Archive | December, 2010

All you need to make amazing fried chicken

11 Dec

I usually cook fried chicken at least twice a year. For the past three or four years, I invite friends over and slave over a Dutch oven full of boiling oil for a solid hour just to serve from 6 to 20 of my dearest friends some crispy, delicious, and decidedly unhealthy chicken. I love it. Over the years, I’ve picked up some tips.

Cut the chicken into parts

Whole chickens, even free-range ones, run about $1.99-$2.50/lb. Chicken parts are much more expensive. Buy a whole chicken and either get the butcher counter to cut it up (even at supermarkets, they’ll do it for free) or cut it up yourself. Then save the extra bits in a freezer bag in your freezer to make chicken stock. It’s so worth it, trust me.

A few tips:

  • Wear an apron, and under that, wear a T-shirt that you won’t mind immediately tossing into the laundry. It’s not that messy, but it’s not un-messy.
  • Use a sharp knife. This helps immensely.

I have done extensive research on instructional videos on cutting a whole chicken into parts, and Gourmet has by the best. Ian Knauer walks you through every step and offers lots of really helpful tips to do it well and to get the most meat onto each piece. It really is (almost) this easy — as long as your knife is sharp.

How to prep and fry the chicken

The best recipe out there, by far, is Cooks Illustrated’s The Ultimate Crispy Fried Chicken (subscription required). It involves a buttermilk brine and air drying (skimp on the air drying if you need to skimp on anything).

The worst recipe I’ve tried is Williams-Sonoma’s Ad Hoc Fried Chicken kit. It tasted fine, but there are so many unnecessary steps. And honestly, the ingredients are all kitchen staples. It takes about five minutes more to do it yourself (which adds up to about a savings of 1 hour 55 minutes because you really can cut out those extra steps).

For a faster recipe, I recommend Loretta Lynn’s–it’s very, very tasty and good for a Sunday dinner that you don’t want to spend all day working on. And of course, you must use Crisco.

Equipment needed for frying chicken

1. Dutch oven. If cooking for a big crowd, it can help to have two Dutch ovens going at one time. Cooks Illustrated recommends the Le Creuset French oven, which you can get for much cheaper than retail at a Le Creuset outlet store.

2. Deep frying thermometer. The most important thing is to keep the oil hot. Use a candy/deep frying thermometer to check the temperature of the oil. Wait til it gets up to 375 degrees before you put the chicken back in.

3. Tongs. You’re going to be pulling the chicken parts out of boiling oil. Get a good pair of tongs and wear oven mitts.

Note: I’m making fried chicken again today, so I’ll update the post with more tips as they come to me.

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The Zenzerro: ginger, bourbon, and mint cocktail

5 Dec

A few months ago, I had the fabulous opportunity to interview Southern food writer John T. Edge over drinks at the Bar Americano at the Hotel Vitale in San Francisco. Although the bartender initially steered me to the girly drinks, while I pondered the selection, Edge asked, “Will the Zenzerro be acidic enough for my liking?” (Southern food writers talk like that.) Bourbon, mint, ginger ale, and gingercello (gingercello?) — what wasn’t there to like? (Note: Sadly, they’ve since replaced the Zenzerro with the Ginger Bullet — Bulleit bourbon, ginger ale, gingercello, and bitters.)

We both ordered the Zenzerro. It was delicious. Just sweet enough, very spicy, and the mint helped smooth everything over.

I set about trying to recreate the gingercello first. I asked my moonshiner friend if he had any recommended ratios of flavoring to alcohol. He didn’t, but he did warn that I should keep tasting the gingercello every week or so. “A friend tried to make ginger moonshine,” he told me. “He let the ginger infuse so long, it was undrinkable.”

Duly noted. I grated about an inch of fresh ginger root, let it sit in a bottle with vodka for a few weeks, and tried it a few weeks later. It was — meh. I tried the drink, and it was good, but not the subtle blend that I remembered. The proportions still had to be figured out, but overall, it just wasn’t gingery enough.

I signed myself up for a DIY Mixology class on infused alcohol at Workshop. As we poured the ingredients together for limoncello, I figured out the missing element: sugar. Sure enough, after I added some to my gingercello, the ginger flavor was much stronger. Then I found this recipe for gingercello, which actually included proportions. I’ll try that next.

So then, to try the actual recipe. On the first attempt, I used Canada Dry ginger ale, which is nice and bubbly but does not have the proper ginger potency. On the second attempt, I tried Reed’s Premium Ginger Brew, which had the right flavor but not enough bubbles. Still, it allowed me to find the right proportions, with a tiny bit of tweaking. Here’s my recipe:

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1.5 oz. gingercello
  • 10 mint leaves
  • ginger ale (roughly 6 oz. per glass)*
  • ice

Pour the bourbon into an old-fashioned glass. Determinedly muddle the mint with the bourbon, then add the gingercello. Stir. Add ice, then fill to the top with the ginger ale. Stir again if you want. Clink glasses with a dear friend and enjoy.

* Don’t skimp. American mass-market ginger ale is simply too wimpy for this drink (British or Australian Schweppes might work, though). The ideal ginger ale here has a strong, spicy, natural ginger flavor. It should be carbonated enough that the bubbles move through the drink but not so much that the bubbles tickle your nose as you sip. This is a manly drink. Manly drinks don’t tickle.

What I want in a job

5 Dec

I just found a list I created after I was laid off from my last job. I wrote down all the things that were important to me, job-wise.

  • flexible schedule
  • WFH
  • vacation time
  • team environment
  • creative and progressive
  • drama-free (or at least drama-light)
  • smart coworkers

I found every single one in my new job! (Which, by the way, I just accepted as a permanent staffer.) Yay for me!