Extra-Crunchy Fried Chicken

November 29, 2010

It’s been about 10 months since I made my favorite extra-crunchy fried chicken. However, because  I am also my son’s chauffeur and he had an evening activity, I had to find a way to shave 1-hour off of this 2-hour recipe. So brining was out the window, and in the end, it did lose some of it’s the well-balanced flavor. No big deal; I ate it with chicken in one hand and a salt shaker in the other.

The crispiest fried chicken you'll ever eat.

However, my big mistake was that my oil was too hot; the exterior was fully browned before the interior was cooked. From my year of cooking fried chicken I knew I had two remedies; either (1) remove the chicken from the oil half way through cooking, let it rest for 5 minutes while the center warms up, then fry for a second time, or (2) remove it from the oil when the skin was ready and finish cooking through in the oven. In the end, I used the first technique for my son (because it was quicker), and used the second method for my own dinner because it yields chicken that is less greasy.

The recipe is here. [Update January 31, 2011: I made a few changes. See my revised recipe here]. Mix 2 cups of buttermilk and 2 tablespoons of salt and brine chicken in refrigerator for 1 hour (I had to skip brining). Combine 3 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder in a large bowl. Then add 6 tablespoons buttermilk to flour mixture and mix with your hands until evenly incorporated (this is the secret step to make it extra crispy). When the oil reaches 375-degrees, thoroughly coat chicken with flour mixture gently pressing it onto the chicken. Fry in two batches for a total of about 18-minutes per batch until chicken has reached the proper internal temperature.

Rating for this batch was only 4-stars, but the recipe is a solid 5-stars. It is the crispiest fired chicken you’ll ever eat.

Comments:

  1. First, I wasn’t supposed to deep fry this chicken, rather I was supposed to shallow fry it in only 4 to 5 cups of oil. But because I had my dutch oven already filled with 3 quarts of oil, I decided to deep fry instead.
  2. Chris Kimball did warn me that the key to this recipe is having the oil at the proper temperature. And because I had my new deep frying thermometer I though I was in great shape. However, when I covered up the frying chicken (per the recipe) for the first few minutes, the cast iron lid touched the thermometer and artificially lowered the temperature to around 240-degrees (when it was really about 310-degrees), so I cranked up the heat to compensate. When I removed the lid, I saw that the real temperature as 340-degrees; much too high.
  3. I still want to try the Extra-Spicy, Extra-Crunchy Fried Chicken” on the “Cooks Country TV” website.

Rating: 5-star recipe, but 4-star implementation.
Cost: $3 for 8 pieces of chicken.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 3:30 PM. Dinner time 4:35 PM.


Korean Fried Chicken (Yang-nyum Tong Dak)

November 27, 2010

A delicious fried chicken, but really more of an accident than anything, I discovered this recipe when search to find what I could do with my 10-pound bag of leg quarters?  I love breasts best of all, and wings are my second favorite. Leg quarters are one of my least favorite, but my kids do like drumsticks, though thighs can be flavorful. Also, for the first time I can use my new thermometer for frying chicken  (see photos of thermometer at bottom). The recipe comes from Chris Kikmball’s book; Best International Recipes. It fries the chicken twice, once for 5 minutes, then again for another 5 minutes.

Great Korean flavor with not too much effort.

The Korean fried chicken recipe is here.  The sauce recipe is here. [Update: January 25, 2011. Here is an updated post]. Dust with corn starch, shake in colander and set on wire rack. Mix batter in large bowl.Working in two batches, add half chicken to batter, thenfry for first time for 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels, and fry the second batch for 5 minutes. Fry the first batch for the second time for 6 minutes until it reaches the appropriate temperature (160-degrees for breasts and 175-degrees for everything else). Fry the second batch, keeping the first batch warn in the 200-degree oven. Meanwhile make the sauce, which takes about 5 minutes cooking time. Add the chicken to a large bowl, pour sauce evenly over top and stir until evenly coated.

Overall, everyone in my family rated this 5-stars. It has rich, Korean flavors, but twice frying something can never be healthy. While the recipe isn’t too much effort, it does make a big mess. Worth a try to see how your family likes it, especially if you can talk someone else into cleaning up.

Issues:

  1. Oil went does to 305-degrees, but still I had no trouble reaching the desired temperature in the right amount if time. The recipe says to maintain an oil temperature of 350 while frying; impossible. Finally, I added the chicken when the oil temperature reached 370-degrees, which kept the oil up around 325 after adding the chicken.
  2. The sauce should be poured over chicken, because it was thick enough not to stir well. I poured it in bowl, added chicken, which didn’t work nearly as well.
  3. Everybody wanted more sauce. I’m definitely going to increase it by 50% next time.
  4. Big mess. I had to wash everything as I went along, because I needed the bowls again. Plus lots of baking sheet, and frying always makes a mess.

