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Monday, September 3, 2012

Thomas Keller's Fried Chicken

The Mister works in Beverly Hills, right next to Bouchon. One day he was walking though the courtyard near Bouchon and saw Thomas Keller having a lunch meeting. They locked eyes and gave each other the gentleman's nod, but if I could go back in time I would make Adam go over there and tell Thomas Keller that we own a blow torch because of him. We'll talk about Blow Torch Prime Rib another time, I promise.

Point is, Thomas Keller rules, and I love that Adam catches glimpses of him every so often. I have two of his cookbooks (French Laundry and Ad Hoc at Home) and they are the most gorgeous cookbooks that I own. The very first recipe in Ad Hoc at Home is for buttermilk fried chicken and it's outstanding. Truly a SND, lots of steps but a big payoff!

The first trick is to brine the chicken. You brine that Thanksgiving turkey, don't you? So why not brine all poultry? It makes such a difference! The brine seasons the chicken and helps it stay incredibly moist. Thomas recommends you brine this chicken for 12 hours (but no more, or the chicken will be too salty). If you're like me and are too lazy to make the brine the night before, get up early in the morning so that the brine has time to chill before you use it. My chicken brined for about seven hours and was delicious - so tender and juicy and lemony.

In a large stockpot, combine 5 halved lemons, 12 bay leaves, 1 bunch of fresh parsley, 1 bunch of fresh thyme, 1/2 cup of honey, 1 head of garlic (halved lengthwise), 1/4 cup black peppercorns, 2 cups of Diamond Crystal kosher salt (the preferred salt of Thomas and myself, if you have a different kind use exactly 10 ounces - Diamond Crystal is considerably lighter than most kosher salts like Morton's), and 2 gallons of water. Give everything a big stir, and bring to a boil. Take the pot of off the heat and cool completely, then chill before you use it.  Now get yourself two 2 1/2 pound chickens and have the butcher (go to Whole Foods!) cut it up for you. Add your chicken to the chilled brine and refrigerate for up to 12 hours. After that time, remove the chicken from the brine and rinse under cold water, then dry with paper towels. Do this an hour and a half before you start the rest of the recipe, you want the chicken to come up to room temp.

Time to make the coating! In a mixing bowl, combine 6 cups all purpose flour, 1/4 cup of garlic powder, 1/4 cup of onion powder, 1 heaping tablespoon of paprika, 1 heaping tablespoon of cayenne pepper, 1 heaping tablespoon of kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Pour one quart of buttermilk into a separate bowl and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Okay, now set up your dredging/frying station. You want to dredge your chicken next to the stove so it can go in this order: flour, buttermilk, flour, oil. In a large stockpot, heat some canola oil to 320 degrees (use a candy thermometer to monitor your temp). No matter the size of your pot, the oil should not come more than 1/3 of the way up the sides. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set a cooling rack on top. If you don't have a rack, line your sheet with paper towels so that the chicken can drain.

Start with the thighs and legs - dredge as I mentioned above, first in the flour, dunk into the buttermilk, then back into the flour one more time. Lightly shake off any excess and set aside on your cooling rack until all the dark meat is coated. Once your oil comes up to temp, carefully lower the thighs/legs into the pot (don't crowd! If there isn't enough room for everything, do it in batches). Adjust your flame as necessary to maintain the temperature and turn your pieces gently to evenly brown. The chicken will turn a deep golden brown in around 11 to 12 minutes - they will be crazy crispy and cooked through. Set the dark meat aside to drain (skin side up) and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Coat your white meat with the flour and buttermilk, then turn your oil up to 340 degrees. Carefully lower the breasts into the oil, monitor the temp, and cook similar to the thighs for 7 to 8 minutes (golden brown, crisp, and cooked through), set aside to drain (sprinkle with salt) and cook the wings for 6 minutes (then drain and salt). Add a handful of fresh thyme and rosemary sprigs to the hot oil and fry for a few minutes until crisp, then scatter over your beautiful fried chicken on its platter.

