Hot Chicken!

Hot Chicken
Guest Post from The Bread Man, today:

When we went to Nashville to visit my family this summer I knew I had to try some hot chicken. I asked my brother and my cousin if they had been to Prince’s, and both replied that they would like to, but hadn’t found anyone willing to visit that part of town with them. Problem solved. We took my grandparents’ Buick to a little strip mall in east Nashville, and after a quick trip to the ATM (Prince’s is cash only) we ordered a bunch of chicken in heat levels ranging from mild to extra hot. We waited for our order for something close to an hour, with the kitchen constantly calling out orders. The room was always crowded, even on a weeknight, but I think I only saw one table where people were eating – everyone seems to order carry out. You can call ahead, but I got nothing but a busy signal whenever I tried.

When we got home everyone dug in. The chicken isn’t saucy like Buffalo chicken, the heat comes from a mix of oil and spices (notably cayenne) that is brushed on the chicken after frying. The bread each piece was packed with had soaked up the excess oil, making the chicken a relatively clean meal. Bread is a good idea too – or potato salad, or anything else you can find to tame the heat! I love it when I get something with just the right amount of heat – it builds until it seems too much, but a couple of minutes later I’m reaching for another piece. The crust on Prince’s chicken is super crunchy despite the oil, the chicken was juicy, and the spice is great – garlicky with a hint of sweetness. The “hot” chicken was about perfect for me, but even the medium is respectably hot. The mild was tame enough that my notoriously heat-averse grandfather enjoyed it. The extra hot? Too much for me. I know a couple of people that would probably enjoy it, but I couldn’t handle more than a couple of bites.
I loved making hot chicken at home. The oil and spice mix is a great technique – we made some cayenne-free pieces for Olive and the flavor of the brown sugar and garlic stands out so much more when brushed on after frying than it does when the spice is in the flour. Even if you aren’t making hot chicken, this trick is worth stealing. I encourage you though to be brave and mix entire tablespoons of cayenne into the oil – when do you ever get to put even a single tablespoon of cayenne in anything?. Get a jar of pickles, a side of potato salad, a stack of soft white bread, and find that sweet spot.

Hot Chicken Dinner
Seen here with a side of corn slaw and sweet pickles.  Perfect!

Hot Chicken*

2 – 3.5-4 lb chicken, each cut into 10 pieces (breasts halved)
1 TBS fresh ground black pepper
2 TBS  plus 4 tsp kosher salt
4 eggs
2 cups buttermilk or whole milk
2 TBS vinegar-based hot sauce
4 cups AP flour
Vegetable oil (for frying – about 10 cups)
6 TBS cayenne pepper
2 TBS dark brown sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika

Toss chicken with black pepper and 2 TBS salt in a large bowl.  Cover and chill for at least 3 hours.

Whisk eggs, buttermilk and hot sauce in a large bowl.  Whisk flour and remaining 4 tsp salt in another large bowl.

Fit a Dutch oven with a thermometer; pour in oil to measure 2 inches up the side.  Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 325F. Pat chicken dry.  Working with 1 piece at a time, dredge in flour mixture, shaking off excess, then dip in buttermilk mixture, letting excess drip back into bowl.  Dredge again in flour mixture and place on a baking sheet.

Working in 4 batches and returning oil to 325F between batches, fry chicken, turning occasionally, until skin is deep golden borwn and crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 160F for white meat and 165 for dark, 15-18 minutes.  Transfer to a clean wire rack set inside a baking sheet.  Let oil cool slightly.

Whisk cayenne, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder and paprika in a medium bowl; carefully whisk in 1 cup frying oil.  Brush fried chicken with spicy oil.  Serve with bread and pickles.

*taken from the July issue of Bon Appetit magazine

 

Buffalo Burgers with Rosemary Roasted Root Vegetables

Buffalo Burgers
Get your grill heated up this weekend – it’s supposed to be beautiful!  I actually don’t know that for sure, but I’m trying to stay positive.  I made these burgers for us this week after seeing a recipe for lamb burgers.  I couldn’t find ground lamb here and didn’t really want to pay to have some lamb loin ground up so I figured I’d go with something just as lean (the appeal of a lamb burger) and go with buffalo!  We have a very small section in our local grocery store and they have a few pounds of ground buffalo always available.  I know it’s really, really lean, so it can dry out really easily.  The trick is cooking it low and slow, so I’d suggest if you’re grilling, to keep it off the direct flame and give it some extra time.  I love chopped onion in my burgers, so I added some to these and also a little bit of grated Swiss cheese and a couple tablespoons of water – a trick I learned in making the best meatballs ever, that gives the meat that extra tender-juiciness without adding a bunch of fat.  We topped these burgers with sliced avocado, baby bell peppers, pickles and extra cheese – they were really wonderful and still juicy!

