Fried Chicken, because why not?

Last night I made fried chicken as payment for a bribe. I had anticipated roasting a chicken the other night, but got home late and I was feeling really lazy- which is kind of a silly excuse because it really is no effort to roast a chicken, so I told my husband I’d make him fried chicken if we could do something quick and easy Wednesday night for dinner.

A note on product: the meat we buy is delivered from a local co-op called Walden Local Meat. Their animals are pasture- and humanely raised and come from local family farms, which is important to me. They only have chicken during part of the year and it’s a treat to get a whole bird.

If you live in the Boston area , their website is http://waldenlocalmeat.com, and I recently discovered that they sell their meat at the Natural Food Exchange in Reading, MA. They are a really great service and will deliver to your home or office within their range, for a very fair price. They come all the way out to my little town of Essex, and I don’t have to go to the grocery store.

I also pick up vegetables and other items from Farmers to You, http://farmerstoyou.com. They are based out of Vermont and have pick up locations all over the Boston area. They are a year round service for Vermont sourced vegetables, dairy, grains, meat, etc. You order weekly, can choose what you want and pick it up on the designated day.

I digressed a little because I used products from both these sources to make my fried chicken. Ok, onto the recipe. But first a little tease…

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FRIED CHICKEN

Supplies to make this go smoothly (low mess): gallon sized plastic zipper bags, a dutch oven or cast iron frying pan, a candy thermometer, plastic gloves and 2 baking racks and a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

1 quart of oil for frying (I used vegetable oil, you can use shortening)
One whole chicken, broken down into 10 pieces
*I cut the breast in half because the front of the breast cooks at a different rate than the back end
**you can buy parts if you don’t want to mess with a whole chicken or just like legs and thighs, etc.

Buttermilk soak:
1 pint buttermilk
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika

Dredge:
2 cups of flour that has been seasoned with:
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika

THE NIGHT BEFORE FRYING:
Combine the buttermilk, salt, pepper and paprika in a zipper bag. Add the chicken parts and seal the bag shut. Mash everything around so the chicken is well coated. Place in fridge overnight.

THE NEXT DAY:
Set up your work area. I try to work next to the stovetop. I place a kitchen towel under a cooling rack near the dredging station, so I have a spot for the chicken after it’s been dredged in the flour.

Mix the dredge with the flour, salt, pepper and paprika in a gallon zipper bag or large bowl. You could make this GF by using rice flour in place of the AP flour.

This is a good place to use gloves!!! Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and give it a shake as you take it out of the bag to remove excess buttermilk. Place in the flour and give it a good toss. You may have to do this in a couple batches so you don’t crowd the bag too much. Place coated chicken on the cooling rack and allow to set up for about 20 minutes. (During this time you can make your sides)

Place the oil into the dutch oven or frying pan. If using a frying pan, make the oil about an inch or so deep. Heat the oil to 375. Preheat your oven to 400.

Fry chicken in batches, being careful not to overcrowd your pan. Fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side depending on thickness. Once fried, place on second cooling rack, which should be on a baking sheet and place in the oven. I like to cook the thicker pieces first and I use the oven as backup to ensure the chicken is cooked through. The buttermilk soak will ensure juicy chicken, so you don’t need to worry about it drying out.

Serve with mashed potatoes and greens.

Will serve 4-5 people or my friend, Kevin. haha

Bagels- the recap and recipe

I think I’ve finally gotten to the point where, upon my next attempt, I will have the NY style bagels I’ve been looking for.  Since moving to Massachusetts almost 20 years ago, I’ve found  it frustrating to not be able to get a decent bagel, despite a few outlets and the “nouveau” bagel shops charging $2.50 for a single bagel (cream cheese is extra!) and $25 per dozen. That’s insane to me, yet people pay it!! I get that these are small batch items, but it’s flour, water and yeast with a little electricity and elbow grease added. C’mon!

My next “Reasons I miss living in New Jersey, or things I’ve grudging learned to live with” rant will include my disappointment with a lack of good rye bread and no hard rolls in the Greater Boston Area. But I digress…

I mentioned in my previous post that I’d use Baron Bagels’s recipe (as published in the New York Times Cooking section) as a jumping off point for my latest try. I modified it to use my starter and commercial yeast. I did get the rise I was looking for with this combo of yeasts.

The one thing I wasn’t a fan of was the use of baking soda in the water for the critical step of boiling before baking. Peter Reinhart uses baking soda in the boil, while Baron Bagel uses salt and baking soda, which made them too salty for my taste- and I love salt.  I referenced George Greenstein’s book, Secrets of a Jewish Baker, and he uses malt syrup in the boil. I remember making bagels once using his recipe- way back when, but lacking malt syrup,  I used molasses which provided a nice shine on the outside. I will do this again on my next round.