Serve immediately with your favorite sides - mac 'n cheese, beet salad, collard greens - have at it, kids! It's time consuming, but fairly simple and totally worth it. Go try it and make Thomas and I proud!


Monday, August 27, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas

Hey kids! Have you just made the below recipe for slow cooker tacos and realized it was crazy delicious but you made far too much? Not to worry, dear friends! Take that leftover shredded chicken and turn it into some delectable and easy enchiladas! And no canned sauce either - you're going to make that yourself and you're going to like it.

So! The sauce. I found this recipe on and it's really quite simple but develops a great flavor. Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat with two tablespoons of flour and two tablespoons of chili powder. Whisk together for a couple of minutes, then add 3/4 teaspoon of cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, one teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, one fifteen ounce can of tomato sauce, and one cup of water. Mix well, then simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. You want the sauce to be pretty thin in consistency, so if it looks thick (like marinara) add more water. Taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly - if you want it spicy, add more cayenne. Turn off heat and set aside.

Now for that leftover shredded chicken from the slow cooker tacos. You should have around two cups of meat, place that in a mixing bowl and add 1 cup of thinly shredded cheese (mexican blend!), 1/2 cup of sour cream, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, and two tablespoons minced chives. Blend together with a spatula, and add a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce if you fancy.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and heat 1/2 cup of vegetable oil in a frying pan. You're going to lightly fry your twelve 6 inch corn tortillas to make them nice and pliable. Cook each tortilla for 20 seconds per side (you don't want them to brown) and drain on paper towels. Time for assembly!

Spread 1/3 to 1/2 cup of your fantastic enchilada sauce in the bottom of a glass baking dish (13x9x2 inch pan), then spoon 1/4 cup of your meat mixture into each tortilla one at a time, roll up, and place seam side down in the pan. Spoon the rest of your sauce over the tortillas, then top with 1/2 cup or so of shredded cheese.

Bake that sucker for thirty minutes, keep a weather eye out and don't burn that cheese! Let cool as long as you can stand to wait and serve those enchiladas up with some sour cream and more freshly chopped  cilantro. Boom. Double duty dinner.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Best Bruschetta Ever

Hi kittens! Quick post here about the best bruschetta I've ever made. Start with some lovely cherry tomatoes - I bought some beautiful heirloom cherry tomatoes at TJs. Give them a quick rinse with some cool water and set aside to dry (I used half of the container, I think it came out to a pint). Thinly slice a baguette on an angle, drizzle with olive oil, and toast in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. You want them lightly golden brown, but not too crunchy. Once you remove the toasts, rub a piece of raw garlic all over them (don't burn yourself!).

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half or thirds, depending on how big they are. Place the tomatoes in a bowl and add a few good pinches of salt (probably half a teaspoon), a pinch of red pepper flake, a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar (a teaspoon or so), some finely chopped garlic (one clove), and some olive oil (a one count if you have a pourer on your bottle). Carefully mix, and let sit for five minutes or so for all of the flavors to meld together and the tomatoes to break down slightly. Taste for seasonings and add some more vinegar or salt if it needs. Chop around six leaves of fresh basil and add to the tomatoes.

Now it's time for the most delicious part - the burata cheese! I also got it at TJs and it is one of my favorite cheeses. It comes in water, a ball of creamy deliciousness like mozzarella but with a creamy center. I used one ball of burrata, broke it apart with my hands and added some cheese to each piece of garlicky toast (making sure to taste plenty of that delectable cheese - I can't resist!).  Top each toast with the tomato and basil mixture and be sure to drizzle any leftover vinegar and oil on top of everything.