I served the burgers with some roasted carrots and potatoes.  I love roasting vegetables with rosemary and just a touch of olive oil, and had I had more root vegetables, I’d have added them right in!  I’ve done this before with beets, turnips and parsnips and I’ve loved them all!

roasted root vegetables

Buffalo Burgers with Roasted Root Vegetables

1 lb ground buffalo
1/2 cup diced white onion
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
2 TBS water

In a large bowl, mix the buffalo and all the other ingredients until well incorporated and form into loose patties.  Salt and pepper both sides and cook on the stovetop over medium heat, or on the grill off direct heat for about 5 minutes per side, or until desired doneness is achieved.  I cooked mine until they were about 135F inside and that gave us a tiny bit of pink in the middle.  I served our burgers on toasted buns with mayo, sliced avocado, sliced baby bell peppers, sliced baby kosher pickles and extra Swiss cheese.  Top however you like!

For the root veggies:

A mix of carrots, potatoes, beets, turnips, etc (about 2-3 each)
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS chopped fresh rosemary
salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 400F.  On a foil-lined baking sheet, toss the chopped vegetables with the olive oil and rosemary and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for about 30 minutes, or until the veggies start to get a little crispy along the edges.

Buffalo Burgers with Avocado and Swiss

How to Make a Patty Melt – without rye bread!

Patty Melt with Beet Chips
My dear sister in law called me last week and asked my advice for making a patty melt at home.  It occurred to me that I hadn’t actually ever made one, before.  I think Matt did at one point, but I wasn’t involved.  So I gave her my best guess-advice and when we hung up, ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT was eating a patty melt.  So, the next day, I went to the store and bought some ground beef and when I got home, I realized I’d forgotten rye bread.  Honey child, you simply can’t call a sandwich a patty melt if you don’t put it on rye.  It becomes a hamburger sandwich.  No go.  However, we had three loaves of homemade bread at home, already, and I felt it would be batty to go buy a fourth.  So I got creative and put the rye flavor IN the patty by toasting caraway seeds and adding them to the ground beef!  Then I added tons of diced onions and grilled the patties and then melted gooey Swiss all over the bun and patty.  It was actually perfect.  Tasted exactly like a patty melt on rye!

I highly recommend you try this method.  Now, it might be easier for you to go buy a loaf of rye than it would for you to hunt through your spice drawers and find caraway seeds, which I’m sure you’ve only used maybe once or never.  If you go that route, you can still follow my recipe – just leave the seeds out of the beef!  Cheers to you all – I’m super hungry, now.
Patty Melt

Homemade Patty Melt
makes four patty melts

1 lb ground beef (85/15 is a good fat ratio for flavor)
1/2 cup sweet yellow onion, diced small
1 TBS caraway seeds, toasted and crushed
salt and pepper for seasoning
vegetable oil for the griddle
8 slices Swiss cheese
8 slices toasted bread – any kind, I used a sweet homemade white bread, which will be blogged about later this week – so good

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, onion and caraway seeds together until well mixed.  Form four patties from the meat and set aside.  Season both sides of the patties with kosher salt and pepper.

Heat a griddle or skillet over medium-high heat and brush with vegetable oil.  Cook the patties about 5-8 minutes on each side.  Lay a slice of Swiss cheese on top of each patty and place a lid over the patty until the cheese melts all around it.  Toast the bread in a toaster, then lay a slice of cheese on the bread, top with a patty and the other slice of bread.  To gild the lily, melt a tablespoon of butter in a non-stick skillet and toast the bread again on each side.  This further melts the cheese slices and gives everything that super awesome butter flavor.

Beet Chips (I served them on the side and got a request for the recipe, so here you go)

4 large beets, peeled and rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 425F.  Slice the beets about 1/8th of an inch thick – if you’re knife skills are lacking, use a mandoline (just watch out for your knuckles). Toss in a large bowl with olive oil and then spread them out on a foil lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes and start checking them.  You’ll need to remove the smaller ones so they won’t burn and leave the bigger ones in so they won’t just be soggy.  Let them cool for about 5 minutes before serving!

