Adventures in Fried Chicken: Recreating the Cover

Bon Appetit's Fried Chicken Sandwich

I’ve done a lot of experimenting in the kitchen over the years — making everything from foie gras torchons to my favorite dim sum treats. But one thing I have always stayed away from attempting is fried chicken. It just seems like one of those things best left to the professionals — Southern grandmas, fast food joints and Thomas Keller. Plus there are plenty of places in Portland that make it easy to just go out for fried chicken when the craving hits — I’m looking at you, Country Cat.

But when reading the April issue of Bon Appetit, I was seduced by the cover recipe: a mile-high, slightly sloppy fried chicken sandwich. Conveniently enough my friend DB and I had plan to cook together but didn’t have a menu in mind. I sent him the link to the recipe and he was sold.

We started out making the spicy sauce (Hellman brand mayo mixed with shaved garlic and hot sauce, easy enough) and the cole slaw. The slaw recipe made us hesitate for a second — pickle juice used as a dressing? But we went for it…and oh man, I am so glad we did (more on that later!).

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Picnic-Perfect Chicken with Grape & Raisin Agrodolce

Roasted Chicken with AgrodolceIt may be disgustingly cold in Portland right now, but my mind is fast-forwarding to the pleasures of spring. Just when I think I can’t handle any more winter, I know it’ll soon be over and the sun will warm up the city. And when that happens, there will be trips to the river, the park, the coast or down into Oregon’s wine country. And when there are trips like that, picnics are a given!

Last summer I tried out pressed sandwiches for my rather infamous picnic in Newport, OR. I’ve already decided that when spring hits, I’ll be packing this chicken. And I won’t make promises about sharing with any of my picnic-partaking partners. It’s so good, they might have to fend for themselves.

This recipe is, as they would call it in the movie biz, a sleeper hit. It is greater than the sum of its parts, but if it came down to it, it’s the agrodolce that takes it above and beyond. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s an Italian version of sweet and sour, usually made with a combination of vinegar and sugar, similar to the French gastrique.

And it is fabulous. I’ve tasted agrodolce in several different forms — coating onions, lacquered over wild boar ribs and even as a sticky, finger-licking sauce on turkey wings. But this relish could be one of my favorites. The grapes were like little jewels and the onion was almost candied, but the bite of the vinegar was still very present and the pine nuts rounded everything out with a hint of buttery flavor. It’s the perfect topping for any meat, though it perfectly complements this chicken.

Just looking at this makes my mouth water!

Just looking at this makes my mouth water!

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A Story of Redemption: Magazine Chicken Done Right

Roasted Chicken Thighs w/ Lemon and Oregano

Roasted Chicken Thighs w/ Lemon and Oregano

Last week I wrote a post about my frustration at having a recipe from Food & Wine look nothing like the picture in the magazine. While I am well-aware of food styling and Photoshop skills, that experience still got under my skin. And here’s why — usually when I cook from a recipe, I am successful! See above: a beautiful chicken dinner crafted last weekend from this recipe in Bon Appetite.

This dish turned out exactly like I expected it to — crispy chicken skin, golden lemons and succulent sauce. It also made me a believer in a new cooking technique that I had been hesitant about trying. Bon Appetite recommends starting the chicken skin down in a room temperature pan which, as a former line cook, goes against everything I’ve ever learned. On the line, the mantra is always “hot pan, hot pan, hot pan.” It gets drilled into you. But this worked like a dream — the skin renders so perfectly that it’s practically paper thin by the time the meat is cooked.

Here’s how things went down.

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Here’s to High Hopes & Caramelized Ginger Chicken

Caramelized Ginger ChickenFirst I must make a confession — I made this chicken a while ago. It’s just now making an appearance because I couldn’t decide what to write about it. Honestly, I can still look at these pictures and be confused. I enjoyed eating it, but was it something I’d ever make again? Would I recommend it to someone? Would I recommend it to someone I like? Am I bitter at Food & Wine? I don’t know. I have never felt so torn about a recipe before.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Back in September, I flipped to this recipe for Caramelized Ginger Chicken in the most recent issue of Food & Wine and stopped in my tracks. The picture that accompanied the recipe looked perfect — tantalizingly drool-worthy, both sticky and succulent. I mean really, go to this link and ogle the picture up close. That chicken is so saucy that it practically looks lacquered.

But even though I couldn’t get the recipe out of my head, I managed to wait a month or so to let some other people try it out first. I’m a little obsessed with reading recipe reviews so if the “guinea pigs” discover a problem, I can make adjustments accordingly. The first review I found for this recipe was from Garrett of Noodle Therapy who had clearly been just as seduced by the picture as I had been.

What I read made me nervous. He reported that the flavor was good with a nice hint of fish sauce and the chicken was tender, but the final result looked nothing like the picture, even though he followed all of the directions. WTF? The picture was the best part!

But even with that knowledge, I couldn’t let it go. Finally in mid-December, deciding it still sounded too good to pass up, I bought some chicken legs and got to work.

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The Apple of my Eye: Applejack-Braised Chicken

Braised Chicken in Applejack

If I added up the amount of times I have used the word “Applejack” in recent posts, I’m sure it would be ridiculous. But it’s the season for deliciously boozy apple-flavored things. It’s called being festive!

So given my deep love for chicken, it only seemed natural to use both together in one fabulous dinner. I saw this recipe for chicken braised with apples, onions and Calvados in a recent issue of Food & Wine and it sounded perfect. I made it for the entree course of my harvest dinner party a few weeks ago, but I tried it out prior to the party to make sure it was sufficiently tasty.

I made it almost entirely as written though, as you  might have guessed from my first paragraph, I used Applejack instead of Calvados. While I’m sure Calvados would have been amazing in there, Applejack was certainly just as delicious. I also omitted the caraway because I think it is disgusting. It’s the spice that ruins “everything” bagels — the smallest amount in my food makes me angry. Since I had some fresh thyme and sage, I used them instead — they are two herbs that get along famously with apples so it seemed like a good addition.

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Cooking my way through A Girl and Her Pig: Adobo à la April

I have really been in love with April Bloomfield this year. It started with her Lyonnasise-style vinegar chicken recipe. I was so blown away by it that my husband bought me her cookbook as a gift. The first thing I made was her lentil and chickpea salad because it sounded so wonderful. The second thing I made was this recipe — her chicken adobo.

I think I really wanted to make it because it calls for chicken braised with copious amounts of garlic and vinegar, much like her other chicken recipe. However, this one also contains plenty of ginger and soy sauce, thus it has an entirely different (Filipino) spin.

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