Sunday, April 28, 2013

Easy Buttermilk Fried Chicken


In my last post, I shared how I, successfully,  replicated Bacon & Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits with a Maple-Chipotle Butter. This time, I'm going to share how I made my first crispy Southern Fried Chicken, that I served with the biscuits. 

It might surprise many of you that I've never made Southern-Style Fried Chicken.  Truthfully, I don't make a lot of fried foods. When I was about nine years old, the first dinner my mother taught me to cook was fried chicken.  She taught me how to season the chicken with salt & pepper, sprinkle some flour and cook the chicken in some oil. Easy Peasy.  I don't think I've made that dish since elementary school, which goes to show that it didn't leave any kind of nostalgic childhood memory for me.

The same restaurant that inspired me to make their signature biscuits, serves a Fried Chicken dinner, every Sunday.  From what I've read, reservations sell out fast--at the cost of $36.00 per person.  After reading reviews, most people said it was the best fried chicken "ever".  Ever is a word I take very lightly.   Compared to...?

Anyway, when I calculated what our dinner tab would be, after adding a salad, side dishes (not included), and beverages/cocktails, I figured the tab would be about $100.00 for the two of us. For fried chicken?! Ouch.

My husband smacked his lips, at the mention of Fried Chicken.    Before I knew it, I blurted out "I can make it for you"!  His smile made me realize that I had just challenged myself to something new to me.

For inspiration, I checked out Cook's Illustrated and immediately settled on their "Easier Fried Chicken" recipe. For starters, their recipes uses 1-3/4 cups vegetable oil, as opposed to five cups of oil. This is a good thing, as I don't often deep fry things in oil.   I also liked the idea of brining the chicken in salted buttermilk. (The buttermilk helps to tenderize the outside layer of chicken, and the salt ensures juicy chicken.) Win!  It goes without saying that I spend a few extra bucks to buy free-range hormone-free chicken that hasn't been brined in who-knows-what. 

The buttermilk brine is seasoned with garlic powder, hot sauce, paprika, cayenne and pepper. I did this early in the morning, but can also be done overnight.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bacon & Cheddar Biscuits with Maple Chipotle Butter

About every other month, my husband and I make a point of dining at a more expensive "upscale" restaurant that is new to us. I usuallly check reviews on both Yelp and Trip Advisor to get a feel for what people rave about.  I made reservations and we got dressed up for Date Night on the town.
The restaurant's signature Bacon and Cheddar Biscuits with Maple Chipotle Butter received a lot of rave reviews. So we split an order at the price of  $6.00 for two biscuits.  Biscuits don't typically rock my world, but I have to say-- these biscuits were served piping hot, and they were tender.  The Maple Chipotle butter was the crowning glory. Wow! I thought to myself, "I really want to see if I can replicate these, at home."

I think that I've had a lackluster love for biscuits, because I was raised with canned biscuits.  Bleccch. The only other  biscuit recipe I've made, from scratch,  are Cathead Biscuits, which have become one of my most popular blog recipes. My men love them, and I think they're okay.  I got to thinking that I might adapt that recipe. Then again, I thought, I'd see what kind of recipes my trusty King Arthur Flour website would have for biscuits.  I have a bag of their new unbleached self-rising flour (and I love it) and there it was-- Easy Self-Rising Biscuits.  I was ready for the challenge!


First, I wanted to replicate the butter. Pure Maple Syrup is a staple at home. Yes, I do keep Chipotle Chili Powder on hand. It was 1-2-3 easy to do. One stick of butter, softened. I settled on 4 Tablespoons of maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon of Chipotle Chili Powder.

I rolled half of the butter in plastic wrap and into a log, and stuck it in the freezer for another use. The other half was kept soft for the biscuits.

I keep strips of bacon in the freezer, so I can easily cut it into lardon (strips).  I used about 6 strips of bacon, cooked till almost crispy and then drained on a paper towel.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mexican Chocolate Flan

Caramel is a sweet treat that makes me swoon. Seriously. All I have to see is a photo of caramel drizzled over pie, cake or ice cream and I find myself fantasizing about that buttery, creamy confection.  I'll take caramel over chocolate any day. Guaranteed.

When you pair a creamy bite of custardy "flan" with a caramel sauce-- I'm smitten. No matter how full I think I am, I can always find room for flan.  It's a surprisingly light dessert, and I think it's make a beautiful presentation.  It's really not difficult to make. 

"Cinco de Mayo" is less than a month away, and this would be a great dessert for a Mexican theme.   I buy the Ibarra brand of Mexican chocolate, which is laced with cinnamon and coarse sugar. It's really easy to find, at most grocery stores.  I thought that I'd add this chocolate to a traditional vanilla-based flan recipe-- and a little added Kahlua would make this flan taste a little extra special.

I feared making caramel for a very long time. I was afraid of burning the sugar.  I finally overcame that fear when  I made a Grand Marnier Caramel Sauce for a Panna Cota  (similar to a flan, but no eggs). To make a caramel flan sauce, you need a pan, sugar and water.  The key to success is to pay attention, don't stir the sugar and water (rather, swirl it) and watch for that amber color to happen.  I show another tutorial for a Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream recipe (one of my all time faves) here.

Once the sugar water has caramelized, pour it into ramekins (or oven-proof dishes).