Thermometer: not the one Chris Kimball recommends, but it was on sale locally for $12. It lacked a clip, but I had one already for my cappuccino thermometer.

A few flaws; but fine for $12


Happy Thanksgiving

November 25, 2010

It’s now after 12 noon and the turkey is in the oven and it should be coming out around 4 PM, for a 5 PM dinner. Tonight’s menu includes: Old-Fashioned Turkey with Gravy, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. I have never liked stuffing, so I only make it when we have friends. I will provide updates as the day progresses.

I woke up 15 hours ago for this? But worth it !

  • 6:30 PM – It’s over. I can’t believe that I woke up 15 hours ago to start the preparations, but everything turned out great. The skin on the turkey was delicious with the constant basting of the salt pork. This year’s gravy (Chris Kimball’s recipe without turkey drippings) turned out better than my own recipe (with turkey drippings). The mashed potatoes were silky smooth and very rich; I generally followed this recipe except that I didn’t add garlic and used my ricer. The only recipe that failed was the pumpkin pie; the homemade crust was shallower than the store-bought, which shortened the cooking time dramatically. But because I was eating and not keeping an eye on it, the crust burned, so we will try to eat the filling only. I promised the boys another pumpkin pie tomorrow.
  • 5:45 – Everything is on the table. It all looks delicious. Dinner time!!!
  • 5:30 – Everything is done cooking, except that the pumpkin pie is in the oven and will cook during dinner. It should be ready to eat about 7:30. I am about to carve the turkey.
  • 4:30 – The internal temperature of the turkey is 155-degrees. Only 10 more degrees to go. The potatoes are diced and simmering; they need to simmer for 25 minutes, then I will process them in my ricer. The cranberry sauce is ready, and I put it in the refrigerator, because it is right around that critical temperature where bacteria will multiple. The gravy is still boiling (rather than simmering), and hopefully won’t delay dinner. It looks like dinner will be closer to 6 PM than 5.
  • 3:40 – Time to dice the four pounds of russet potatoes. I will use a garlic-less version for this past recipe. What I like about this recipe for Thanksgiving is that 95% of the work (i.e. the dicing and mixing) is done hours before dinnertime; only the mashing (or using the ricer) is left for the last minute.
  • 3:35 – The cranberries are off the stove and cooling; I will add the triple sec in about 30 minutes.
  • 3:30 – I just realized that I was supposed to have started the “dripping-less” gravy 1-1/2 hours ago. The recipe requires that I reduce the liquid by half, so I will have to keep it turned up pretty high. I want those concentrated flavors, not a watered-down sauce.
  • 3:15 – The cranberries are cooking on the stove, and I can hear them beginning to pop. They have another 2 minutes to go before I turn them down to a simmer. My oranges didn’t yield much zest; I needed a full tablespoon, but only got less than a teaspoon. I’ll add some squeezed orange juice, though it is much less potent.
  • 2:50 – The internal temperature of the turkey is 125-degrees. According to the recipe I have to wait until 140-degrees to remove the foil, cheese cloth and salt pork so that it can nicely brown. It seems like we will eat at least a half hour late.
  • 2:30 – The pumpkin pie mix is ready and in the refrigerator. The recipe says that it is best if you let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. I am using the King Arthur Pie recipe, which is much better than the Libby recipe. I haven’t tried the CI recipe, but the ingredient list didn’t make we want to try. Also, I am too low on sugar, so could only make enough for one pie. I will need to use the rest of my 29-oz can of pumpkin tomorrow for a second pie. The grocery stores all closed at 2pm.
  • 1:34 – The first slushy snow of the season has just begun falling outside. I’m glad the turkey is keeping the house warm. The internal temperature of the turkey is 107-degrees; a long way to go.
  • 1:10 – Lunch is almost ready. Mini-grilled cheese sandwiches made a very narrow loaf if Italian bread. (see photo below). I was out of sandwich bread, but they came out cute. Hopefully they are flavorful.
  • 12:35 – Getting ready to make a light lunch, I’m thinking about grilled cheese sandwiches for the boys.
  • 12:30 – I’m never sure exactly when to start the cranberry sauce. I will use the recipe from my own cookbook (see recipe at bottom). But, it does look like it originally came from Chris Kimball’s recipe. I’ve been making this variation for the past few years.
  • 12:20 PM – Fortunately, I have time for a second cup of coffee while I finalize which recipes I will use for my dinner. Already, I decided that I will make the Cook’s Country of Old-Fashioned Turkey with Gravy. At 4:30 in the morning, I was mistakenly looking at the Cook’s Illustrated version of Old-Fashion Turkey, sans stuffing.