The float test is extremely important. If your bread dough (of any sort) doesn’t float when you drop a small chunk into a glass of cool water, then you your dough needs more time proofing. Plus it’s a pain in the ass if your bagels sink to the bottom of the pot and stick because you weren’t stirring the water or paying close enough attention- ahem.

Lastly, my oven is 20 years old and getting squirrelly. I should have baked in the upper third- as recommended in the  Baron Bagel recipe, but I kept my shelves too low and the bottoms of the bagels got a little too brown.

Bagels

Levain:
1/4 cup sourdough starter
2 cups bread flour
1 cup very warm water (about 80-85 degrees)

Mix the starter and water, add flour. Allow to ferment on the counter overnight, or at least 6 hours.

Dough:
2/3 cup warm water
5 grams of instant yeast, or a generous teaspoon
1 tablespoon malt syrup (I used brown rice syrup)
3 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt

In the bowl of your stand mixer that’s been fitted with the dough hook, mix the levain with 2/3 cup water, instant yeast and brown rice syrup. Mix to disperse.

Add the bread flour and salt. Knead dough on low for about 8 minutes.

Remove bowl from mixer and take out the dough hook. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for about 3 hours. I put the bowl on a heating pad that’s been wrapped in a thick towel. I’ve been learning that sourdough really needs some warmth to get it moving, at least it does in my house. (I have a microwavable heating pad which allows me to control how hot it gets.)

After about 3 hours, turn out the dough and cut into 8- 4 ounce pieces. Allow to rest about 30 minutes to relax the gluten so you can roll snakes.

Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Roll each piece of dough into a snake that’s about 10 inches long, so it will wrap easily around your hand. Wrap the snake around your hand, so the ends are in your palm. Using short strokes, roll your hand forward a couple times to seal the two ends together. Place on cookie sheet and repeat with remaining dough.

Allow to rest 1-2 hours on the counter, then place in the refrigerator overnight.

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Ask your husband or SO to take the dough out of the fridge before leaving for work, or you can do it yourself about an hour before you bake.

Position oven rack to the top 1/3 of the oven and pre-heat your oven to 400. Bring a large pot of water to the boil- I use my 7 qt dutch oven. Once boiling, add 1 tablespoon of malt syrup, molasses, maple syrup or brown rice syrup or sugar as a last resort.

If you’re using toppings like poppy or sesame seeds, shake them out onto a plate. You’ll dip your bagels in after boiling.

Set up a fluffy kitchen towel, cooling rack or stack of paper towels on which you’ll drain your boiled bagels.

Add 3 to 4 bagels to the boiling water. Boil for one minute and then flip over. Boil for another minute.

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Place bagels onto a kitchen towel to drain. Boil the second batch.

Apply topping by dipping one side into your seeds. Place back onto parchment lined baking sheet.

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Bake for 10 minutes. Flip bagels over and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Serve warm with some lox, cream cheese, capers, onion, etc.

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Bagels

Bagels are tricky.  If you don’t get them “just so”, they are merely rolls with holes in the middle of them.  99% of bagels are such, and really not worth you wasting your daily carb allotment to eat one.

Like croissants, I’ve had a couple failures. Bagel dough is very dense, and it needs structure. I’ve used Peter Reinhart’s sourdough bagel recipe, had some success; but the resulting bagel didn’t rise enough and they were too flat for my liking. They tasted good, but they were not quite right.

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In today’s experiment, I’ll be using a modified version of a recipe from Baron Bagels as posted in the New York Times (I do love the NYT cooking website), http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1014445-baron-bagels?action=click&module=Local+Search+Recipe+Card&pgType=search&rank=1.

Like Reinhart’s recipe, I’ll be using a combo of sourdough starter and commercial yeast. I expanded my starter last night and it’s ready to go- just as soon as I finish my 4th cup of coffee.

Wish me luck!!

Croissants, the final analysis

I spent today laminating the dough. I mostly followed Thomas Keller’s method for the process. I liked the idea of freezing the dough between turns as it helps to really slow down the yeast’s activity. Tartine’s method of refrigerating the dough didn’t sufficiently retard the rising and it made my croissants bready.

I can see why so many commercial croissants suck. Laminating dough correctly is not an easy process, but if you’re doing it correctly, you can witness the layers taking shape within your dough. It’s pretty exciting.

It’s a long process. It’s many steps of “do this, freeze it and wait 20 minutes.” I entertained myself by watching my puppies roll in god knows what, and leafing through my newest cookbooks, “Dorie’s Cookies” by the one and only Dorie Greenspan and “Gjelina”by Travis Lett.

Poolish:

2 T. sourdough starter (method for getting your starter going will follow below)
100 grams of bread flour *King Arthur is my preferred brand
100 grams warm water

Mix together and allow to sit on the counter, wrapped in a kitchen towel to keep it warm, for about 12 hours. It will be bubbly and lively.