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Homemade Jewelry Cleaner

My husband (ahem) got a bargain when he married me. Yes, yes, he already knows he married someone who keeps him well fed and he does show his appreciation. The bargain he got, with me, is that I'm not really obsessed wth needing a lot of bling jewelry. I love my wedding ring, and that's really all I wear on my hands. Around my neck, I have a cross necklace that I haven't removed in years.  (Every so often, I'll slip on my pearl necklace that my mother gave me a long time ago.) I wear earrings, but that's really about it-- and earrings are about the only jewelry that I'll buy.

That's why Craig raised his eyebrows, more in surprise, when I bought this sterling silver bracelet with semi-precious stones, at a local crafts fair.   I loved all the different colored stones, and how they would match a lot of my work outfits. Score!

A few months later, it became really tarnished and I didn't want to wear it like that. How in the world was I going to get it clean?

I was organizing my cookbooks, and a sheet of paper fell out of one. It was a recipe I had printed for homemade jewelry cleaner, and had forgotten about.  Perfect timing! All I needed was a bowl, foil, salt, baking soda and dish detergent. Why not? I decided to give it a try.

 It worked!

I inherited a few nice pieces of jewelry from my mother, and they are cherished treasures, like this coin necklace.

I have no idea where my mother got it, but it hangs on a very long silver chain. It looks great with turtle neck sweaters, but it began to turn very black with tarnish. Hmmmm, would this cleaner work on this, too?

Not bad!  Not perfect, but it looks a whole lot better than it did before.  I kind of like that there is still some tarnish-- kind of adds to the antique effect, yes?

I thought this was a cool idea, and I wanted to share it with all of you.  Do you have some jewelry that's looking a bit dull and tarnished?  Give it a try!

DISCLAIMER: I can't promise you that this is fool-proof.  I would hesitate to use this on gold or silver plate... one reviewer said it ruined the patina on her jewelry. I'll stick with using this on gold or silver only.  There were lots of reviewers who said they loved it, so it's worth trying.  Best of all, it's non-toxic and you can make it at home. There ya go!

A printable recipe card is at the end of this post, or you can view it on the original recipe site here.


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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Honey Roasted Ribs

My men are true Cave Men when it comes to ribs. My husband, has become quite the Grillmaster of making slow-cooked ribs on our Weber. Moi? I'm more of a Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip person. We are looking forward to having warmer weather, after Spring, when  the infamous Salinas Valley winds should be dying down. Trying to grill, during the spring months, can be frustrating because the wind tends to blow out the fire. 
 In order to reduce paper clutter, I'm going green with Digital Magazines and Cook Books. When I received the digital version of Cook's Country Feb/Mar 2013 magazine, I took one look at their beautiful photo of these Honey Roasted Ribs and I fell in-love.  I'm not a big fan of cooking ribs in water, before grilling them-- to me, they just taste boiled.  Cook's Country has a different approach.  The ribs are roasted on a rack, above a baking sheet that is filled with water.  Covering the ribs with foil would, essentially, steam them.  Okay, I'm game. It's that sticky honey glaze, though, that I honed in with total food lust.   I love honey!

The marinade uses one cup of honey, scallions, soy sauce, mustard and a few other aromatics. 

The pork is cut into three-rib sections, then marinated in a zip-lock bag for at least an hour. I marinated mine for the recommended 24 hours.  The next day...

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Friday, April 5, 2013

French-Style Pot-Roasted Pork Loin (Enchaud Perigordine)

Just in time for Super Bowl, we  finally upgraded our television to be a Flat-Screen HDTV.

Good times.  At the same time, I allowed our local cable company to talk me into their new DVR with all kinds of promised new features.  What they didn't tell me (and I didn't think about it) is that my old DVR box had precious saved recorded TV shows.

I realized this when the cable guy was long gone, and I couldn't find my recorded shows.  I'll skip past the melodramatics that ensued...the frantics calls to get my cable box back.  Not gonna happen.
That meant, I had to set up all of my shows, that I don't want to miss, all over again.  (Downton Abbey, come back soon, please.)

I found the America's Test Kitchen show in HD, and I set up to record the series.  I gotta tell you-- I can fully appreciate how much better food looks in High-Def.  This could be dangerous.  Had I seen this recipe in a cookbook, I might have flipped right past the pages.

Rather, as I watched how easy it was to butterfly a pork loin, then rub it with sugar and thinly sliced garlic that is cooked in butter-- I was not hitting the DVR fast forward. I was hooked.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie or Crisp-- Have It Your Way!

I need to come clean with you. I'm a hoarder. I won't be featured on the A&E channel as one of those folks whose home is filled with stuff. That's definitely not my problem. I hoard recipes.

 I'm not just talking about the recipes I hoard on Pinterest. I'm talking about my own recipes.

My camera pretty much lives on my kitchen counter.  It's become so natural for me to photograph just about anything that I cook or bake.  If I don't, my husband will ask me "aren't you going to photograph it"? 
I'm pretty  good at uploading the photographs right away, then clearing out the memory card. I even create a document file, and label the photographs.  I sound so organized, right?

Then things happen.  Chores. Watching a recorded show. Surfing the internet. Fatigue.
That's when I tell myself that I'll write up the recipe post tomorrow. Then it becomes a promise to work on it that weekend.  The next thing I know, I've made several more recipes, and then I forget about the one I made last week.

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