Chicken Piccata with Thyme and Mushrooms

Chicken Piccata and Buttered Noodles
This was the first full meal I made on our new gas stove that Matt installed for us last weekend!  He worked so hard rerouting gas lines (scary) and changing out new electrical outlets (scarier) and sawing a bigger hole in our counter top (can’t turn back, now!) and it all ended up totally awesome!  We have wanted a gas stove for years – they just heat so much quicker, they come down from high heat quicker – everything is more precise.  And plus – FIRE!  It’s pretty appealing.  I am tempted to roast marshmallows on this thing.  But I won’t.  I am very thankful for this machine and I swear I’ll deep clean it more than I did our old electric one…
Buttered Noodles
For the first meal, I did a simple chicken piccata with mushrooms and thyme and some soft, buttered noodles.  It was very comforting and yet refreshing at the same time.  I love the bite of the lemon juice and the capers in this dish and so for a twist, I added my favorite herb, thyme, instead of the traditional parsley and I also added some sauteed baby portobello mushrooms.  It all came together great and we thoroughly enjoyed our first meal from the shiny new stove!

chicken piccata

Chicken Piccata with Thyme and Mushrooms
serves 4

3 chicken breasts, butterflied and split in half
1/2 cup flour for dredging
salt and pepper to season the chicken
6 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
1/4 cup capers, drained
1 cup mushrooms, sliced thin
8 oz. long pasta, such as linguine or spaghetti

Heat your oven to 200F.  This is to hold your chicken as you cook it and until the noodles are ready so that everything stays hot until you’re ready to serve.

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Salt it.  Salt it some more.  As it’s heating…

Butterfly the chicken breasts by sliding a very sharp knife length-wise into the thickest part of the chicken breast (kinda like you’d cut an english muffin in half) and lay the chicken breast open and cut down the middle, forming two, thinner cutlets.  Do this with the remaining chicken breasts and dry them on both sides and season both sides with a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat in a large, stainless skillet.  When the butter starts bubbling and popping, coat each chicken breast in flour, shake off the excess and lay floured cutlets on a paper towel until ready to fry.  I worked in two batches – three pieces at a time.  Fry for about 3-5 minutes per side, until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer says at least 160. (It’ll cook some more as it sits to warm in the oven.)  Place fried chicken on a plate and place in the oven to keep warm as you fry up the rest.  For the second batch, add two more tablespoons of butter to the pan before frying the rest.

Remove the chicken and place on the platter in the oven.  Add the lemon juice, chicken stock and capers and thyme to the pan and scrape up the brown bits and season with salt and pepper.  Add the mushrooms and let the sauce reduce for a couple minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk in the remaining two tablespoons of butter and spoon sauce/mushrooms over the chicken and serve with buttered noodles.

To finish the noodles once they are done boiling, add the drained noodles to a bowl, add a splash of pasta water, a tablespoon of butter and fresh cracked pepper and stir to combine.  Garnish with fresh chopped herbs if you like!

Chicken Piccata with Thyme and Mushroom

Irish Lamb Stew – a taste of home, no matter where you’re from

Saint Patricks Day - Irish Stew
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!  I confess I don’t know a lot about the real dishes of Ireland; the dishes people grew up eating around their family tables.  I only know that around here, people eat corned beef and cabbage and drink copious amounts of Guiness Stout.  In order to do something a little more authentic than four leaf clover shaped cookies, I consulted my fabulous and too-far-away friend, Elisha Clarke on some of her favorite Irish dishes.  Elisha was born and raised in Ireland and TODAY is her birthday!  I very much feel the luck of the Irish because I know her!  She is an amazing photographer and I hope one day I can go hang out with her in Ireland and see first hand the beauty she gets to photograph every day.
Irish Stew with Country Bread
When I asked her about dishes she grew up loving, she listed five or so and Irish stew actually wasn’t one of her favorites, haha.  But then she sent me a link to a cute, Irish celebrity chef doing this stew on Jaime Oliver’s show and he made it look so simple and delicious, I had to try it!  It came together easily and as it cooked for over an hour, I had time to relax with my family!  As I took the first bite, I was immediately transported to my own dining table as a child.  My mom made beef stew quite often and would let it simmer on the stove while we were at church.  I always loved it and she served it with saltine crackers that we’d crush up into our stew.  Tasting this very similar Irish lamb version made me smile – thousands of miles separate the humble meals of working class Americans and working class Irish, yet we are instantly connected by a warm meal.  Elisha mentioned that her country has very poor origins and so therefore, the traditional dishes are very humble in nature.  I think all the best dishes in any culture originate from people making the best of what they have been given.  My family did it, Elisha’s family did it, and if I were to guess, I’d say that probably most of you could relate to that story, as well.  A simple bowl of warm stew on a cold evening can comfort and connect family and friends, no matter how far apart.
Irish Stew
Irish Lamb Stew*
serves 6