Time to pig out! This is a fantastic way to start your meal, so fresh with those special tomatoes. What are you waiting for, go make some!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dry Aged Porterhouse with Leek Bread Pudding and Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

Hi friends! Time to get back to SND! First things first - dry aged steak. You can do this in your own fridge, people! Why pay $26.99/pound for a dry aged steak at Whole Foods, when you can pay $12.99/pound for a fresh steak and age it yourself? All you need to do is wrap the steak in cheesecloth and place in the coolest part of your fridge (the shelf closest to the freezer is best). We let our steak age for a week, and it was amazing! I let it come to room temp before cooking and coated it with salt and white pepper. Look at this amazing color before it was cooked!

The steak was seared in a hot hot hot cast iron pan for five minutes, then I flipped it and cooked and four minutes on the second, then I let it rest for ten minutes before the Mr. sliced it. Look at the size of that filet!!

Okay, now for sides - Leek Bread Pudding! Yes I said it: Leek. Bread. Pudding. It's f-ing delicious. Of course the recipe is Thomas Keller's from Ad Hoc. A beautiful book, I highly recommend. Start with 2 cups of 1/2 inch thick slices of leeks (be sure not to use the tough, dark green parts at the top). Make sure you really really wash the leeks with cool water - sand can hide in all of those layers. Heat a medium sized saute pan over medium high heat, and add the sliced leeks. Season with salt (couple of pinches) and cook for a few minutes so that the leeks begin to release some liquid. Add 4 tablespoons of butter (yup) and turn the heat down to medium low. Stir often, as this will help the butter to emulsify (thicken). Add a few grinds of pepper (I'm really loving white pepper these days kiddos - I find it a little spicier and it's pretty without the black specs) and cook for a half hour or so (don't forget to stir) until the leeks are very soft. If the butter breaks (or separates) add a teaspoon of water to re-emulsify the sauce.

Whilst the leeks are cooking, slice a loaf of Brioche into 1 inch cubes - you're going to need 12 cups, but i just used one loaf of bread and it was perfect. Thomas' recipe calls for crustless Brioche but I used one with a crust and I really enjoyed the texture. Spread the cubes on a baking sheet and toast up in the oven at 350 degrees for around 15-20 minutes. You want the cubes to be pale gold and dry. Leave the oven at 350 degrees. Once the leeks are soft, mix the leeks/butter with the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl with 1 tablespoon of chopped chives, 1 teaspoon of chopped thyme, and set aside.

Now for the custard! Whisk 3 large eggs in a bowl, then add 3 cups whole milk, 3 cups of heavy cream, a big pinch of salt and (white!) pepper to taste, along with a pinch of grated nutmeg. Side note: as ya'll know, the Mr. is lactose intolerant, so I used lactose free skim milk (4 cups) with half and half (2 cups). I was worried the custard wouldn't thicken, but it totally did.

Okay let's assemble! Sprinkle 1/4 cup of shredded Gruyere (Thomas calls for emmenthaler but I prefer Gruyere) in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan. Spread half of the leeks and bread cubes with a spatula over the cheese, then add another 1/4 cup of the cheese. Add the rest of the leeks and bread cubes with another 1/4 cup of cheese, then pour enough of the milk/egg mixture to cover the bread and press gently down with your clean hands so the custard soaks in the milk. Let the bread soak in the milk for fifteen minutes or so. After that, pour more custard so that the tops of the bread cubes stick out and add 1/4 cup of cheese on top (you'll need 1 cup of grated cheese total).

Bake for an hour and a half (at 350 degrees) until the top is golden brown and amaaaaazing. Dudes. Do it now, it's creamy and savory and all over satisfying.

Now for some salad! Quarter around 15 cherry tomatoes and place in a small mixing bowl. Add a 1/4 cup of champagne vinegar (red wine would work too, but I'd like ya'll to try the champagne vinegar, it's super special), one tablespoon of dijon or horseradish mustard, salt/pepper to taste, then whisk in a 1/4 cup plus some (prolly 1-2 tablespoons) of olive oil. Whisk, whisk, then let the cherry tomatoes marinate and break down in the vinaigrette. When you assemble your salad, use butter lettuce and toss in the vinaigrette with some chopped chives and more halved cherry tomatoes. You won't be sorry, this simple and fresh vinaigrette is bright and really cuts the richness of the porterhouse and bread pudding.

