Monday, September 29, 2008

Another Goody from Cook's Illustrated

The Ultimate Crispy Fried Chicken
Published: May 1, 2001
Serves 4 to 6

Maintaining an even oil temperature is key to the success of this recipe. An instant-read thermometer with a high upper range is perfect for checking the temperature; a clip-on candy/deep-fry thermometer is fine, though it can be clipped to the pot only for the uncovered portion of frying.

1 1/4 cups kosher salt or 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons table salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons paprika
3 medium heads garlic , cloves separated
3 bay leaves , crumbled
2 quarts buttermilk (low fat)
1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), giblets discarded, cut into 12 pieces (see illustrations below)
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3–4 cups refined peanut oil or vegetable shortening

See Illustrations Below: Cutting it Down to Size

1. In large zipper-lock plastic bag, combine salt, sugar, paprika, garlic cloves, and bay leaves. With rubber mallet or flat meat pounder, smash garlic into salt and spice mixture thoroughly. Pour mixture into large plastic container or nonreactive stockpot. Add 7 cups buttermilk and stir until salt is completely dissolved. Immerse chicken and refrigerate until fully seasoned, 2 to 3 hours. Remove chicken from buttermilk brine and shake off excess; place in single layer on large wire rack set over rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered for 2 hours. (After 2 hours, chicken can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 6 hours longer.)
2. Measure flour into large shallow dish. Beat egg, baking powder, and baking soda in medium bowl; stir in remaining 1 cup buttermilk (mixture will bubble and foam). Working in batches of 3, drop chicken pieces in flour and shake pan to coat. Shake excess flour from each piece, then, using tongs, dip chicken pieces into egg mixture, turning to coat well and allowing excess to drip off. Coat chicken pieces with flour again, shake off excess, and return to wire rack.
3. Adjust oven rack to middle position, set second wire rack over second rimmed baking sheet, and place on oven rack; heat oven to 200 degrees. Line large plate with double layer paper towels. Meanwhile, heat oil (oil should have 2 1/2-inch depth in pan) to 375 degrees over medium-high heat in large 8-quart cast-iron Dutch oven with a diameter of about 12 inches. Place half of chicken pieces skin-side down in oil, cover, reduce heat to medium, and fry until deep golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes; after about 3 minutes, lift chicken pieces with tongs to check for even browning; rearrange if some pieces are browning faster than others. (Spot-check oil temperature; after first 6 minutes of frying, oil should be about 325 degrees. Adjust burner if necessary.) Turn chicken pieces over and continue to fry, uncovered, until chicken pieces are deep golden brown on second side, 6 to 8 minutes longer. Using tongs, transfer chicken to paper towel–lined plate; let stand 2 minutes to drain, then transfer to rack in warm oven. Replace paper towel–lining on plate. Return oil to 375 degrees and fry remaining pieces, transferring pieces to paper towel–lined plate to drain, then transferring to wire rack with other chicken pieces. Cool chicken pieces on wire rack about 5 minutes and serve.

STEP BY STEP: Cutting it Down to Size

1. With a sharp chef’s knife, cut through the skin around the leg where it attaches to the breast.

2. Using both hands, pop the leg joint out of its socket.

3. Use a chef’s knife to cut through the flesh and skin to detach the leg from the body.

4. A line of fat separates the thigh and drumstick. Cut through the joint at this point. Repeat steps 1 through 4 with the other leg.

5. Bend the wing out from the breast and use a boning knife to cut through the joint. Repeat with the other wing.

6. Cut through the cartilage around the wing tip to remove it. Discard the tip. Cut through the joint to split. Repeat with the other wing.

7. Using poultry shears, cut along the ribs to completely separate the back from the breast. Discard backbone.

8. Place the knife on the breastbone, then apply pressure to cut through and separate the breast into halves.

9. Cut each breast in half crosswise into two pieces.

Creamy Cream-less Tomato Soup

I never liked tomato soup as a kid, probably because the only experience I had with it was that sickly-sweet mess served in the cafeteria. It always tasted more like watered-down ketchup than anything but I worked at this restaurant in Portland, OR one summer that made tomato soup that forever changed my view on said dish. It was creamy and rich-tasting, not overly sweet and had hints of basil and fennel. Since then, I've tried to mimic it with little success. I saw this recipe that uses bread instead of cream to create the kind of lush soup I'm after. I haven't tried this recipe yet but something tells me I'll love it.