2 TBS vegetable oil
2lb 3oz lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 inch chunks (could also use beef chuck roast)
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced
1 bay leaf
4 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 1/2 cups beef stock
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
3 TBS butter cut into small cubes
salt and ground black pepper to taste
slices of country bread, to serve

Place a large, flameproof casserole pot over a high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and brown the lamb pieces in two batches. Remove and set aside on a plate. Reduce the heat to medium–high, add another tablespoon of oil and fry the onion, celery and carrot for 4–6 minutes or until the onions have softened.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Return the meat to the pot, along with the bay leaf and stock, season with kosher salt and ground black pepper and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and push the slices of potato down into and across the top of the stew, dot with the butter and give a final seasoning of sea salt and ground black pepper. Cover and place in the oven to cook for about 1½ hours or until the meat is tender, then remove the lid and cook for a further 10 minutes until the potatoes have browned.

Serve the stew in deep bowls with crusty, buttered bread to mop up all the juices!  Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

*minimally adapted from Donal Skehan’s beautiful recipe

Biscuits and Chicken Curry “Gravy”

biscuits and gravy
When I met Matt and he first moved to Texas from Tennessee, he marveled at how us West Texans liked to “smother” our food.  Smothered burritos, smothered chili cheese dogs, biscuits and tons of gravy.  I never really thought about it till he pointed it out.  We certainly aren’t a “sauce on the side” kind of culture.  I grew up eating biscuits and gravy on Saturday mornings as a rare treat.  It was by far my favorite comfort food growing up and remains so to this day.  Matt even prefers rolls to biscuits.  I’m the opposite.  Opposites really do attract.  So I suppose it was a natural progression to eventually combine two lovely opposites – spicy Indian sauced dishes and Southern biscuits and gravy.

This dish was a fabulous invention.  Won’t even pretend to be humble about it.  I made a crockpot full of chicken tikka masala a couple weeks ago and I thought, instead of the traditional naan flatbread, I would serve it over buttermilk biscuits for a collision of India meets West Texas.  It worked.  Really well.  The crispy, fluffy, buttery biscuit was the perfect little sponge for the spicy, sweet curry.  The biscuit recipe was from one of our favorite cookbooks, Fire in My Belly.  The recipe calls to grate frozen butter into the flour to create the most even distribution of butter I’ve ever seen!  What a great technique! The crockpot recipe was wonderful, too, but I’m excited to try my friend, Katrina’s recipe, as it’s on a stained recipe card and comes by way of her Indian friend.  You know that’s got to be good. Next time, I will.  And I’ll definitely serve it with a side of biscuits 🙂
Biscuits
Buttermilk Biscuits*
makes two dozen

4 cups (20 oz) AP flour
3 TBS (1 1/4 oz) baking powder
2 TBS (3/4 oz) sugar
1 TBS+2 tsp (1/2 oz) salt
14 TBS (7 oz) butter, frozen
2 cups (14 oz) buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400F. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Using a box grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture, tossing after each quarter stick of butter to coat the butter shards with flour.  Toss to combine.  Stir in 1 3/4 cups of the buttermilk and, using large strokes and stirring from the bottom up, stir just enough to combine the mixture into a crumbly mass.  If the dough doesn’t come together, stir in more buttermilk a tablespoon at a time, just until the mixture barely holds together.

Dust a clean, flat work surface with flour.  Scrape the dough onto the floured surface, gather into a ball and gently knead with the palms of your hands about 10 times, just enough to form a cohesive dough ball.  Sprinkle a little more flour onto the dough and gently roll or pat into an even 3/4 inch thickness.

Dip a 2 1/2 inch round biscuit butter in flour and punch out the biscuits.  Gather any remaining dough, knead a few times to form a cohesive ball and roll or pat the dough into an even 3/4 inch thickness.  Repeat until all used up.

Place the biscuits on a baking sheet, close enough so the edges just touch.  Bake until the biscuits start to brown – they should be a rich golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Let the biscuits rest 5 minutes before serving.

*from Kevin Gilespie’s book, Fire in My Belly
Homemade Biscuits

Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala*
serves 4

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite size chunks
1/2 onion, finely minced
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons curry paste ( I used Thai Red Curry Paste)
2 tablespoons ground garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (you can add as much as you want but my kiddo was sharing so I kept the heat down)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 (14 ounce) can lite coconut milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup half and half

In a large glass measuring cup or bowl mix together the coconut milk, Greek yogurt and half and half. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, ginger and all the spices. Mix well.

