Monday, March 27, 2017

BRINED SOUTHERN FRIED CHICKEN WITH COUNTRY GRAVY

My mother would make fried chicken every other Sunday. She served the fried chicken with mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese and collard greens. I believe this is the juiciest chicken with the crispiest coating. . .I think you will agree!



Brine
1 (3 lb) free-range fryer or broiler chicken or your favorite chicken pieces
2 cups cold water
½ cup kosher salt
¼ cup brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
1 T black peppercorns

Cut the backbone out of chicken, remove skin, and place in a baggie in your freezer for making stock.
Cut your chicken into 10 pieces (breasts cut in half).

The morning before you fry your chicken, pour the 2 cups cold water, salt, and sugar into a saucepan.
Bring mixture to a boil, turn off heat and stir in the bay leaves, thyme, and peppercorns.
Let cool then pour into a large bowl that will fit into your refrigerator or a clean cooler. 
Pour in 4 more cups cold water and stir to combine.
Add 2 cups ice cubes and then add the cut up chicken.
Place in your refrigerator for 6 hours. 

Dredge Ingredients

2 t garlic powder
2 t onion powder
2 t finely ground black pepper
2 t paprika
2 t dried thyme
1 t sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cornflour
¼ cup cornstarch

1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 egg
Peanut oil, for frying
                                 
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, pour off brine mixture and fill the bowl with cold water to rinse chicken.
Remove chicken from water and place on a baking sheet fitted with a rack. Pat dry with paper towels and let sit on the rack for 30 minutes to come to room temperature.

Meanwhile, mix dredge ingredients together in a bowl.

Pour buttermilk into another bowl and whisk in the egg.

Working with one piece of chicken at a time, lightly dredge chicken in flour mixture, then place in buttermilk mixture. 
Dredge again in flour mixture, pressing chicken down to cover with a thick coating.

Heat peanut oil in a deep fryer or in a cast-iron Dutch oven to 375 degrees F.
If you don't have a thermometer, put the end of a wooden spoon in the hot oil.
If the oil bubbles around the spoon, it should be hot enough.

Fry thighs and drumsticks for a total of 15 minutes. 
Fry breasts for 12 minutes.
Fry wings for 10 minutes.

Place cooked chicken on the clean cookie sheet fitted with a wire rack and keep warm in a 225 degree F oven while frying the rest of the chicken.

Country Gravy
1 T bacon fat
2 T bulk breakfast sausage
1 small onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
2 T flour
4 cups chicken stock
½ cup half-and-half or cream
1 t hot sauce
1 T strong coffee
Sea salt and finely ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, melt the bacon fat over medium heat and cook the sausage, onion, and celery for 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the chicken stock, half-and-half or cream, hot sauce, and coffee.
Simmer for 5 minutes to thicken.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.







Saturday, March 25, 2017

FARMERS' HASH

This is my favorite Sunday morning breakfast. You can make this hash with your choice of ham, corned beef, bacon, country sausage, or tofu. This recipe is made with a combination of Virginia ham and bacon. I buy organic free-range eggs from local farms. These hens have a diet of vegetables, grasses, and chicken feed. The yolks are a beautiful bright orange.


4 slices bacon, preferably applewood smoked, cut into pieces
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1 T avocado oil
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped into bite size pieces
1 cup cooked Virginia ham, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
½ medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place bacon in a large cast-iron skillet and cook over medium heat until crisp.
Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

Pour off most of the grease and discard.
Add the oil and potatoes, cover with a lid and cook over low heat for about 8 minutes.  
Remove lid and raise heat to medium and cook until golden brown and fork tender.
Add the diced bell pepper and onion and cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often.
Add the garlic and cook a couple more minutes.
Stir in the ham and bacon and heat through.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cover with a lid and keep warm while making scrambled eggs.

