Southern Fried Chicken

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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!

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Southern Fried Chicken

(Adapted from Paula Deen/The Food Network)
Ingredients:
  • ~2 lb bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces
  • Brine
    • 1 gallon water
    • 1 cup salt
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • Dredging
    • 3 eggs
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 2/3 cup hot sauce (we like Frank’s Red Hot)
    • 2 cups self-rising flour (or 2 cups AP flour + 1 tbsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt)
    • 1 tbsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 15+ turns fresh ground black pepper
  • Oil, for frying (we used peanut oil)
Instructions:
  1. Bring the ingredients for the brine to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Then remove from heat and let cool – all the way!
  2. Once the brining liquid is cool, submerge the chicken pieces and refrigerate for 12-24 hours. (We did a full 24h).
  3. Once ready to cook, remove chicken from brining liquid and pat dry. Let sit out until room temperature.
  4. Meanwhile, make two dishes of wet and dry dredging ingredients. Whisk together eggs, water, and hot sauce. In another bowl, sift together the flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  5. Pour oil into the pot you’ll use for frying. Don’t fill the pot more than 1/2 full of oil, but add enough to cover the chicken pieces. Heat to 350 degrees.
  6. Dredge the individual chicken pieces first in the wet bowl, then in the dry bowl. Repeat, dipping again in the wet, then dry bowls.
  7. Fry in batches until brown and crispy. [Paula says it should take 8-10 minutes for white meat and 13-14 minutes for dark meat.] Don’t crowd the pot!
Feeds 3-5
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Chunky Pineapple Tomatillo Salsa

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!

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Little pineapple tomatillos!

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!


Chunky Pineapple Tomatillo Salsa

Ingredients:
  • ~2 cups pineapple tomatillos (~1 cup, husks removed)
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 scant cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions:
  1. Husk the tomatillos and roughly chop. (These are pretty small, so we essentially quartered them.)
  2. Place in a medium-sized bowl and sprinkle with a shake or two of salt.
  3. Stir the onion, pepper, cilantro, vinegar, lime zest, and 4 turns fresh ground black pepper in with the tomatillos.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and until ready to serve.
Yields ~2 cups of salsa

Midnight Quick Pickles

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!

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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

Ingredients:
  • 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
Instructions:
  1. Slice the cucumbers and place in a large mason jar or similar.
  2. Bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer in a saucepan. Stir and simmer until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat. Leave sitting out or refrigerate until cool.
  4. Pour cool pickling liquid over the sliced cucumbers.
  5. Refrigerate for several days. (They’re edible essentially immediately, but will have more flavor if you leave them be for 48+ hours.)

Strawberry Ricotta Toast

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You know how avocado toast suddenly became a thing? Kudos to whoever first thought, “Hmm… let me smash some avocado on a piece of bread, top it was something Instagrammable, and see if people will pay 10 times more than the ingredients are worth for it…” #avocadotoast And Instagram has never been the same.

Well I’m here to tell you that ricotta toast is the next avocado toast. Dare I say it… It may be bigger than avocado toast. Unlike the avocado, ricotta can pair with sweet or savory ingredients. I really can’t think of anything that wouldn’t work with ricotta. And that white background will provide quite the Instagrammable contrast for the toppings. We have a ways to go until my theory is proven – #avocadotoast has been used more than 760,000 times on Instagram, while #ricottatoast is hovering just under 3,000. I always favor the underdog 💪🏼💪🏼

I’ve seen ricotta toast on a few restaurant menus (and a few Instagram shots) and thought it’d be perfect for my breakfast. I have leftover ricotta from our Prosciutto & Basil Topped Lemon Ricotta Pappardelle dish the other night. Leftover basil makes an appearance on this one too. Best part about this breakfast was that every ingredient already resided in my kitchen. All of these proportions and ingredients could easily be adjusted to personal tastes as well.

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Strawberry Ricotta Toast

Ingredients:
  • Slice of bread
  • 2 tbsp ricotta cheese
  • A few strawberries, sliced
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (preferably a thicker, more syrupy type)
  • Fresh basil, torn
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Instructions:
  1. Toast your bread.
  2. Smear the toast with ricotta.
  3. Top with strawberries, basil, a few turns of fresh ground black pepper, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
  4. Instagram your creation.

Charred Corn Flatbread

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If you’ve been watching the news recently, you know all about Hurricane Irma. I swear, that’s all we’ve been talking about for the past week or so. We live in South Carolina, which flipped in and out of the hurricane strike zone, through a week of changing predictions. Luckily for us, the worst of missed us here. Sadly, the pictures from the Caribbean, Florida, and the southeastern coast of Georgia and the Carolinas show that those areas weren’t so lucky. Hopefully, the worst was mitigated by the week plus of warning and preparation.

In our house, we were mostly worried about losing power and/or water. I filled water bottles and sinks with water, set out candles and flashlights, and most relevantly to this post – begin working on eating perishable things out of our fridge. Glancing around the kitchen while waiting for Irma’s arrival, I saw 2 aging ears of corn, a drawer full of cheese, and 2 pieces of naan. And voila, the charred corn flatbread was born. It’s a great dish, probably even more suited for a sunny summer evening than the clouds and wind of a hurricane! 🌪️ It’s very corn-centric, but think of it as a new alternative to your average side of corn.

