparkling water (I use either Peroni beer , or San Pellegrino water)
Oil for frying
Wash the leaves under cold running water and pat dry with a paper towel.
In a mixing bowl, blend a glass of chilled sparkling water or beer, flour and a small pinch of salt until fluffy. Blend using a wire whip to mix and tweak quantities in order to obtain the perfect "pastella" batter. It should runny, not thick. But not watery. Also, don't over-blend. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a deep skillet, frying pan or a wok. Ideally the correct frying temperature should never be below 180° C (350° F). If you don't have a cooking thermometer (I don't), the best way to tell if the oil is hot enough, is checking to see if the heat has made it less syrupy. It should rather be more on the liquid side. Gently swirl the pan and see: if circle ripples form, the oil is ready for frying. You can also try dropping a droplet of batter in the oil to see if it sizzles.
Dip the leaves one at a time in the chilled batter and deep fry in plenty scalding olive oil in small batches. They will puff up and turn golden quickly, 40-50 seconds on each side. Pick them up with a pair of tongs and briefly park them on paper towel before serving hot, sprinkled with more salt if need be.
Images courtesy of Autumn Azure for Home Cook Project