Monday, July 26, 2010

Southern Fried Chicken

I have a few favorites I like to watch on the Food Network and one of them is Alton Brown.  His show Good Eats is always so informative.  I'll admit some of his costumes, stunts, and props get on my nerves, but I have learned some helpful cooking tips and better understand some of the chemistry involved in food preparation by watching his show.

One of his recipes I recently tried was for real, honest to goodness southern fried chicken.  Frying chicken is something I have only tried a couple of times because quite frankly, it's a pain in the you know where.  First of all there is the messy dredging in flour.  Then you have the buckets of oil that must be used and finally, there is the cleanup of spattered grease afterward.  It also takes a lot of time standing over the frying pan; at least 12-15 minutes per side for at least 2 batches if you do it properly and don't crowd the pan.

That being said, I did give it a whirl this weekend and was most happy with the results.  I must admit that I didn't follow Alton's recipe exactly.  Included in the buttermilk marinade, I added a couple big squirts of hot sauce to add a bit of heat.  I also used peanut oil instead of vegetable oil and cooked the chicken with the oil at 350 degrees instead of his recommended 325 degrees.  The chicken cooked perfectly through and the crispy crust was very tasty.  Served with sweet corn on the cob and you have summer on a plate!

Southern Fried Chicken

1 broiler/fryer chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 cups low fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons kosher salt (Do not use regular salt or it will be much too strong)
2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Flour, for dredging
Vegetable shortening, for frying

Place chicken pieces into a plastic container and cover with buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

Melt enough shortening (over low heat) to come just 1/8-inch up the side of a 12-inch cast iron skillet or heavy fry pan. Once shortening liquefies raise heat to 325 degrees F. Do not allow oil to go over 325 degrees F.

Drain chicken in a colander. Combine salt, paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Liberally season chicken with this mixture. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.
Place chicken skin side down into the pan. Put thighs in the center, and breast and legs around the edge of the pan. The oil should come half way up the pan. Cook chicken until golden brown on each side, approximately 10 to 12 minutes per side. More importantly, the internal temperature should be right around 180 degrees. (Be careful to monitor shortening temperature every few minutes.)

Drain chicken on a rack over a sheet pan. Don't drain by setting chicken directly on paper towels or brown paper bags. If you need to hold the chicken before serving, cover loosely with foil but avoid holding in a warm oven, especially if it's a gas oven.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I think there is nothing more to say.

Pina Colada
(1 serving)

3 oz light rum
3 Tbsp coconut cream
3 Tbsp crushed pineapples

Put all ingredients into an electric blender with 2 cups of crushed ice. Blend at a high speed for a short length of time. Strain into a glass and serve with appropriate tropical garnishes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tastes Of The Past

As a teenager, my younger sister Peggy, my best friends Patti, Debbie and I would often scrape our money together and go to the neighborhood Chinese restaurant for a delicious meal.  This restaurant was the quintessential Chinese restaurant with red leather banquette seats, Chinese lantern lights hanging from the ceiling and painted rural Chinese scenes on the walls.  It was on the same block in town as the bakery, five and dime store and the hardware store. 

I can only remember two things for certain that we would consistently order and that was the delicious barbequed pork egg foo yung and egg rolls.   The egg foo yung would arrive with three overstuffed patties filled with bean sprouts, onion and slivers of overly pink pork all encased in fluffy scrambled egg with a dark sauce-like gravy to put over the top. 

In all the years since, I have never tasted egg foo yung quite as good as that.  I thought that perhaps I could make my own and see if I could come anywhere close to those delectable eggy patties.  I think I came pretty darn close on my first attempt.  I actually bought some BBQ pork from a Chinese restaurant then went to the local Asian store to buy some sprouts and water chestnuts. 

This is a fairly simple recipe to make and much of the chopping can be done ahead of time.  When I make this again, I think I will try pouring the egg mixture into a round 4" ring mold to cook so the patties are a little more uniform in appearance.  Serve with white or fried rice and a green veggie such as broccoli or beans and you have a great dinner.

Barbequed Pork Egg Foo Yung

8 oz. bean sprouts, washed and drained
1 cup finely diced Chinese style barbequed pork
8 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup diced canned water chestnuts
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt
dash of pepper
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cold water.

Stir bean sprouts, water chestnuts, pork, eggs, green onions and salt together just to blend.  Heat oil in large frying pan over medium high.  Pour 1/2 cup egg mixture into pan.  Push cooked egg up over pork/veggies with broad spatula to form a patty.  Fry patty until set and golden brown, turning once about 4 minutes.  Repeat with remaining egg mixture, adding more oil as needed.  Keep patties warm in a 300 degree oven.
Heat chicken broth, soy sauce, salt and pepper to boiling.  Mix cornstarch and water; stir into broth mixture.  Cook and stir until thickened, about 10 seconds.  Serve with Egg Foo Yung patties.  (Makes 5-6 patties)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Popeye Would Be Proud

We harvested our first spinach from the garden.  Oh the poor garden!  This has been a cruel year so far with The Husband doing all that hard work of tilling the soil and planting and here it is mid-July with things looking so pathetic.  I still have hope that we will have a nice hot September and get a few ears of corn and some beautiful red tomatoes.
But the spinach took off very well despite the cool weather and I picked a large bowlful on the first go-around and it was beautiful. This was the first year we've attempted to grow a leafy green, but it certainly won't be the last.  I share with you a quick and tasty salad that is made with common pantry items with the addition of a couple strips of bacon.  It is delicious and really shows off the flavorful spinach very nicely.  I'm so lucky to have someone who doesn't mind all the work a vegetable garden entails!
Wilted Spinach Salad

6 cups (5 oz) fresh spinach leaves, washed, dried and chilled
2 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced red onions (I substituted green onions)
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp good quality aged balsamic vinegar
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced (optional)

Remove stems and veins from spinach and tear into bite-sized pieces then place in a large bowl.
In a small frying pan, fry bacon until crisp; transfer to a paper towel to drain.  Leave approx. 1 teaspoon bacon fat in pan.  Add olive oil, onion, salt, pepper and sugar.  Cook 2-3 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar; swirl to incorporate.
Pour warm dressing over spinach and toss gently to wilt.  Sprinkle bacon over spinach and top with hard boiled egg slices if desired.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Delicious Mess

Strawberry season finally, finally arrived here in the mid-Willamette Valley of Oregon after what seems to be the wettest, cloudiest Spring imaginable.  The strawberries grown in this neck of the woods are so superior from any I have had from other parts of the West (sorry Washington and California).  They are so sweet and red through and through and when you bite into one, the juice just oozes out all over your fingers.

It's a short season though so buying and using them as often as possible in a variety of ways is always a goal of mine.  This recipe called Eton Mess is one I have never tried but I saw Jamie Oliver make once on his wonderful cooking show called Jamie at Home.  It apparently is a dessert which originated at Eton, an elite all boys school in England and is served at cricket games in the early summer when strawberries are in abundance. 
It couldn't be easier, especially if you buy your meringues already made from a bakery.  I chose to make my own using this recipe from an earlier blog entry of mine. 

Eton Mess
(serves 2)

1/2 cup whipped cream and 2 Tbsp sugar beaten until cream holds soft peaks
4 cookie sized meringues, broken up into bite size pieces
1 pint of strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
Gently fold meringue pieces and sliced strawberries into the whipped cream and spoon into bowls.  Serve immediately so meringues don't dissolve.