This is a fantastic and special meal that I insist you try this weekend, dear friends. Let me know how it goes!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crock Pot Tacos

Hey ya'll! My awesome brother gave me a crock pot for Christmas, and I've made these slow cooked tacos three times since. They're super delicious and SPICY. Man up for this one, friends.

So obvi, you need to have a crock pot for this one. You could also do it with a dutch oven over medium low heat, but convenience says to get a freaking crock pot, people. They're all of $20-$30 at Costco. Get there.

This recipe is courtesy of the marvelous Martha, with a few adjustments (but you shouldn't mess with perfection ;). Start with two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Throw those in your crockpot with four cloves of chopped garlic, 2-3 chopped chipotles in adobe (you can find these in a can in the market, use three if you love the spicy, two if you're a little wimpy), one tablespoon of chili powder, 1/2 cup of your favorite salsa (be aware of the spice level; again, if you're a spice champion no worries, but I went with a mild salsa because of the chipotles), 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Give everything a good stir, then cover and crock pot on high for four hours, eight hours on low. Between the third and fourth hour, give everything a stir and taste for seasonings - you may need to add more salt. You'll know when the chicken is done because you'll be able to shred it easily with a fork which is what you should do. Right in the crockpot (turn it down to warm), shred all of the chicken up
with two forks, then cover until you're ready to serve.

Now for the accoutrement! The man and I are fond of hard shell tacos, but only if we make them ourselves. No no I haven't made tortillas from scratch yet, but I do like to fry soft tacos and shape them into hard shells. Super healthy (ha!), but it makes a huge flavor difference and I insist you try. It's super easy. Start with a wide frying pan that has fairly tall sides to stop splatter. Pour 1/2 inch of canola oil in the pan and heat over medium-high heat. After pre-heating for five minutes or so, drop one small corn tortilla in the oil with tongs. It should start sizzling immediately - if not, your oil is not hot enough.

Fry on one side for ten seconds, then flip with your tongs and fry on the opposite side for five seconds. Now you need to fold your tortilla in half, and this will take some practice. You don't want to fold too far or you'll have to break the shell in half to fill it with the chicken and other goodies. Use the side of the pan to help you fold, and after one or two you'll get it.

Once you've folded the tortilla successfully, cook it on either side until light golden brown. Transfer to an oven safe plate lined with paper towels in the 200 degree oven. The excess oil will drain off and your fancy homemade hardshells will remain hot and crispy until ready to serve.

To build the tacos you should have your favorite shredded cheese blend, shredded lettuce, guacamole (if buying or making, watch the spice level - you'll want mild guac to help cool the spicy tacos), salsa (ditto), and sour cream.

These tacos are delicious and dangerously addictive. Be brave and give the fried taco shells a try, you'll be surprised at how easy they are. Totally worth the extra effort. Let me know how you do!


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Italian Wedding Soup

Two blogs in one day! I'm a maniac. I've been meaning to post about Italian Wedding soup for a while and with Steph's cream of asparagus soup post, I decided to make it a soup day. Let's get to it:

This is a Giada receipe that I fanangled a bit. Fanangled is totally a word. Start by making the most important part - the meatballs! Finely chop one medium yellow onion, and saute it in a small frying pan a two count of olive oil and 4 chopped cloves of garlic and 1/3 cup of chopped fresh parsley. Cook over medium heat for around ten minutes, until the onions are tender and just beginning to color. Remove from heat and let cool. In a mixing bowl combine the cooled onions/garlic/parsley with 8 ounces of ground pork, 8 ounces of ground beef (20% fat, just do it), one large egg, 1/4 cup bread crumbs, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, one teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper. Get right up in there and mix everything together with your hands, then shape into small bite-sized meatballs - around one inch or so. Place on a plate or small baking sheet and refrigerate for fifteen minutes.

