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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Beer-Battered Adobo-Fried Chicken

This is easier than you think. Trust me.
I chose a Filipino/Pinoy twist on this flavor profile because - and I cannot stress this enough - I wanted to. You're going to eat this so you make sure that it's something you want to eat. I love the sour-salty-kinda-sweet of adobo, so I thought it'd go perfect for the fatty fried chicken. You always need a little sourness to cut the richness to make a complete dish.

Sidebar: Filipino cuisine is highly individualistic, so when I tell you that there is no real recipe for Chicken Adobo, even though it is considered to be one of the most popular dishes in the Philippines, please know that nobody can agree exactly how to make it. The only thing everyone agrees must be there is vinegar, and that the dish must be stewed in the vinegar. Almost every incarnation I've seen of it has garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaves, but that's about it for similarities. Filipinos, like Americans, have a great deal of difficulty agreeing on a lot of things.

When I say Adobo-style, I mean the chicken is marinated in mostly the same flavors that I personally use for my adobo, and then will be deep-fried for chicken. I absolutely adore the adobo flavor profile, and I hope that you will, too! It reminds me of my mom and how she would cook but gives me the wonderful crunch of fried chicken that I also love. I have, however, changed up a few things to make it work for this recipe!

Adobo-style Fried Chicken
  • 1 lb chicken thighs
  • 1/4 c white vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 5 cloves smashed garlic
  • 1 Tbsp each white and Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
  • Two fat pinches of kosher salt
  • 1/2 c water
  • Thyme, dill, and oregano from the garden, all chopped up fine
    • I wouldn't normally put this in adobo; I just have a huge surplus and I really need to start using it up. Plus, I'm growing it - I may as well use it!
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass
  • 1 whole lemon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Chili powder
  • A bottle of beer
  • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c semolina or cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Enough oil for deep-frying
This is a recipe that must be started the day before you do your chicken. Smash the garlic with the salt in a mortar and pestle, along with the peppercorns. Scoop all of this delicious goodness into a bowl and mix with the vinegar, honey, and water. Add your thighs and let sit in the fridge, covered, overnight. In the morning, you'll drain the chicken and pat them dry. Next, you're going to steam your chicken!

A good rice cooker will get you far in life! It's NOT a uni-tasker!
When steaming the chicken, you can use a pot of water and a steamer basket or a rice cooker with a steaming feature. No matter what you use, make sure you add in the lemon, sliced, as well as the bay leaves to the water. Always add flavor when you have the opportunity to do so! You'll want to steam these for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your pieces and if they are bone-in or not. I love bone-in chicken, but it can be sometimes hard for the novice cook to ensure things get fully cooked-through when you're dealing with bones. Steaming the chicken first will also give you some of the crispiest skin you'll ever hope to achieve!

Make sure you set your timer accordingly! These are boneless skinless thighs, so I'll only need 20-25 minutes. 

When your chicken is done steaming, transfer to a sheet pan or plate and let them cool in the fridge until you're ready to deep fry. If you like spice, sprinkle some chili powder or chili flakes right on top to let them sit until you're ready to fry! Let me also note that you can, if you like, sous vide the chicken if you have that piece of machinery at your disposal. I prefer steaming because I think it gives the chicken skin a better texture than the sous vide method does. Not only, but most folks can steam something more easily than they can get their hands on a sous vide machine! Please know that there are a lot of safety rules when it comes to using hot fat. Grease fires are a threat, but you should know that if you take the proper precautions.

Precautions to Consider
  1. You must not overfill your pot with fat. Remember that your oil will rise in size, so I usually fill my pot about halfway full from the top since I don't have a deep-fryer at home.
  2. Monitor your temperature with a thermometer. Invest in a candy thermometer! I love the glass kind that hooks on to the side of your pot that you can easily wash. 
  3. Oil + Water = BAD. Liquid from the batter or oil is okay in small doses, but please don't dump any liquid directly into your hot fryer.
  4. Don't overfill your hot oil with your food! When you introduce a new item into your hot fat, you'll lower the temperature. When you lower the temperature, you'll risk oil seeping in and making your stuff really greasy and gross. Be patient and fry in batches!
  5. Keep your chicken warm in the oven by holding it at 200 degrees F, since you'll likely only be frying a couple of pieces at a time.
  6. In case of fire turn off the heat immediately and cover your pot with a lid. Do not attempt to throw water on your fire. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby if you're really nervous. 
Keep all these things in mind and you are ready to deep-fry, safely, and with confidence! Are you excited? You should be. Once you get a proper handle on deep-frying, you open yourself up to the possibility of things like churros or doughnuts! 