Pumpkin Pie Recipe:

Cranberry Sauce Recipe:

12 ounce bag cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons Triple Sec

  • Begin at least 2 hours before dinner time.
  • In saucepan, boil water, sugar, orange zest, and salt to boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar; about 5 minutes.
  • Add washed cranberries; return to boil over for 5 minutes, without stirring.
  • Lower heat and simmer until about two-thirds of berries have popped open and sauce thickens, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Off heat; stir in triple Sec.  Let cool for 1 hour on counter-top, then cover and refrigerate (up to 7 days.)
  • Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.
  • Makes about 2 1/4 cups

Thanksgiving – Early Morning & Before

November 25, 2010

With my nearest relative more than 2,500 miles away, every year I celebrate Thanksgiving with my sons and invite all my friends. Some years we have 20 people, and other years, such as today, we are just the four of us. But the whole ritual of cooking changes very little no mater with whom we celebrate Thanksgiving; with more people we have more side dishes, and more stress. Our stress-free menu this year is a simple one: roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. I will provide updates as the day progresses.

Covered with foil, cheese cloth and salt pork. Still 6 hours until dinner.

  • 11:30 AM – I finally had a cup of coffee.
  • 11:10 AM – The turkey is in the oven. I can rest for the next 3 hours.
  • 10:45 AM – Finishing the kitchen cleanup, and noticed a problem with the recipe. I did some more checking and realized that I was looking at the wrong recipe. The correct one is here. The main difference is that the Cook’s Country recipe places the salt pork on the breast, and the Cook’s Illustrated puts the salt pork on on the non-breast side. I’d rather baste the breast side, which has the tendency to dry out.
  • 10:00 AM – I got back from the store, and removed the turkey from the bath. I patted it dry and put it in the refrigerator to dry the skin.
  • 9:00 AM – Went to the store to buy my final ingredients. I also decided to buy a “safety” pie crust just in case mine doesn’t turn out.
  • 8:30 AM – Got out of bed and changed the water in the turkey bath. Inside the cavity is still pretty frozen, but it should be ready about 10:30. Perfect, because I’m aiming for an oven-time of 11 AM.
  • 5:00 AM – Went back to bed for a few hours.
  • 4:45 AM – I start to make a shopping list of last minute items that I will need: Red onion, salt pork, russet potatoes, garlic. Also a pie crust.
  • 4:35 AM – I search the Cook’s Illustrated website to see which turkey recipe I wanted to follow this year. I decide of Old-Fashion Turkey, sans stuffing.
  • 4:30 AM – With the turkey in the sink defrosting for 30 minutes, I just changed the cold water. Chris Kimball recommends changing the water in which you are “speed defrosting” the turkey every 30-minutes.
  • 3:53 AM – I awake and take my 20-pound turkey out of the refrigerator. Every year I tell myself that I will buy the turkey earlier next year, so that I don’t need to wake up in the middle of the night to start defrosting in water. But every year I awaken early in the morning to find that it is still frozen. My refrigerator is on the recommended setting of 3 (out of 5), so I’m not sure why I have this problem every year.
  • T-Day minus 1: Yesterday. I stopped by the supermarket to buy some thyme. I wasn’t sure about potatoes, so didn’t buy any. I decided not to brine my turkey, because I don’t have a suitable bucket; they are all exceptionally dirty this year (even though I would have lined it with plastic bag).
  • T-Day minus 5: Friday. I bought all the usual ingredients for pumpkin pie, also whipping cream this year (rather than my usual heavy cream).
  • T-Day minus 7: Friday. I bought the turkey. A 20-pounder this year, and put it in the bottom shelf of my refrigerator. In theory 7 days is plenty to defrost a 20-pound turkey, but every year I find that it is still frozen.

Crispy Cheese Wafers

November 23, 2010

My 11-year-old son loves anything with fresh Parmesan cheese most of all. So for no other reason, I made him these Crispy Cheese Wafers as a mid-day snack. As you can imagine, he was ecstatic and ate at least half of the wafers (probably 1,000 calories). I give the wafers 4-stars, but my son gave them 5.