If half of the soup fills your blender by more than two-thirds, process the soup in three batches. You can also use an immersion blender to process the soup directly in the pot. For an even smoother soup, pass the pureed mixture through a fine-mesh strainer before stirring in the chicken broth in step 2. Serve this soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches for a Crowd or topped with Butter Croutons (see related recipes).

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil , plus more for drizzling
1 medium onion , chopped medium (about 1 cup)
3 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
Pinch hot red pepper flakes (optional)
1 bay leaf
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes packed in juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 large slices good-quality sandwich bread , crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
Table salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes (if using), and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Using potato masher, mash until no pieces bigger than 2 inches remain. Stir in sugar and bread; bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.
2. Transfer half of soup to blender. Add 1 tablespoon oil and process until soup is smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and repeat with remaining soup and oil. Rinse out Dutch oven and return soup to pot. Stir in chicken broth and brandy (if using). Return soup to boil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve soup in individual bowls. Sprinkle each portion with pepper and chives and drizzle with olive oil.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Little of This, Little of That #5

You know what really keeps me from posting? The damn pictures. I know that food blogs are so much more appealing with photographs and I do apologize for my poorly formatted page, lackluster shots and overall incredible lack of visual interest. This is not lost on me, it's just so overwhelming. Anyway, that's my way of saying that I'm going to write a little post anyway and hopefully this weekend I will have some time and decent pictures to post.

I read so many food blogs, magazines and the like and I often think I'll remember to make that green tomato and canteloupe salad from Gourmet or whatever but invariably, I forget. So it's surprising to me that I've had a recipe from smitten kitchen in the back of my mind for well over a year. It's not that remarkable, it involves roasting eggplant and tomatoes, which are then pureed and tossed with pasta. I finally got around to making it and I really like it, the pureed eggplant gave a lushness to the sauce that kind of reminded me of a vodka sauce, without the addition of alcohol or dairy of course. I followed the recipe closely, which is hard for me, but I added one thing that I highly recommend doing. While roasting the vegetable, add a banana pepper to what's already there. Don't puree it though, just slice it in ribbons and toss over the top of the dish with plenty of romano. It was oh-so-nice.

I had a dear friend visit me from New Orleans this past weekend and I took him on a ghastly culinary tour. Within hours of landing, we had scarfed down chicken finger subs and loganberry. The former went over quite well, the latter no so much. Then we had pizza and wings for breakfast. By the way, I will love you forever if you eat pizza and wings with me first thing in the morning. Anyway, I'm really over LaNova wings, I need to find a new spot. (Update: Ate wings from Just Pizza on Elmwood and enjoyed them much more than LaNova).

Sunday, we went to the lesbian anarchist diner, AKA Amy's Place. God, I love this place. We started with the Veggie Wet Shoes, which fries covered with their delicious lentils, peppers and onions and cheese. Mmm. Then I had my old standy favorite, the Margie Meal. Charbroiled, marinated chicken with fajita fries and garlic sauce all wrapped up in a pita. Yes, more fries, it's a diner, what do you expect? I love the Margie Meal, mostly for the way the sauce permeates the rest of the deal, but I have to say their pita is wack. It is dry, always so dry. Amy's Place, please find a new vendor for your pita!!!!!!

Finally, since Paul is Polish and we have a lot of Polish people here in the 'Lo, we headed over to the Slavic Bazzar for some treats. Yes, that's how they spell it so I'm just staying consistent. It was great, they had all kinds of stuff from Poland, some of it translated and some of it????? If you need industrial size containers of poppy seed filling or kraut with caraway, this is your place. Their prepared food though, well, it lookoed pretty tired so I decided to hit a new stop (new for me) for Polish food, the venerable Polish Villa. HAAAAaaaaa, this place is really fantastic; the decor, the patrons, the lifesize Polish dolls, wow. I ordered the pierogi and galombki platter, which included soup and a potato pancake. The was good and very different, a Polish classic called czarina, it had prunes and vinegar and spices. Paul had a chicken and spaetzle soup that was very tasty. I'd have to say their galombki, or cabbage rolls, were pretty nasty. They were huge and fairly flavorless. The pierogi though, were FANTASTIC! Especially the cheese, probably the best cheese pierogi I've ever tasted. Everything was served with a huge stack of rye bread, cabbage and bacon salad and lavish amounts of horseradish and Weber's mustard.

