Holy *^%$ yall! We made fried chicken! We took advantage of this gorgeous summer day and went on ahead and conquered another culinary fear… homemade fried chicken. Prior to making this tonight, I typed out: “I’m 99.999% certain that we can’t best KFC or any southern back road gas station’s fried chicken, but we’re going to try!” Well, we succeeded! I’m a little shocked actually… It even looks like the gorgeous, crispy-skinned chicken you might see when you’re out picking up a bucket!
After we decided to do this, I thought, who better to help us than Paula Deen…? If you google “southern fried chicken,” her recipe is the first recipe that shows up. I’m not going to lie… I don’t know that I’ve ever cooked Paula Deen before… her devotion to butter is slightly overwhelming. But it just seemed to be the right thing to do when learning to fry chicken. (Confirming our decision to try the Queen of Southern Cooking’s recipe was an article from Food52, where they tested the recipe.) We did tweak her recipe in a few places, which luckily worked out well. The main difference between our recipe and hers is the brine. We’ve been convinced by our reading to brine chicken prior to frying. I definitely think it helped to keep our chicken moist and flavorful!
Pickles again? Didn’t we just do that? Yes, yes we did. I’ve been munching on the Midnight Quick Pickles from last week out of my fridge pretty much every day. Sorry for the repetition, but sometimes I can’t help the order of our culinary diary. This weekend, Selim’s parents came to visit us in Virginia, and we all joined my parents in Amherst for the day. Selim and I made dinner for the group, with a little assistance on the grill from my dad. Instead of brats and hot dogs, we grilled sucuk (a delicious Turkish sausage) and some spicy venison sausage (hunted & made by my cousin’s husband), with a variety of toppings. We quick pickled these onions earlier in the week, with the thought that they’d go well with the sucuk and feta cheese, but I thought they worked even better with the spicy venison sausage! The slightly sweet, very acidic pickled onions give your tastes buds a reprieve from the spiciness of the sausage with each bite.
My sister recently ranted to us about how “pickles are the cool new thing,” and how “every restaurant is putting pickled vegetables in things that don’t need pickles.” I respect her opinion, but I totally disagree. I think pickles, depending on their variety, could go on just about everything. I think anything spicy or fatty or really rich is improved with some type of pickle on top. I also eat these guys plain, but I’m not sure I’m in the the majority on that one.
Standard Quick Pickle Disclaimer: As we’ve mentioned with previous recipes (see: Midnight Quick Pickles, Red Quick Pickled Cauliflower and Radishes), these are not shelf-safe “real” pickles. They should not be left in pantry or cellar for eternity. They must stay refrigerated. Hence they’re called “quick pickles” or “refrigerator pickles.” We skipped the step of sterilizing the jar and lid that keeps you from getting botulism when canned goods are left on a shelf for months on end.
Pickled Red Onions
1 large red onion
1 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
Slice the onion length-wise and place in a jar.
Meanwhile, bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer. As soon as the salt & sugar are dissolved, remove from the heat.
Once the liquid has cooled, pour over the onions. Refrigerate for 48+ hours prior to using.
During our years living in Columbia, we loved going to the Soda City Market on Main Street in downtown Columbia. Now that we live in Richmond, we’ve turned to the South of the James market for our Saturday morning perusing. For better or for worse, Soda City Market isn’t exactly a farmers market in our opinion. There are a handful of farmers with fresh goods, but they are definitely outnumbered by food vendors and artisans. South of the James is more of a true farmers market, with quite a few farms and farmers in attendance, in addition to some other vendors. Pro: there are way more options of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats from which to choose! Con: there are not as many brunch-while-strolling-the-market options, though there are several.
This is in fact relevant to our recipe today and our goals of having this blog. While we were browsing through the produce at one stand, one of the proprietors was popping open these little tomatillos for people to taste. He told us these were “pineapple tomatillos” and would you believe it, they really do taste like a combination of a tangy, sweet pineapple and a sharply earthy green tomato. We bought a carton without a second thought. We’re certainly not tomatillo connoisseurs, but we’d never heard of these little guys. We also acquired some pretty purple beans, a few bell peppers and onions (which are also making their appearance in this salsa), and delicious plump blackberries that we finished before we even got to the car! Overall a successful trip 🙌🏼 Soooo… hopefully no one clicked on this link looking for a pineapple AND tomatillo salsa, because that’s not what we’re making tonight!
With a little research, we learned that tomatillos generally belong to two species of the same genus (Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa), but that there are dozens of varieties. Tomatillos are native to Mexico and Central America, but are generally cultivated all over the Americas today outside of the coldest reaches to the north and south. The largest natural and cultivated variety of tomatillos grow in Mexico. Our pineapple tomatillos are one of those many varietals! Another interesting tidbit: the modern Spanish word tomatillo is derived from the Native American/Aztec word for the same plant and ingredient, tomatl.
