chicken and waffles

January 9, 2013 § 2 Comments

IMG_5784But first, bread porn.

Today did not start auspiciously.  I was doing the 5:30 lunch assembly when something struck me as odd.  It took my pre-caffeinated mind a minute or two to figure it out.  The applesauce that had been sitting in the fridge overnight?  Luke warm.  I started feeling meat.  Still cold, but not refrigerator cold.

Ugh.  I had been pretty proud of myself this week for doing a comprehensive grocery run.  I had stuff for five dinners, a whole crock of fermenting whole grain bread dough, a fourteen-dollar pork shoulder, on and on.  The fridge couldn’t have picked last week when the kids were at K’s and my fridge had…onions and coconut water?

Fine.  Bring it on, Tuesday.  I got the kids off to school, hustled the pork roast, milk, eggs, and chicken into the lifeboat fridge downstairs, left messages for a couple of appliance places in town, and tried to get some zen balance with a couple of dumbells and the swiss ball.  Halfway through, appliance guy calls, says he can be over in 45 minutes.

And it turns out that I’d left the freezer door ajar overnight.  He charged me for the call out, but offered to clean out the vents and the compressor while he was there.  And as he did so, he gave me that look that says “you know, it wouldn’t hurt you to clean this out every once in a while…” stainless-steel fridge owner.

Anyway.  I’d figured that the bread crock didn’t really deserve the space it was going to take up in the lifeboat if I needed a new motor and it was going to take a week, so I had by this point made a couple of loaves and started them on their merry path.  Pretty good looking loaf, given the circumstances.

I was glad to get the fridge back, of course, even if I felt like an idiot all morning.  And it put the rest of the day back on track.  A rest of the day that included a trial run for the new waffle maker.  I found a chicken and waffle recipe a few months ago that we’ve used for fried chicken before–a wheat beer batter and a shallow pan fry have made for super-light, crispy chicken, but not until today did I have the gadget to make super-light, crispy waffles to go with those.

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Well, brothers and sisters, friends of the revolution, I now have waffle gadgetry.  That bad boy is a Proctor Silex Wafflematic 6000 (or some such), and it enjoyed it’s inaugural wheat beer waffling this afternoon.  The recipe was super easy–baking powder and soda to get fluffy and brown, the beer to help boost things, and 6 minutes in the machine until they were full height, light and crunchy.  There is no way I should be eating waffles, but these in particular are likely to prove problematic.

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There’s not a lot of textural contrast on that plate, but there is a whole lot of crispy, fried goodness.  C looked at his plate and asked for maple syrup, which of course bumped everything up one notch further.  But he looked concerned while he was pouring it.  “I don’t want to get any syrup on the chicken,” he said, “because that would be gross.”

His sister’s jaw dropped.  “Are you kidding?” she said, “Gross? That could be the best thing ever.”  It was not bad, for sure.

For the record, they demolished the standard bowl of veggie sticks, too, so the dinner wasn’t a complete nutritional disaster.  But it was one of the kitchen’s better efforts.  I have never been a clean plate parent–I like that the kids know to stop when they’ve had enough, and I’m used to scraping a pile of leftovers into tupperware. But I have to admit that I’m just slightly  proud that tonight there were no leftovers.  C let me know that he’s still down with frozen waffles for breakfast.  But he raised the possibility that, maybe on weekends?  Fresh waffles would be kind of nice.

Agreed.  But with the piles of bread in the house, it’s toast tomorrow.

maryland fried chicken

June 24, 2011 Comments Off on maryland fried chicken

Here’s another entry in the “yeah, no more than a quarter-plate” sweepstakes.  Cook’s put out a great compilation a year or so ago called “American Classics,” and it’s basically a tour of the reasons for this great nation’s obesity epidemic.  But, in moderation, every single recipe in there has proven to be a kid-favorite, and Maryland fried chicken appealed in a sort of “really?” kind of a way.  And it was a good excuse to continue my sordid love affair with the cast-iron dutch oven.

This is a pretty simple recipe–it does away with egg and bread crumb coatings and instead just marinates the chicken in a dry rub of mustard.  The dredge is just flour and baking powder, which once it’s dunked into oil at 350° forms a thin but nicely crispy outer skin.  I used drummies instead of bigger chicken parts since the kids like these better (easier to handle) and since they cook fast.  Since there are no bread crumbs, the crust is pretty bland, but the recipe solves this with a healthy dose of Old Bay.  This is a condiment that hardly exists in the midwest (I finally found it next to the desultory seafood counter in our local grocery), but that tastes like every east coast clambake or crab boil you’ve ever been to–just a mix of celery salt, paprika, and regular salt, but in magic proportions.  The other key component is an absolutely wicked cream gravy that absorbs the sludge at the bottom of the dutch oven once you pour most of the oil out–the kids passed entirely on that, and I tried to limit mine to medicinal proportions, but damn, it was pretty good.  (I’ve got a 12-miler scheduled for Sunday morning, so there will be biscuits and gravy for breakfast upon my return.)

