James Baigrie

Every year at around this time, my cooking habits get stuck in a rut. Nearly everything that comes out of my kitchen involves some permutation of kale, winter squash, potatoes, and bacon, which isn’t a bad thing — they’re some of my favorite flavors. But after the fifth or sixth go ’round, even a garlicky kale sautee or a bowl of rich butternut ravioli can get a little old hat. And that’s where the sage comes in: this year, instead of using the herb in its dried or fresh forms, I’ve started frying it.

Even for a fry-phobe like me, the process couldn’t be easier. I follow SAVEUR’s 2001 recipe, which calls for just three things: olive oil, sage, and salt. The dry leaves go a few at a time into the hot oil, and in three or four seconds they’re ready to be scooped out, drained on a paper towel, and tossed with salt. Whole, they make a beautiful garnish for a wedge of roasted acorn squash; crumbled, they’re a flavor-bomb on top of pasta or garnishing a stew, and a mixture of half crumbled fried sage and half crumbled crispy bacon catapults smashed potatoes into the flavor stratosphere.

See the recipe for Fried Sage Leaves »