Dough: You’ll need your stand mixer for this. It’s a rich, sticky dough.

500 grams bread flour
75 grams sugar
10 grams (1 1/2 packets) of SAF instant yeast (preferably. I find SAF to be the most reliable)
200 grams of warm water (75 degrees)
Poolish
100 grams unsalted butter, cut into cubes *I use Kerrygold, but any other Euro style, high butterfat, cultured butter will work. Good old American sweet butter will also work fine.

Mix everything except the butter cubes in the bowl of the stand mixer. Mix 2 minutes to bring everything together. Add the butter, a few cubes at a time. Mix another 2 minutes. Mix on low for 20-25 minutes until dough is silky and smooth.

Roll into a 10×7 1/2 inch rectangle. Freeze 20 minutes.

Butter block:

330 grams (2 1/2 sticks) COLD unsalted butter **see butter comments above.

Method:

Using a rolling pin, pound into a 6×7 1/2 inch rectangle. Wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate until needed.

Fit the butter block in the center of the dough. Fold each side over the butter and pinch the ends together. Wrap in plastic and freeze for 20 minutes.

The rolling and turning you can google, but what Keller does differently is to freeze the dough for 20 minutes between turns. This worked beautifully. I highly recommend following this method. The croissants will rise on the final proof before baking. Give them at least 2 hours to proof on a counter in a warm environment. Bake at 325 in a convection oven or 350 in a conventional oven for about 30 minutes. Give enough space between each, so they don’t touch each other.

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Your own sourdough starter:

This is based on Tartine Bread’s method.  There are wild yeasts on organic flour, so try to stick to organic.  You’ll have greater success.

Flour Blend:

2 lbs each:  organic white flour, organic wheat flour, organic rye flour
Mix together and store in a large jar.

To get your sourdough going:

1/4 cup flour blend
2-3 tablespoons warm water (I used filtered water from my ION dispenser)
Mix well and cover with a paper towel. Secure paper towel with a rubber band. I prefer a stiff starter because I find it to be more stable.

Feed daily with 2T flour blend and 2-3 t. water, until the starter is active and bubbly. Rose Levy Beranbaum recommends discarding half your starter and feeding. You can do that if you wish.

Once bubbly and active you can start making bread. I highly recommend Tartine Bread as a jumping off point. You will learn how to make a sourdough loaf to impress anyone, plus there is a recipe for homemade english muffins!

Croissants, attempt #3

Today I am starting on the 2-3 day journey it will take to make proper croissants.  I have an idea of where I went wrong and will be using a hybrid of recipes from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller, The Secret Recipes by Dominique Ansel and Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson.

These 3 are fairly close mirrors of each other.  Robertson uses a wild leaven to make his dough; Keller and Ansel use commercial instant yeast.  Ansel doesn’t use a poolish; Robertson and Keller do.

I’ve decided to make my poolish with my sourdough starter. It’s a small part of the dough, and will impart a nice flavor. I’ll use commercial instant yeast for the remainder + Kerrygold butter for the butter block, and Kind Arthur bread flour for the dough. I get good results from King Arthur, and I haven’t gotten my grain mill yet, so milling my own flour will come later.

My sourdough starter is based off Tartine’s 50/50 blend of organic white flour and organic whole wheat. I add rye flour to my flour blend, and I use equal parts white, whole wheat and rye.

So right now, my poolish is rising and the butter is thawing so I can pound out my butter block.

Tomorrow I’ll laminate the dough. Fingers crossed. There will be pictures.

It’s been a good long while

Hi All:

I’m going to get back to making an effort documenting what’s going on in my kitchen, along with helping those who want to learn to master a few dishes that will impress anyone for whom you want to cook.

That being said, I’ve been making a lot of bread lately. I’ve grown a pretty lively sourdough starter and I’ve been using it to make bagels, croissants and crusty sourdough loaves.

I’ve been struggling with bagels and croissants a little. Being a Jersey girl, I have certain requirements for my bagels other than them being rolls with holes in the middle. They need to be dense, chewy to the point that your jaw grows tired and are flavorful. Such a heavy dough requires just the right amount of lift from yeasts and I’m not quite there yet.

My croissants have gone off the rails twice. Both times they looked lovely. The first batch was perfectly flaky, but didn’t rise. The second batch rose way too much and turned out to be a slightly flaky roll, which was weird. They both had the correct flavor, it, again, is just a matter of balancing the yeast.

That’s about it for now.  Stay tuned…

Hard Boiled Eggs

I’m a convert of Serious Eats’ method for cooking hard boiled eggs. They use a start in hot water, boiling method and I find that this way makes a perfect hard boiled egg. I used to start in cold water, bring to a boil and allow to sit for 20 minutes. Never again.