Get out your soup pot and heat a four count of olive oil over medium high heat for a couple of minutes. Cook your meatballs over medium heat in the pot (you may need to do this in batches to avoid over crowding), just to nicely brown the outside - they won't be cooked through so no chef tasting! You'll finish cooking them in the broth. Once you've removed the browned meatballs, de-glaze the pot with 1/2 cup of white wine. Next add ten cups of chicken stock, salt/pepper to taste and bring to a simmer. Carefully add your browned meatballs back to the pot and cook through, this will take five minutes or so. Next add one bag of baby spinach leaves (note - Giada uses one pound of chopped escarole, which I may try next time, I think it will hold up better than the spinach for leftovers). Cook the spinach for a few minutes (note - escarole will take longer, around ten minutes, so I would add that with the meatballs) over medium heat. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together two large eggs with 2/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese. Add this mixture to the soup slowly, while stirring with a fork to make long strands of egg. Stir carefully for another minute, taste for seasonings and add if necessary, then add the juice of 1/2 lemon (or a whole lemon if it's small). You're done! Pretty simple, right?

Get to it and let me know what you think about spinach vs. escarole.


Guest Blog! Cream of Asparagus Soup

And now dear friends, it's time for a long overdue guest blog. This one comes from my lovely and fabulous cousin Steph, who I hope will become a frequent contributor. In her first guest blog, she treats us to a delicious recipe for cream of asparagus soup - a recipe that I am soon to try. Peruse, enjoy, and let us know what you think! Take it away, Steph:

I made this soup for a Valentine’s Day party. Some mommy friends and I got together while our beauties played and this is what I served them. They ranted and raved over it – even my mom (who is not an asparagus lover) really enjoyed it.

First, I sautéed some onions and garlic in some butter (I suppose you could use EVOO if you wanted… I am a fan of the buttah). Maybe ½ an onion and a tablespoon of minced garlic. Once those become soft, add 2 bundles of asparagus that have been sliced into 1 inch pieces. The size doesn’t really matter because you will be blending it all up anyway. Make sure to remove the bottom 1/3 of the asparagus. It’s kind of woody and not really yummy to eat. Sauté that for a couple minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. I also added a teeny tiny bit of cayenne pepper (and by teeny tiny, I really mean teeny tiny, you don’t want that to over power). Then add 2 boxes of chicken broth – or 1 box of broth and the same amount of water. If you use water, you will need to add a tablespoon or so of chicken base for extra flavor. Boil the asparagus until it’s tender. At this point you can either bust out your handy dandy emersion blender which is one of Dana’s favorite kitchen tools or let the soup cool and in batches, put in the blender and blend until smooth. MUST. LET. COOL….or you will have an asparagus explosion on your hands.

Once everything is blended until smooth, add it back into the soup pot. Add a 16 ounce container of sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt would probably work too if that is more up your alley). Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Be careful how much salt you add because ….wait for it… you will be adding some roasted asparagus and homemade croutons to the soup!! Yes please! If the soup seems too thin, make a quick rue and add that to the mix. I used 2 tablespoons of butter and about 1 ½ tablespoons of flour. A nice loose rue will help to tighten up the soup a little bit. Make sure to cook the rue for a couple minutes so you don’t get the raw flour taste.

Now, on to the roasted asparagus and croutons. Slice another bundle of asparagus in 1 – 1 ½ inch pieces (discard the bottom 1/3 again). Put them on a baking sheet and coat them in EVOO,
salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven for a half hour or so (until they are soft). For the croutons, cut up some French bread or some other kind of dense bread into 1 inch cubes. Drizzle with EVOO, garlic salt, and pepper. Bake in a 375 degree oven for a half hour or so (until they are kind of crunchy). Serve soup with a few roasted asparagus pieces and some croutons on top. It is delish!!! And easy peazy lemon squeezy!!