Spray the inside of your crockpot bowl with cooking spray or grease with olive oil. Sprinkle the onion over the bottom of the crockpot bowl. Add the chicken and then pour the coconut milk mixture over the chicken so the chicken is completely covered. Add the butter and place the lid on the crockpot. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours. I like to stir mine once or twice during cooking, but it is not necessary. When ready to serve, taste and season with salt and pepper if desired. Serve over homemade biscuits 🙂

*adapted from Half Baked Harvest

Ginger Scallion Sauce and Taking a Fast from Fast Food

Ginger Scallion Sauce
It’s Ash Wednesday and for many, that means a time of choosing to fast from one vice or another in order to devote the time previously taken by the vice to thinking about God or praying for focus or simply remembering Christ’s sacrifice.  It doesn’t even have to be a vice, necessarily, but something that you do or perhaps over indulge on a daily or weekly basis, that if you gave it up, it would create a bit of a hole or an inconvenience in your day and force you to remember why you are fasting from it in the first place.  Many give up certain foods: sugar, coffee, sodas, fried foods.  Some give up distractions like apps on their cell phones or Facebook or watching tv.

Matt suggested that we give up eating out at restaurants for Lent this year.  This obviously involves my participation more than his, as I will be doing the majority of the cooking.  But I know that for both of us, we lean on the ability to go get something fast and easy too often.  I cook a LOT, but I use dining out as a “break” or a “reward” for cooking all week.  I use it when I just “don’t wanna” and sometimes when I just feel plain burned out on thinking up another meal to cook at home. I thought it was a good thing to give up, though, and so I agreed.  He will no doubt cook more often during this time, too.  Today is the first day of Lent and today’s recipe is from our lunch today.

I don’t believe you have to be Catholic to participate in the season of Lent.  I believe any tradition that helps us refocus on the sacrifice and life of Christ is a worthwhile endeavor.  Borrowing from other religious cultures can enhance our own or refresh the way we see things and shed new light on old habits.  Someone questioned how we “do” Lent regarding what we give up and asked if it’s just “another resolution” or if we really pray or do what we’re supposed to do in the absence of the thing we’re giving up.  I have never thought of Lent as “just another resolution” and fully intend on dining out at restaurants once the 40 days are over.  But for these next six weeks, I plan on remembering a few things in the absence of the convenience of dining out and every time I feel tempted:

1. It’s a privilege to eat out – even fast food, not just nice restaurants.
2. Not everyone has the joy of owning a house or a kitchen to cook in.  We do.
3. When I don’t feel like cooking over the next 40 days, I will think of my new friends at Carpenter’s Church who only WISH they had a nice kitchen, but instead have to rely on the kindness of soup kitchens downtown to get a hot meal.
4. Not everyone can afford good produce at the grocery store.  We can and I plan on utilizing that honor.
5. Dining out is a break from reality.  So many people in the world never get a break from their harsh realities.  They have no choice.

This morning I taught my little cooking class at Carpenter’s and our class ended and we finished cleaning up about 10 till noon.  Typically, I would have called up Matt and said, “We’ll just come pick you up, I don’t feel like cooking again.”  But I called him up instead and said, “I gotta run home and cook – lunch will be a little later today.”  I had been to the store yesterday and bought all the items needed (a privilege)  for one of our favorite garnishes for Asian type dishes, Ginger Scallion Sauce.  We love to put it on just about anything, and today, I tossed it along with some sticky rice and leftover pork we cooked on Sunday, and some pineapple (and a fried egg, of course).  A really fresh, tasty meal and it only took me 30 minutes, start to finish.

You don’t have to give up something for Lent in order to be “good” or “right.”  It’s not about that.  However, in order to be more disciplined in life, there really is no other way than to TRY.  Think you’re not disciplined enough to give something up for 40 days?  Well… have you tried?

Sticky Rice with Broiled Pork and Pineapple

 

Ginger Scallion Sauce
makes about 3 cups

Momofuku Ginger Scallion Sauce
Look how lazy I am.  But there you have it – we don’t alter it so I figured I’d just show you the page out of the book!  Everything in the Momofuku cookbook is good, from what we’ve tried, so far.  David Chang is one of our biggest celebrity chef crushes and we think he can do no wrong.  Pick up this book today! And the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook while you’re at it!