I’ve also discovered, contrary to conventional wisdom, that eggs fresh out of the chicken are the easiest to peel. I can crack them along the egg-quator (sorry, I had to go there!!), and pretty much pop off each half of shell. My discovery came when I hard boiled eggs from my friend’s chickens. Not to mention, the flavor of a freshly laid egg has no comparison to a month old grocery store egg.

Here’s the link to Serious Eats hard boiled egg method:

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2009/10/perfect-boiled-eggs-recipe.html

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Enjoy!!

When the student surpasses the teacher

I’ve been teaching my sister, Kim, to cook since she was a little kid.  We’ve both come along way since brownie batter incident of 1986 (in her defense, she was only 2 and I didn’t help her to hold the mixer steady).  She loves to cook and people are always hanging around her house for dinner.  Last night she made “cupcakes” for a friend’s birthday.  He happens to be on a crazy workout regimen and eating fairly low carb.  She was going to make cupcakes that looked like meatloaf, I suggested that she make actual meatloaf and make them look like cupcakes.  Here is the result:

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Kim’s Meatloaf “Cupcakes”

Makes 12, could be made mini and passed as an hors d’oeuvre

“Cupcakes”
1 pound 85/15 ground beef
2 eggs, lightly scrambled
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup BBQ sauce or ketchup
1/2 sweet onion, grated. Use a Vidalia, Spanish or Walla Walla
1 teaspoon each of: garlic powder, oregano, thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

“Frosting & Sprinkles”
Mashed potatoes:
1 lb potatoes, peeled and cooked until tender in well salted water- about 15 minutes
4 tablespoons of butter, melted
1/4-1/2 cup buttermilk, sour cream or milk
Salt and pepper

Mash potatoes through a ricer if you have one. Add butter and buttermilk. Mix well to combine. Potatoes shouldn’t be too stiff, you want them to pipe out smoothly. Allow to cool. Can be made a day in advance. Bring to room temperature before piping.

Toppings:
Shredded cheddar cheese
Bacon crumbles
Diced scallions

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 12 portion muffin tin.

Mix all the meatloaf ingredients together.
Divide into 12 pieces and roll into balls.
Gently press the meat balls into the buttered muffin tin.
Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
Remove meatloaves from the muffin tin and place on a baking sheet.
Turn your oven’s broiler on high.
Using a pastry bag, pipe on mashed potatoes. If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can use a zipper bag with the end snipped off. Alternatively, you can use an ice cream scoop.
Top potatoes with shredded cheddar and put under broiler and allow the cheese to melt over the potatoes.
Sprinkle with scallions and chopped bacon.

Serve hot, with birthday candles as needed!

Kim says “Yummy and unbelievably cute!!!”

Roasted Tomato Soup

It’s currently tomato season in New England!  The weather also cooled off last night and the humidity has gone away (for now).  Like I’ve said before, I love soup all year long.  With the abundance of tomatoes out there, you should try this. If your farmer’s market has a “seconds” bin of tomatoes, choose those. They are less expensive and don’t need to be picture perfect for soup.

4-6 large very ripe tomatoes
3 unpeeled garlic cloves, or more to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 quart chicken or vegetable
3/4 to 1 cup of heavy cream (make it non-dairy with cashew milk)
More salt and pepper to adjust seasoning

Preheat oven to 400.

Cut tomatoes into quarters. Place tomatoes and garlic cloves on cookie sheet. Salt and pepper tomatoes then drizzle olive oil over tomatoes and garlic. Toss to coat.

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove tomatoes from oven. Squeeze garlic from the peels and put into a a medium sauce pan with the tomatoes and drippings from cookie sheet- leave any blackened bits behind. Add chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Puree tomatoes in a blender until very smooth. Put back into sauce pan and add cream. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve, maybe with your favorite grilled cheese sandwich

Terrible with photos

I’m forever forgetting to take pictures of things I make.  It looks so good that I want to eat it, not photograph it.  Personally, I’m not a fan of blogs whose posts are taken up by pictures of every little item, step or procedure.  I’m all for photos or videos of techniques that need demonstration- like how to shape a baguette, but a picture of a bag of Trader Joe’s oatmeal- totally unnecessary, I think.

That being said, I love roasted vegetables all year round.  Roasting enhances fresh veggies.  Miso adds a lovely, rich flavor.  I especially like it with broccoli. Don’t throw out the broccoli stems! They are the best part!

Miso Roasted Broccoli

1 head of broccoli
2 tablespoons red miso
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the broccoli into florets. Peel the stems using a vegetable peeler, trim the bottom of the stems and cut stems into large chucks.

Finely chop the garlic and ginger.

Mix the olive oil, miso and pinch of cayenne with a whisk until smooth. Add the garlic and ginger.

Toss broccoli in miso mixture. Spread in one layer on baking sheet.

Bake for about 30 minutes- until the broccoli is tender, turning once halfway through.

Serve.