We are making a battered chicken today, but I usually do a three-station dredge when making fried chicken at home. Don't ask me why I felt like doing a beer batter tonight; I just did. To make a proper deep-fry, you have to make a proper frying prep station. They'll usually consist of your classic:
  1. Flour
    1. Dredge your chicken in flour!
  2. Egg wash
    1. Mix some eggs with a little water, and dip your floured chicken in there to 
  3. Flour/breadcrumb/spice mix/whatever-you-have
    1. Give your stuff a final delicious roll in all of this goodness and set aside on another plate!

There are a lot of ways to do this last station of your chicken coating, and all of them can be highly preferential. Some like bread crumbs, some like batter, and some like just plain flour. All of these methods are absolutely correct, in my humble opinion, because there's no real way to do fried chicken that isn't totally delicious! Usually, if I'm feeling a little lazy, I'll simply take my flour into a paper sack along with my spices and shake my chicken pieces around inside and then set them on a sheet tray, spread out, so it can come up to room temperature. The trick: let your flour "sit" on your chicken for about 30 minutes to get a crispy skin!

Sidenote: I think it's only fair to note that I personally don't often like to do a lot of batters at home. I do love a tempura batter because it's light and airy, but the main reason I don't like doing a batter is that it can get messy, fast! That being said, it takes up far less space and dirties fewer dishes. If you have a smaller kitchen as I do, I think you'll appreciate that. When deciding which one you want to do for your own fried chicken, know that the main difference is that if you do a breading station, you'll let your chicken sit on a plate or a sheet pan until it's ready to deep fry. If you do a battering station, you'll need to take your items straight from the batter into the fryer.

No matter which way you like to do it, know that your chicken is already cooked, so you'll only need to worry about frying that delicious stuff until it's totally golden-brown and delicious! If you're curious as to which kind of oil might be best for you to deep-fry your items in, Taste of Home did a comprehensive list here. I keep canola oil in my house for everyday use, so that's what I use. 

When Ready to Cook, combine your flour, semolina, baking powder, and beer in a medium mixing bowl and whisk until just combined. Let sit for about 10-15 minutes while you prepare your oil. You're going to want to deep-fry this around 350-375 degrees F, so set up your pot with enough oil to have the pieces fully submerged. Turn your oven on to 200 degrees and set up a sheet pan on the middle rack with a cooling/draining rack so your cooked food won't be sitting in a puddle of its own fat. Make sure you have a spider or a pair of tongs handy.

Give these puppies a quick dusting of cornstarch before dipping in your batter to make sure it sticks!
To prepare your chicken for the batter, simply toss your chicken pieces in cornstarch before dipping! Why? It'll help it stick, of course! I usually use beer for my battering, if I do it at home, but you can use a mixture of soda water and vodka, too! I love to use alcohol in my batters because they evaporate more quickly and at a lower temperature, and that you won't get as much gluten in your batter as a result!

It should all float!

Dip your chicken in the batter and make sure it's coated thoroughly. Give the piece a little shake to make sure that you don't have excess batter and gently lay your chicken in the hot fat, carefully. Let it simmer in that hot fat, monitoring the temperature. If the oil's temperature doesn't go down significantly in that first dredge, you can add another piece...but only if you have room to let both pieces float freely. I do two pieces at a time and monitor my temperature carefully to make sure that everything is cooked properly. It should only take 1-2 minutes on each side to get a perfect golden-brown. When you've reached a browning that you like, remove your chicken from the oil and pop into your oven to keep it warm.

Deep-fry in batches until all of your chicken is finished. Turn off your oil and set somewhere to cool, but - for the love of all that is holy - do not throw your hot oil, or any oil, down the sink. To dispose of it, it must first be at room temperature or cool. You can find a local restaurant that has a deep fat disposal dumpster behind the facility, or you can strain it into an old plastic bottle and dispose of it in the trash if you're desperate. You shouldn't have a large amount of batter left, but you can feel okay throwing it away when it's done, as it's not the best thing to reuse at this point. Clean up around your counter and wash your hands thoroughly. Make sure you get everything in the sink before serving your meal; you have time.

These are Lion's mane mushrooms, beer-battered and deep-fried! They look like nuggets, don't they?

Serve this with mashed potatoes and gravy, with macaroni and cheese, or with a nice side salad. You can also use this same batter to deep-fry some local mushrooms before you do your chicken. Enjoy the zing of the chicken with the fatty deliciousness of the deep-frying method! You've done wonderfully and I'm so proud of you.

Thanks so much for coming along with me on this recipe for fried chicken. I hope you all enjoyed it! I hope you're staying at home, staying safe, and practicing social distancing while wearing a mask while you're outside. Remember, it costs nothing to be kind to your neighbor, and being kind - right now - is wearing a mask while you go outside. Happy cooking and happy eating!