I know these pineapple tomatillos aren’t exactly an ingredient everyone has on hand or can run out to the store and pick up, but if you come across them anywhere, get some! This salsa was refreshing – light and fresh! Everyone who ate it remarked that it tasted like a tropical fruit salsa, even though it obviously doesn’t contain any mangoes or pineapples or the like!
Every time we visit my cousin and her husband, we always come home with more than when we arrived. They live in a more rural county, have a HUGE backyard garden, and freezers full of hunting spoils. We were there this past weekend to visit with them and their brand new baby 😍😍😍 We cooked dinner for the new parents, so we brought a fair amount of ingredients with us. But still, our bag was more full when we went home! They sent us home with a bounty of cucumbers and squash from the garden, three whole trout, and a package of venison sausage links from last hunting season! Even a cucumber lover like me can’t eat all those cucumbers before they go bad, so I made some pickles!
If you take a quick glance at this recipe, you’re probably thinking that it’s a pretty standard dill pickle recipe. Vinegar, water, sugar, dill, garlic… they’re standard fair for dill pickles. Why then do ours look dark and why did we call them “midnight” pickles? For that, we have to thank Selim’s devotion to turbinado sugar, which turns liquid darker when dissolved, as compared to refined white sugar.
As we’ve mentioned with previous recipes (see: Red Quick Pickled Cauliflower and Radishes), these are not shelf-safe “real” pickles. They should not be left in pantry or cellar for eternity. They must stay refrigerated. Hence they’re called “quick pickles” or “refrigerator pickles.” We skipped the step of sterilizing the jar and lid that keeps you from getting botulism when canned goods are left on a shelf for months on end.
This recipes follows a 2 part vinegar / 1 part water / 1 part sugar pickling ratio by which we usually abide. Using that ratio, pickles can be infinitely adjusted for more or less produce, different vinegars, alternate sugars, and a variety of herbs & spices!
Midnight Quick Pickles
5-6 small pickling cucumbers
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp dill
Slice the cucumbers and place in a large mason jar or similar.
Bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer in a saucepan. Stir and simmer until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
Remove from heat. Leave sitting out or refrigerate until cool.
Pour cool pickling liquid over the sliced cucumbers.
Refrigerate for several days. (They’re edible essentially immediately, but will have more flavor if you leave them be for 48+ hours.)
About a month ago, our friend/former co-worker Noel moved with her husband to Bahrain. Not exactly your average move to the other side of town, or across state lines. Noel has been blogging about their move and adventures halfway around the world, which is so fun to see! I was pretty jealous reading about their first Iftar in Bahrain and the gluttonous mounds of food they were offered, which prompted me to investigate the cuisine of Bahrain. From here I learned that the “national dish” of Bahrain is this one we’re sharing today, Chicken Machboos.
This is a simple chicken and rice dish, but with way more spices and flavor than the typical American comfort food version. It is not spicy, but deeply spiced. I tasted the rice both before and after the addition of the rosewater, and let me tell you… you don’t want to skip that step. Don’t fear the floral aroma! It doesn’t make your dish taste sweet or like you’re munching on a bouquet of flowers. It does bring out the flavor of all of the other spices in the dish though. Rosewater can be found at some regular grocery stores, but definitely at Middle Eastern markets. And since you’re definitely going to need to hit up a Middle Eastern market/grocer for the loomi, you now have two reasons to explore. I’ve been wanting to cook with loomi for awhile now. I love trying new ingredients! Loomi are dried limes. Sometimes they’re labelled as such, or as black limes, or even (incorrectly) as dried lemons. Loomi are used in many Middle Eastern recipes, especially those with Persian origins. To make them, fresh limes are boiled in salt water and then left out in the sun to dry. Definitely a unique taste for the average American palate! Give them a try and see what you think!
PS: Noel, what should we make next?? Send us more Bahraini/Arabic/Gulf/Middle Eastern recipes or ideas!
~3lbs mixed, bone-in chicken pieces (we used thighs & drumsticks)
2 onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, minced or grated
1 large jalapeno, de-seeded & minced
3 loomi/dried limes/black limes
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 cinnamon sticks
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 cups basmati rice
1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
2 tbsp rosewater
*We’ve made our own baharat mixture, following these proportions, as suggested by a Syrian chef when we made Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha). As with most spice blends, there are many variations of exact mixtures, especially regionally. Most baharat blends contain paprika; the one we follow does not, so we’ve added it to the recipe. You can also buy this blend, usually at a Middle Eastern market or similar place.