Perfect Scrambled Eggs
6 organic free-range eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T butter
2 T minced fresh chives

Crack eggs in a bowl and whisk vigorously with a fork.
Season to taste with salt and pepper (you can use white pepper if you prefer).  
Melt butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat just until the butter foams.
Pour in eggs and let sit for a couple of seconds and turn the heat down to low.
Using a wooden spatula or heat resistant rubber spatula keep pulling the eggs towards the center of the pan for about 4 to 5 minutes.
Turn off heat and keep moving the eggs to the center of the pan until desired doneness.
The eggs will keep cooking with the residual heat.

Divide hash between four warm plates or individual cast-iron pans and top with scrambled eggs and a sprinkling of minced chives.


Serves 4 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

VANILLA CAKE WITH DARK CHOCOLATE FROSTING

What could be more nostalgic than a vanilla cake with dark chocolate frosting? This classic cake has been served at birthday parties and after a wonderful Sunday dinner.



1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature

2 ¾ cups cake or pastry flour
2 t baking powder, aluminum free
½ t fine sea salt
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
2 t pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter two 9-inch round cake pans.
Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of each cake pan and butter the paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the sugar and butter until creamy and smooth.
Add the eggs, one at a time and continue to mix.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Turn mixer to medium speed and add the flour mixture alternating with the milk and vanilla. Mix to a smooth batter.

Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans.

Bake in center of oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
Cool cakes 10 minutes in the pans and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Dark Chocolate Frosting
12 oz bittersweet chocolate
3 T Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup heavy cream or whole milk
1 T pure vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners’ sugar

Place the chocolate, cocoa and butter in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water.
Stir with a spatula until completely melted.
Remove from simmering water and using a hand held mixer, mix in the cream or milk, vanilla, and sugar until completely smooth and spreadable.
Place bowl back on hot water and stir to soften for a couple of minutes.
Spread on cake while slightly warm.


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Saturday, March 11, 2017

BACON, LETTUCE, & FRIED GREEN TOMATO SANDWICHES

BLTs are a favorite lunch time meal. This is a Southern version of the classic sandwich, made with fried green tomatoes. Make your Roasted Garlic Aioli in the morning or the day before. You can use regular mayonnaise, if you prefer.




4 slices applewood smoked bacon
4 medium green tomatoes
½ cup corn flour 
¼ cup panko bread crumbs
Dash of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and finely ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten
2 T buttermilk or milk
1 t granulated sugar

Peanut oil or avocado oil, for frying
Toasted multi-grain bread
Lettuce
Roasted Garlic Aioli (recipe follows)

Fry bacon in a cast-iron skillet, until crisp on both sides.
Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate.
Pour out all but about 1 teaspoon of the bacon grease.

Cut each tomato into about ½-inch slices, discarding ends
In a shallow bowl, combine the corn meal, panko, and cayenne pepper.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In another shallow bowl, combine egg, buttermilk, and sugar.

Dip the tomatoes in the egg mixture and then dredge them in the corn flour mixture, coating both sides well.

Add the peanut or avocado oil to the skillet and heat to medium-high temperature.
Fry the tomatoes until brown and crispy on both sides, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side.
Place on a paper towel-lined plate.

Spread some Roasted Garlic Aioli on each slice of toasted bread.
Add some lettuce, two slices of fried green tomatoes.
Add two slices bacon, some more lettuce, and top with another slice of toasted bread.
Cut in half and serve.

Roasted Garlic-Lemon Aioli
1 large whole head garlic
1 t avocado or extra-light olive oil
1 cup mayonnaise
Finely grated zest of ½ lemon

¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ t Dijon mustard
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
2 t extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and fine ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut off the top (not root end) of the garlic head and place in a small ramekin (oven-proof custard cup). 
Drizzle with oil and cover with aluminum foil.
Bake in oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until garlic is soft.
Remove from oven and remove foil. 
Let cool until cool enough to handle.
Squeeze out the garlic from each clove into the bowl of a food processor.
Add the mayonnaise, lemon zest, lemon juice, Dijon, cayenne, and extra-virgin olive oil.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Process until smooth.
Spoon into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.
The rest will keep in a small clean mason jar for about one week.
Makes 2 Sandwiches
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