Whew, that all made me hungry. I think I might run over to Amy's Place for an early lunch!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I Can't Believe I'm About to Say This

I'm afraid I'm starting to get obnoxious with all these joyous proclamations of travel. You know, the Chile trip, off to New Orleans next month. And since you must know, I'm also going to Atlanta in a couple of weeks (for work, but still, I've got some SWEET places mapped out to eat), I'll be going to Baltimore sometime this fall and I'm going to Chicago in November for the biennial Thanksgiving family gathering and I'm even going to Seattle in January. You see, I'll be gone for so long and don't know where I'll be living when I get back that I want to make sure that I make my rounds of the country to see all my beloveds. How do I finance all this reckless gadding about? Am I independently wealthy, you may ask? No, no indeed. Actually, I've always put quite a bit of my budget aside for travel; I have no more car payment, no kids, no credit card debt. I also rarely go out to eat, on my dime anyway, and have never bought any furniture or TV or anything of the sort. Some people like to spend their money on dining room sets, which is all very well and good, but as I'm far from being settled, I prefer my mismatched hodgepodge of hand-me-downs and castoffs. This leaves me with more to spend on seeing the world!

Anyway, that being a long preamble, and in my own way, an apology of sorts because every time I talk about my trips, everyone groans and says "You're going WHERE this time?" or "Didn't you just get back from your last trip?" So please don't hate me when I tell you what I'm about to tell you. I AM GOING TO ROME AND FLORENCE WITH MY BEST FRIEND! When does this ever happen? When does everything in the celestial universe line up so this can be? Well, I'll tell you. So Nicole, my dear HLP and newly minted DOCTOR, decided to take few months to herself after the rigorous education, followed by fellowships and postdoc positions and an intense licensing procedure. She's never been to Europe and was planning to take a month to go explore. We joked about how wonderful it would be to to some of the trip together but of course, it would be so absurd since I'm doing all this other travel, most notably my Chile excursion. Anyway, she sent me her itinerary this morning, with a great ticket price that she got on Just for shits and giggles, I decided to see how much it would be to join her for the first leg of her trip, which includes four days in Rome and three in Florence. And I found a ticket that was incredibly priced!! I immediately called my friend Kristin (many trips to Italy) to ask her what she thought a good price on a ticket to Italy. She was FLOORED when I told her what I found. I called Nicole. I called my mother. I called my sister. I knocked on pops' door. I thought I'd wait 24 hours but really, all signs pointed one way. Onward to Roma! Needless to say, I am extremely excited, not only to go to Italy, but to have this time with my best friend, who is amazingly and similarly unfettered by relationships or kids or heck, even jobs. Oh crap, speaking of jobs, my boss might be a little less than thrilled by this but hey, I'm quitting in a few months anyway! No, not to be cavalier but I feel as if this is such a delightful development and I must absolutely pursue it. So, I should have an amazing time, eat phenomenal food and take fantastic pictures of crumbling buildings and broad piazzas and oh, I don't know what else but I am EXCITED!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Summer, So Wonderful, So Fleeting

I can't believe it is September already! Wow, the summer really flew by, which is okay because it wasn't really all that great with ONE NOTABLE EXCEPTION! My sister, brother-in-law and LUCY came home for 10 whole days in the beginning of August. On top of that, my mummy and her man rented a cottage in Thunder Bay, just a scant 20 minute drive. It was romantic and wistful and sunny and a little mildewed but who really cares? I was there with my most beloved people in the world and also, we had a great food. What else did you expect? Here's a typical dinner table. (Gordon's picture).

Greg threw a surprise party for my mother's birthday and we had some good eats, notably this beautiful caprese salad that Cricket made. After this photo was taken, she filled the center of the plate with luscious avocado. Delicious.

Oh, and there was LUCY. Lovely, loquacious, luminous LUCY. I am in love with my niece, in case you haven't noticed. I took countless pictures of her doing nothing at all and each one is breathtakingly beautiful because she just is. Here she is tearing into corn on the cob with Mima.

Oh yeah, the picture at the top, forgot to explain that one. Some of you may know I took a photography class this summer. This is a shot I took of this amazing storm cloud moving towards the lake at sunset, picking up all the glorious colors of a summer evening in its wake. This was shot while lying in a parking lot on William and Michigan, a little creepy, but anything in the name of art!