In a large dutch oven, heat the oil. Combine all of the spices in a small prep bowl to the side.
Pat all of the chicken pieces dry and season with roughly a third of the spice mixture. Fry the chicken, skin down, until brown and crispy. (You will likely have to do this in batches.) Remove pieces to the side.
Now add the onions to the hot oil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Follow the onions with the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno. Top this with the remaining spice mixture. Continue cooking for another 6-8 minutes.
Poke holes into the dried limes and add them, along with the tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, and chicken stock, to the pot.
Return the chicken to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. After reaching that boil, lower heat to a slow simmer and cover, cooking like this for 1 hour.
While the main dish is cooking, soak the rice in cool water. Drain when the main dish has reached that hour of cook time.
Add this point, remove the chicken to a lined cookie sheet, preheated to 325 degrees. This will bake just while while the rice is cooking.
Add the rice, cilantro, and parsley to the liquid in the dutch oven. Simmer until the rice is cooked and liquid absorbed, which should take less than 10 minutes. Remove from heat while the rice still appears wet.
Remove the cinnamon sticks and dried limes.
Sprinkle the rice with the rosewater. Adjust salt if needed.
Selim has been perfecting this dish for months now. And by perfecting, I mean tweaking it every single time he makes it, with each iteration a smidge more delicious than the last, even though the very first attempt was excellent! It all started one time when we had a left-over half bottle of wine and a ‘Manager’s Special’ of shrimp that needed to be eaten. From there, this has become one of our favorite dishes. He’s definitely figured out how to delicately poach the shrimp, while simultaneously achieving a beautiful flavor! Everyone loves shrimp, but let’s not lie here, the poaching liquid is what you want. There is no shame in drinking it. On that note – you want to use a halfway decent bottle of wine because the wine basically is your dish. I’m not saying spend $40, but take it a notch up from the Two-Buck Chuck.
This dish feels very elegant and complex, but it actually isn’t hard to make at all. As we’ve shared it, it is simply the shrimp and the poaching liquid, but you can take it a few different directions. Frequently, we just eat it in a bowl, allowing us to slurp up all of the delicious poaching liquid unencumbered. You can also serve it on top of pasta (or another starch, like rice), which we also do frequently (and as you see in our pictures from tonight), or with some bread to soak up the liquid.
White Wine Poached Shrimp
3 strips of bacon, sliced into lardons
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (750mL) bottle dry white wine
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup Asiago (or other hard) cheese, thinly grated
1 lb fresh raw shrimp
Peel and de-vein the shrimp if not already done for you.
Cook the bacon in a large pan over medium heat until the fat is released and bacon is crispy. Then remove the bacon to the side.
Add the onion to the bacon fat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook just another 1-2 minutes. Don’t brown.
Pour the bottle of wine into the pan. Add the red pepper flakes and salt. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, tasting to see that the alcohol has cooked off.
Slowly sprinkle in the cheese, stirring as you go.
Add the shrimp to the pan. Cover and cook, keeping the liquid at a slight simmer. Watch closely, removing from heat when the shrimp turn pink. This will only take 2-3 minutes!
Serve with the reserved bacon bits on top. You also might want to consider topping with a little more Asiago!
I think I’m an anomaly of my generation. I still love the lunchbox sandwiches of the 90s. Egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad? Yes please! (Side note, what makes these “salad?”) I think most of my peers either a) ate so many of these sandwiches in childhood that they refuse to even glance at them now or b) are trying to be more healthy in their lunch choices and therefore avoid mayonnaise-based sandwich stuffers. Either way, I pretty much never see people our age munching on a ‘salad’ sandwich in the breakroom anymore. I’m here to say that they’re missing out. I will say, I do make a few changes from whatever the lunch ladies used to offer. I don’t hate mayonnaise but I don’t want gobs of it smothering my chicken either. I just use enough to loosely bind the other ingredients to each other. I also like sneaking the shredded carrot into the mixture for some extra vegetable. Furthermore, I can make a batch of this fairly quickly and then have it ready for sandwiches for the rest of the week’s lunches! #mealprep 🙄
Curried Chicken Salad
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (~1.5 lb)
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp (5 tbsp) mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp paprika
10 turns fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 large carrot, grated
1 cup halved red grapes
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Submerge the chicken breasts and poach at a simmer for 12-15 minutes, until entirely opaque. (Safe chicken internal temp = 165)
In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, garlic, ginger, curry powder, paprika salt, & pepper.
Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, chop or shred it. Place in a mixing bowl.
Add the carrots and mayo mixture into the bowl with the chicken. Stir to combine.
Lastly, add the grapes and stir everything together.