Charred Corn Flatbread

Ingredients: 
  • 2 ears of corn
  • 3 tbsp smoked olive oil, divided (or regular olive oil if you don’t have smoked)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 pieces of pre-made naan or other flatbread (we prefer Trader Joe’s naan)
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 oz brie
  • Several leaves fresh basil
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
Instructions:
  1. Peel the ears of corn and rub with 1 tbsp the smoked olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper on all sides.
  2. Set oven to broil. Place ears of corn under the broiler, rotating every 2-3 minutes, until all sides are charred. [Alternatively, grill in a grill pan or on an actual grill.]
  3. Once charred, set corn aside until cool enough to handle and lower oven heat to 350 degrees.
  4. Stir the minced garlic into the remaining 2 tbsp smoked olive oil. Brush over the two pieces of naan.
  5. Top, evenly divided between two flatbreads, with chunks of brie, followed by corn, sliced off the ears. Sprinkle a pinch of crushed red pepper over each flatbread.
  6. Place in the oven for 15 minutes.
  7. After removing from the oven, top with torn fresh basil.
Makes 2 flatbreads

Strawberry Streusel Bars

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As we’ve mentioned before (see Mint Chocolate Bars), we like to bring a treats in for the staff when we finish a rotation. It’s the least we can do for the people who spend their time and effort training us! We’re not the only one’s who do this – but we do try to have the best treats! This means a little bit of variety from the standard brownies and chocolate chip cookies. It also mean a little bit of thinking, because I’m like everyone else – when I think of easy treats that everyone loves, my mind also immediately jumps to brownies and chocolate chip cookies! I’ve never made anything remotely like this before. (See previous comments about being intimidated by baking.) I found them to be fresh and summer-y. I think they’d be a great addition to a summer-time picnic or BBQ.

And they were a hit at the hospital today. I got rave reviews from everyone who tried them – hopefully they weren’t just being nice 😉😉 Side note – I ate mine chilled as they were after being cut, but I was informed by a few people that they warmed theirs back up before eating and highly recommended it!

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Strawberry Streusel Bars

(Adapted from this recipe here)
Ingredients: 
  • Base layer
    • 8 tbsp butter, softened
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 cup flour
    • 2 tsp cornstarch
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Strawberry layer
    • 2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • Streusel layer
    • 4 tbsp cold butter, chopped into small cubes
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • Pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

  2. Line an 8×8 inch square baking pan with aluminium foil or parchment paper. Spray lightly with a cooking spray.

  3. First make the base layer: Using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until well combined in a large bowl.

  4. Now slowly add the flour, cornstarch, vanilla, and salt until combined. (It may look a little crumbly, but it’ll be fine!)

  5. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan using your hands.

  6. Bake for 15 minutes.

  7. While the bottom layer is baking, make other two layers.

  8. For the strawberry layer: Stir together all ingredients for this layer and set aside.

  9. For the streusel topping: Using the hand-held mixer, mix all of these ingredients together. The mixture will be uneven.

  10. Once the bottom layer is done, remove the pan from the oven and turn up the oven to 350 degrees. Let it sit for just a few minutes before topping.

  11. Using a large spoon, layer the strawberry layer evenly over the base.

  12. Top with the streusel layer. This should look a bit messy/uneven.

  13. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

  14. Refrigerate until all the way cooled prior to slicing and serving.

Southwest Summer Corn Chowder

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I love so much of the produce in the summer… Berries, stone fruit, fresh veggies… But the summer corn might just be my favorite! The corn I saw this week was huge and beautiful! I tried to take it home by the armful, but restrained myself and only took home 8 ears. Mind you, there’s only two of us, so that’s a fair amount of corn for the week. But it allows us to create delicious corn chowder! Now, I know our last recipe also had “southwest” in the title, but y’all are just going to have to deal with that theme for the week.

This chowder recipe really highlights the delicious summer corn. If you’re wary of spice, and are looking skeptically at the jalapeno and poblanos in this recipe, don’t worry! They just serve to add a nice smoky depth of flavor to the dish. This isn’t a spicy dish. When you eat it, all you’ll be noticing is the sweet corn!

(Also. Please don’t judge the recipe on its unappealing photo. I know it’s not very pretty. If we’re being honest, when it was almost done simmering, I got all pout-y and grouchy, because I thought it was ugly. Selim had to remind me that taste > image – and he’s right. The chowder tastes good, and still tastes good even though it’s not pretty. Hopefully you agree!)

Southwest Summer Corn Chowder

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:
  • 1 tsp + 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 large poblano pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeno, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans (16oz) white beans
  • 4 ears of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt & pepper
  • Optional toppings: lime, cheese, sour cream, cilantro, jalapenos, crushed tortilla chips, etc
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Slice poblano peppers in half and scrape out the seeds. Rub the outside with 1 tsp of oil.
  3. Roast peppers for 20 minutes and then remove to the side to cool.
  4. In a large pot, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat.
  5. Once hot, add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Top with a few shakes of salt and pepper.
  6. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened – about 5 minutes.
  7. Once cooled enough to handle, coarsely chop poblano peppers. (A lot of people prefer to remove & discard the skins at this stage too – we don’t, but feel free to do so!)
  8. Add peppers, white beans, corn, spices, and stock to the pot. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat to a light simmer.
  9. Simmer over this low heat for at least an hour.
  10. Remove 2 cups of soup to a food processor. Combine with the cup of milk. Blend until smooth.
  11. Return this mixture to the pot. Stir to combine. [You can do more or less depending upon how thick you’d prefer your chowder.]
  12. Simmer another few minutes, and then serve. I’ve been eating it without any toppings, but surely a little cheese or something can only improve things.
Makes 8 servings