We’ve traditionally paired fried and roasted, so the chicken this time came with some roasted fingerling potatoes that were on sale at the organic food place–nice colors, including some blues that scared the crap out of C.  I’ve figured out that the trick to these is to toss them in oil and then roast them right on the baking sheet–messy, since the oil inevitably bakes onto the steel pan, but the direct heat browns them a lot better than if they’re sitting on a mildly insulating layer of aluminum foil.  I tossed the finished potatoes with rosemary (shh, don’t tell the kids) and some sea salt, and they disappeared almost as quickly as the chicken.

Dessert?  Raspberry popsicles, from this month’s Cooking Light.  The kids found a $2.99 popsicle mold at Target, which was pretty tough to resist, and we pureed some fresh raspberries (2 cups) with a half cup of sugar.  Pretty good stuff, though C thought I’d erred by blowing off the straining step–the seeds were distracting, though the pulp added some texture.  I made another batch with some whole-fat yogurt left over from an earlier grilling experiment, and those were good, too.  The article also has recipes for peaches and cream, which is probably next, and Campari and orange, which will be a grownup treat.  A good excuse to buy a bottle of my favorite aperitif, anyway.  I hear tell it also goes well with soda…

chicken milanese

February 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

Baby steps forward…I was reading through our Cook’s Illustrated Italian Classics last week and getting all sorts of nostalgic when I ran across chicken Milanese.  This was familiar, but not from Italy.  K made this a lot after we’d had veal scallopine in Florence (I think), but we made it with chicken since good veal is hard to get.  So it’s nice to know it has a name.

Basically, it’s fried chicken, but sauteed instead of deep fried.  A lot less work and cleanup, but a very different crust.  The basic prep is the same–three bowls with flour, egg, and bread crumbs–but they go in a shallow pan instead of the dutch oven, and the crust comes out lighter and less dry.

Cook’s had a few tricks that seemed to work wonders.  First, they suggested brining the chicken.  I’m a big fan of this, since it keeps the meat from drying out and is, I think, the key to good grilled chicken (I should add that other family members disagree…)  We used tenderloins instead of full breasts, which worked well since they’re pretty skinny and cooked quickly.  This saved having to pound or roll the chicken breasts flat.  The second trick was to fully dry the chicken after brining–sandwiching the chicken between thick sheets of paper towels, pressing them to squeeze water out, and letting them sit for ten minutes.  They also called for drying the cutlets on a wire rack after breading, which ensured that the crust was nice and dry.  As a result it soaked up the oil in the pan well, which fried the crust all the way through.  Finally, they called for adding oil to the egg mixture, which helped adhere the crumbs to the meat.

There’s parmesan in a true Milanese, and I added some, but didn’t want the kids to notice so I kept the amount small (have I mentioned that I’ve also snuck broccoli slaw into their salads?).  The results were really good–light, crispy crust, but not as dense or as tough as deep fried chicken, and the meat was juicy all the way through, as you’d expect with the brining.  A bit of lemon and fresh grated parmesan on top, and a bed of whole wheat pasta with oil, and it was a popular meal.

Movie night tonight.  Two DVDs showed up from Netflix–Treasures of the Sierra Madre and The Simpsons Movie. You can guess which one I sold heavy, which one they picked, and which one I was sort of secretly glad to watch.  We’ll watch Bogie tomorrow, since schools have been called off and we have a real, full snow day to relax and enjoy.  “Badges?  We don’t need no stinking badges!”  Indeed…

fried chicken

January 6, 2011 Comments Off on fried chicken

Oh, heck and yes.  That is a batch of chicken wings frying at a toasty 360°F in our brand new Lodge cast iron dutch oven.  I’ve become progressively braver about throwing stuff into boiling oil, and so far I haven’t been disappointed.  And, I haven’t burned the house down.  Yet.

A dutch oven has been on my wish list for a while now.  They’re heavy–super, duper heavy–and hard to clean and keep seasoned.  But man, oh, man, did this one heat the oil, keep it hot, and turn out a batch of amazing, crispy, juicy fried chicken.

I got wing parts, since the kids aren’t big fans of huge chunks of meat, and I figured there’d be a much better crust to meat ratio.  I soaked them in buttermilk for about half an hour (they probably could have soaked overnight), and then just rolled them around in flour and bread crumbs–no fancy spices or anything like that (the kids HATE it when I go off the reservation like that).  Mark Bittman’s book assured me I could use a half inch of olive oil and not worry about the whole thing going up in flames.  It was smoky, for sure, but I turned the stovetop fan to full phaser power and just let it go.  Totally worth it–the drummies fried up in about five minutes, the crust got super crispy, and the meat inside was succulent.

O & C demanded fries with the chicken, and I briefly thought about running two burners of boiling oil at the same time.  But then I figured that doubled the chance of a giant grease fire, so I convinced the kids that oven-fried would be fine, too.  They’re Yukon Goldies, lightly oiled and baked for 40 minutes, then drizzled with a little more oil (probably too much) and salted.

All in all, a pretty good meal.  O pronounced it “AWESOME” and plowed through five wings.  C said it was OK and that he’d eat it again if he had to.  Which, I thought, was a pretty good batting average.

And for dessert?  Star Wars sugar cookies.  They’re cooling in the kitchen while we have movie night.  UP. I made it a point to be cleaning up in the kitchen during the flashback scene…

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