Friday, May 7, 2010

A Kitchen Breakthrough!..... You've got to try this!

Hello everyone! If you read this blog at all you know that I'm constantly searching, tweeking, adjusting and refining recipes (in my usual OCD way) in order to get it "just like I want".... I am concerned with perfection ("if it's worth doing, it's worth doing WELL..) or as close as I can get it. Keep in mind that this is MY version of perfection and might be 180 degrees away from yours since we're all different and see things through different eyes...... but all you can do is try, right?

Anyhoo, I've been on a quest for a long time and I have some pet peeves that are never done. I find one way, change the recipe around, I'm kind of happy with the results yet in the back of my mind my "little voice" (evil twin? tells me "this could be better you know?".... so again it's put on my mind's back burner for another day.... It gets bad. How bad? Sometimes new ways of doing things come to me in a dream and I wake up with new resolve and ideas. Weird? Whatever.... I get good ideas this way and as long as it works, go for it!

This time it was with "Crunchy Fried Chicken". I have so many versions of this: Double Fried Maryland Style, Crunchy Oven Baked, Southern Style, etc. etc..... don't get me wrong, these are all good, yet never "crunchy enough" or "not enough crust" and they could be improved and so I kept at it until it came to me that maybe - just maybe, if I added this or that and made it this or that way it might work- and I was off.

If you've made other recipes of mine you will note some similarities with dishes that have nothing to do with chicken, but never forget that flexibility is key, so here goes. Last night we had the crispiest Fried Chicken we've had in a long time; the recipe was an easy one and it didn't take much effort at all nor lots of time, so I think you will all approve and be able to make it for your family with great success. I also tweeked a long favorite recipe of ours for Avocado & Cheese Salad (and a super easy dessert) to go along with the chicken and a great dinner was enjoyed by all of us.

Here are the recipes. I hope you will try them and let me know.... this by no means is the ultimate and last version of anything (and I will tweek

Super Crunchy Fried Chicken.- A different take on this classic American favorite will give you a tasty and great family meal.

You will need a heavy bottomed Dutch Oven with a good fitting lid (I used my cast iron pan)
A candy or deep fry thermometer (I eyeballed it cause it got lost in the move)

2 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tbl table salt
1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 lbs), cut into 8 pieces or your choice
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or paprika (optional)
4 -5 cups vegetable shortening or oil

Whisk together buttermilk and salt in large bowl until salt is dissolved. Put 2 cups buttermilk in bowl and add chicken pieces to bowl and stir to coat; cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. (Don't let chicken soak much longer or it will become too salty.) Whisk flour, baking powder, thyme, pepper, and garlic powder together in large bowl. Add 6 tbl buttermilk and with your fingers rub flour and buttermilk together until buttermilk is evenly incorporated into flour and mixture resembles coarse wet sand. You can use more buttermilk until the mix is good. It will be lumpy.

Drop chicken pieces into flour, 2 at a time, turn to thoroughly coat, gently pressing flour mixture onto chicken. Shake excess flour from each piece of chicken and transfer to wire rack to rest at least 15 min so the crust will set (this is key to any breading). Heat oil (it should measure 3/4 inch deep) in large pan over medium-high heat until it reaches 375 degrees. Place chicken pieces, skin-side down in oil, cover, and fry until deep golden brown, 8 to 10 min. Remove lid after 4 min and lift chicken pieces to check for even browning; (At this point, oil should be about 300 degrees. Adjust burner, if necessary, to regulate temperature of oil.) Turn chicken pieces over and continue to fry, uncovered, until chicken pieces are deep golden brown on second side, 6 to 8 min longer. (At this point, to keep chicken from browning too quickly, adjust burner to maintain oil temperature of about 315 degrees.) Transfer chicken to plate lined with paper towels; let stand for 5 min to drain. Serve.

Avocado Cheese Salad.- Always had this in the restaurants and so we continue to make it a family favorite. It's great!

1 Iceberg lettuce (but you can use any kind of green)
1-2 tomatoes, sliced
3-4 green onions, chopped fine along with the green part
1-2 tbl cilantro leaves, chopped
1 cucumber, sliced fine (you can peel if you like, we don't)
2-3 small ripe avocados, cut in cubes
1 cup grated Cotija cheese

1/4 cup lime juice (or white / wine vinegar)
2-3 tbl olive oil
2 tsp Dijon or spicy brown mustard
1-2 tbl water
1 tsp dried crushed oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Put all salad ingredients into a large bowl except for the cheese. Put dressing ingredients into a small bowl and whisk to incorporate well. Add the dressing to the salad and toss to coat. Add the cheese to the salad and toss again to blend it over all the greens. Serve with some additional grated cheese if you like.
NOTE: You can change or add greens like spinach. You can also add more veggies like jicama, celery, roasted Poblano chile strips, alfalfa sprouts, sunflower seeds, croutons, etc.

Quick and Dirty Tarte Tatin.- A spin on a classic French dessert made when I needed to use some apples and had no dessert ready.... very easy and just as good as the "real one"....

3 apples (about 1½ lbs total) I like the tart ones best
3 tbl butter
2 tbl maple syrup (or pancake / agave syrup) or see note below
1 tbl honey
4 slices bread (can be white, wheat, French)
1 tsp sugar
3 tbl apricot preserves (or apple gelly)
Toppings: 1/2 cup ice cream, whipped cream, sour cream or yogurt (optional)

Oven to 400 degrees. Peel, core, and cut each apple into 6 wedges. Put the wedges in a small nonstick skillet that you can put into the oven (or cook in skillet first and then put in a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray) and add 2 tbl of the butter, the syrup, and the honey. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 5 min, or until the apples are just tender. Uncover and cook over high heat for 4 to 5 min, or until the liquid is completely gone, then continue cooking for another 2 min or so to glaze and caramelize the apples.

Trim the crusts from the bread slices and arrange them, touching, in a square on a cutting board. Trim the corners to create a rough disk that will fit into the skillet and cover the apples. Butter the bread on one side with the remaining 1 tbl butter and arrange the slices buttered side up on top of the apples. Sprinkle on the sugar and place the pan in the oven. Bake for about 15 min, or until the bread is nicely browned on top.

At serving time, if necessary, reheat the dessert on top of the stove to help loosen the apples and unmold the dish onto a serving platter. (If you're using a baking dish you might have to set it on very hot water for 3-4 min but don't get water into the dish) If the apricot preserves are firm, heat them for 30 sec in a microwave oven to soften. Pour and spread them (or paint them on with a basting brush) on top of the apples. Serve the dessert in wedges as is or with a couple of spoons of the topping of your choice.
NOTE: I've done this with apples or pears and is just as good. I've also made some caramel (by heating some sugar in a pan until it caramelizes instead of the syrup. I've also added Calvados, Brandy, Cognac and Grand Marnier to it. In other words, again, there are no rules and just do it your way..... you can have this done in no time.....

I wanted to post this quickly and get it to you in case you wanted to make it over the weekend. I'm running out the door to do some last minute errands so I will leave you with all this to consider, ok? These are easy recipes that can be made on a weeknight so you don't have to save them for a holiday and with the warmer weather making it's appearance, it's a great picnic or patio supper. Above all, have fun and share a great meal with family and friends.....

Happy Mother's Day to all the fabulous mother's out there! I hope you get the day (We're going to a Chinatown "dive", a noodle house- and it IS a dive: no menus, no English (you just point and use sign language), lunch from $2-$4 and dinner is $4.50! Strange little place, no advertising and usually no "Anglos" either, but they make their own noodles and it's wonderful! Mmmm.... Talk soon!

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