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Southern-Style Biscuits

Forgive the quality of my counters; I've beaten the bejeezus out of them over the years.
I  mean "American Southern" when I say "Southern-Style Biscuits." I know the American South has come up quite a bit in the news lately with all of the "controversy" about the Confederate flag, and a lot of folks are preaching "Heritage not hate" as if a five-year-long existence of a poor try for a country is somehow as deep and culturally significant as a place like Ireland or France or Russia or some other European country that these folks have taken lineage from. I do love American Southern food, however, so let me just summarize:

Biscuits, Cornbread, Catfish, and Fried Chicken = GOOD. 
Racism, Historical Erasure, and White Supremacy = BAD.

We love our food here in America, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with keeping that delicious food while chucking some not-so-nice things out the door! In America, what we call a biscuit is what folks in (as far as I can tell) every other part of the world would call a scone. It's a fluffy, flaky delight that we here in the states serve plain, with honey butter, with jam, or smothered with gravy. It's an American regional staple that was once considered a delicacy, but I'll save that story for after you've read the recipe.

Southern-Style Biscuits
yields 9 - 12, depending on size

  • 12 oz all-purpose flour 
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • A fat pinch of salt
  • 1 oz sugar 
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 oz butter, shortening, or vegan butter substitute 
  • Buttermilk or Almond milk with a splash of white vinegar as needed
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Mix your flour, leavening agents, salt, and sugar in a medium-sized bowl, ideally a metal one you've had in the fridge for about 10 minutes before starting this process. Chop the butter into cubes and dump them into the flour. Using your fingertips, not your whole hands, quickly and firmly rub the cubes of fat into the flour mixture. The idea is to break up the butter into small, pea-sized pieces without melting the fat. Reall push and pinch and rub the flour into the fat, as if you're trying to snap your fingers. 

If you want your biscuits to be a little more tender, you can substitute 1 oz of the butter for olive oil instead!

When all of this is ready and well-mixed enough, make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add your two egg yolks. Add in a splash of your chosen milk, say a third of a cup to start with, and use a spatula or a pair of chopsticks to mix them together in the middle until the yolks are all broken up. Stir together, adding more liquid as needed to form a nice dough that's soft and pliable, but doesn't quite stick to your hands.

Mixy mixy!

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and get out your favorite rolling pin. Roll the dough out and fold it in half, dusting flour gently as you go to keep it from sticking. Roll out and repeat folding again until you can visibly see layers, which will take two or three turns. When you think you have enough layers, use a ring cutter or a drinking glass to cut out your biscuits.

I like at least four turns in my biscuits because I like to have a lot of layers.  Make sure to beat the dough down with the rolling pin between each turns to help the glutens relax! 

Tip: Use plenty of flour on your cutter. Do not twist when you cut! Push straight down and pull straight up!

Arrange your biscuits on a lined sheet pan. Biscuits are social creatures, so it's alright if they're touching each other like this! They really like to hold hands, so don't put too much space between them.

Biscuits really like to hold hands!
It's at this point that you may pop them in the fridge or freezer to keep cold if you don't want to eat them right away. I do recommend chilling them for at least 20 minutes before you bake them, but it's not necessary if your butter and milk mixture was quite cold. The real trick to biscuits and scones like this is to keep your ingredients as cold as you can before they go into a hot oven. This way, the fats won't simply melt out, but will rise up quickly and create steam to push your dough as high is it can go, and create those gorgeous layers that we all love to have. Either way, you should bake right when you're ready to eat them, as nothing is quite as good as a fresh-baked warm biscuit. 

While you're deciding on freezing or baking straight from the counter, a brief history of Southern-style biscuits is in order! They were once considered to be a delicacy during Civil War times in the South. They were once so revered, they were reserved only for Sunday suppers when Southern American families would reconvene after church services. If you're even more curious as to the different kinds of biscuits that American Southern families would typically eat, check out what Robby Melvin has to say about them below:

When you are ready, bake your biscuits at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then rotate your pan in the oven, and bake for another 10 minutes, or until they're golden-brown and delicious-looking. As you can imagine, the baking time will be a little longer if you're baking from frozen instead of just cold, but you should rotate them, either way, to ensure even cooking. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes before removing and consuming. I like mine with honey butter, but you can use these for any application. Feel free to add things like chopped fresh herbs, shredded cheese, dried fruits, and more to suit your tastes and needs. This recipe is extremely easy to personalize, so I invite you and encourage you to show me what amazing things you can do with a simple base like this to start from. 

Thank you so much for reading and following along with me. It's come to my attention that my reach is quite far on Instagram, so I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you all for coming on these food journies of going back to basics with me. I know we're in a tumultuous time where a lot of us are realizing that we need to keep our hands busy to keep from going stir-crazy. I'm here to tell you that mastering the basics of cooking is much simpler than you might think and that the road towards it is paved with mistakes. Learning is meant to be paved with mistakes and pain along the way, but it's all worth it in the end. ...I wonder if we can use that as a metaphor for something?

Be sure to follow me on Instagram if you haven't already done it. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Warm wooden counter or cool granite slab? What do you think?