Homemade cheese crackers; not your average cheez-its.

The recipe is here.

Notwithstanding the great outcome, I do not believe that the recipe is up Cook’s Illustrated usual high standards. The recipe said that 1-pound of grated Parmesan cheese would make 30 wafers (2 tablespoons per wafer), but I only needed 6 to 7 ounces. Also, the directions say to wipe out the skilled between batches (4 wafers per batch; 8 batches total), so that 1 teaspoon of butter initially placed in the skillet was not nearly enough. Eventually the skillet became so caked with cooked on cheese, that I had to completely wash it after about 5 batches. Also the description of a “pinch of cornmeal sprinkled over a 3-inch area of the pan” is terribly imprecise, and I needed at least 2 pinches (about 1/4 teaspoon). Finally, I wonder if it would have been better to try it in a non-stick skillet, though the recipe just calls for a regular skillet.

But keep in mind, despite all the shortcomings, they were between 4-and-5-stars.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $3.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 1:00 PM.  Ready:  1:40 PM.

 

 


Broiled Shrimp Skewers

November 21, 2010

With BBQ Season over, I want new ways to use my broiler to soften the change in life-style associated with approaching winter. Last night, I used my broiler to make a variation of Charcoal Grilled Shrimp Skewers (from season 7 of ATK). Because the grill is used to slightly caramelize the shrimp rather than impart a smokey flavor, the variation worked perfectly.

Adapting a summer BBQ for the new seasonal reality

This recipe uses peeled shrimp (with the tails left on), and then nestles them closely onto the skewers. This reduces the surface area, simulates thicker (more expensive) shrimp, and slows the cooking process. In theory, the shrimp will not finish cooking under the broiler, but will finish on the stove-top in the sauce. In my case, the shrimp was cooked all the way through under the broiler, so I served them on the skewers. This was my first 5-star meal in almost two months; since the 30-Minute Taco Salad.

The Broiled Shrimp Skewers recipe is here. Peel and devein the shrimp, but leave the tails on. Thread the shrimp onto 3 to 4 skewers, alternating the directions of the head and tails. Pat dry, brush with 2-tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, place on wire rack over foil-lined baking sheet, then broil for 4 minutes; flip for another 2 minutes. The sauce recipe is here; add all the ingredients (except parsley) to a sauce pan, heat until butter is melted and remove from heat, and add parsley just before serving.

I give this recipe 5-stars, though one vote in my family only gave it 4-stars. I used slices of Italian bread to soak up the extra sauce; delicious too. But be warned, the sauce is quite spicy with just 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes; so I’d recommend against the 3/4 teaspoon variation.

Comments:

  1. Insert skewer about 1/3-body-length from head, so that the shrimp nestle properly. If you find that they aren’t nestling properly, adjusting where you insert the skewer will alter then angle of the shrimp and allow for a perfect fit.
  2. The recipe told me to remove the shrimp from the broiler before they were done, and to finish cooking in the sauce. But, by the time my shrimp were slightly charred they were already fully cooked. So I served them on the skewers, and topped with sauce on the plate.
  3. The disposable pie plate used in the sauce recipe should be substituted with a sauce pan. The recipe was designed to go on the grill.
  4. I used wooden skewers, because I don’t have metal ones. Sure, then ends blackened a little, but no real impact.
  5. I always prepare lemon wedges whenever I serve shrimp, but they remained unused for this recipe. It already had plenty of lemon flavor.

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $9.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: 6:00 PM.  Dinnertime:  6:40 PM.


Homemade Boursin

November 20, 2010

This has been a great year. I have made many magnificent discoveries. One of the most bittersweet was Boursin cheese; it was the most delicious cheese, but how often cost I afford the price tag of $24 per pound.  Then, I discovered how to make my own at home, and today I happened to have all the extra herbs already in my kitchen.

Homemade Boursin and crackers; a delicious snack.

I used the same recipe as before. It is here. A few notes: when mixing using the hand-mixed the cream cheese will get stuck, eventually it will become soft and work it’s way free. The recipe yields 8-1/2 ounces.

Comments:

  1. I harvested the last of this season’s chives. So I will need to wait until spring before I will have more home-grown. I reject the tendency of supermarkets to prepackage “fresh” herbs into plastic containers. Until springtime, I will probably substitute shallot for the chives.
  2. Since I already had all the herbs, I only spent 99-cents for the 8-ounces of Philadelphia cream cheese.

Rating: 5-star.
Cost: 99-cents for 8-1/2 ounces.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 9:00 am Ready to eat at:  1:10 pm.


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