 

Superbowl Food – Korean Fried Chicken Wings with a Celery and Blue Cheese Slaw

celery blue cheese slaw and korean fried chicken

This is the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.  We only  make fried chicken about twice a year and when we do, it has to be this recipe.  Crispy, light batter doesn’t overwhelm the chicken and it’s SO crunchy, you’d think it was double coated.  Koreans know what they’re doing with fried chicken, and I think if you did this preparation to some chicken wings on Game Day, you would definitely be the hero of the hour.  The blue cheese celery salad is an amazing side for the chicken.  Crunchy and tangy and creamy – the perfect slaw/salad for fried chicken!

korean fried chicken

Korean Fried Chicken*

Kosher salt
3/4 cups corn starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 pounds chicken wings (about 12 whole wings)
2 quarts peanut oil or vegetable shortening
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup vodka

Combine 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/4 cup cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder in a large bowl and whisk until homogenous. Add chicken wings and toss until every surface is coated. Transfer wings to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, shaking vigorously as you go to get rid if excess coating. Transfer to refrigerator and let rest, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.

When ready to fry, preheat oil to 350°F in a large wok, Dutch oven, or deep fryer.  We used a wok on the stove.

Combine remaining 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, flour, and 2 teaspoons kosher salt in a large bowl and whisk until homogenous. Add water and vodka and whisk until a smooth batter is formed, adding up to 2 tablespoons additional water if batter is too thick. It should have the consistency of thin paint and fall off of the whisk in thin ribbons that instantly disappear as they hit the surface of the batter in the bowl.

Add half of the wings to the batter. Working one at a time, lift one wing and allow excess batter to drip off, using your finger to get rid of any large pockets or slicks of batter. Carefully lower wing into hot oil. Repeat with remaining wings in first batch. Fry, using a metal spider or slotted spatula to rotate and agitate wings as they cook until evenly golden brown and crisp all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season immediately with salt. Keep warm while you fry the remaining wings.

We dipped ours into traditional buffalo sauce, which we love.  The chicken is so gloriously crispy that we didn’t want to totally coat it in sauce.  Do as you please.  The original recipe calls for a mighty fine sweet soy sauce that I highly recommend.

*absolutely did not mess with this perfect recipe from Serious Eats

slaw

Celery and Blue Cheese Slaw*

Celery Ribs (thinly sliced at an angle)
1/2 Red Onion (very thinly sliced; 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup fresh Flat-Leaf Parsley leaves (chopped)
1 tablespoon Sherry Vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated Lemon Zest
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 cup crumbled Blue Cheese

In a large skillet, add one tablespoon of butter and saute the celery and onion until just beginning to soften, but still crunchy, about 5 minutes.  In a large bowl, toss the parsley, vinegar, olive oil, lemon zest, salt, and pepper and whisk to combine.  Fold in the celery, onion and blue cheese and serve!

*adapted from Carla Hall’s recipe

Palmer House Ragu

Palmer Ragu
Matt and I first read about homemade ragu in the book, Heat, by Bill Buford.  The section on ragu was about Mario Batali and his story of his own family’s obsession with their homemade bolognese sauce, or, ragu.  He said every Italian family had one, and each family was so fiercely defensive and prideful about their ragu recipe, that some men even seriously considered a woman as marriage material or not, based on the quality of her version.  Though the section was a bit humorous, I really felt that this was a dish with a history and a soul and an identity.  No two people can make the same ragu, and so each person should work on perfecting their own to their own liking!

Matt and I consulted an online recipe years ago when we made ragu the first few times.  This time, Matt said, “Let’s not consult anything.  We know how it goes; let’s do our own.”  So we did!  It was really fun to create our own concoction and add a little of this and a little of that till we thought it tasted “right.”  A pretty good description in Heat of the proper way to cook a ragu is simple:  “Take a liquid and a solid and cook it till it’s neither.”

So I’ll give you our now-official family ragu recipe.  I encourage you to come up with your own as you go!  Make a huge batch and freeze for later – you won’t be sorry. You can thaw it easily in a skillet with a little beef stock.  This stuff is great saucy or thick.  We like ours super chunky and less liquidy, so we let it verge on the dry side.  Matt made potato gnocchi to go with it, but we’ve done every noodle you can imagine, and my personal favorite is a nice, wide fettuccine noodle.  Garnish with shaved Parmesan and serve with a hearty glass of red and you’ll be so good you won’t know what to do with yourself.

potato gnocchi Palmer Ragu Night

Palmer House Ragu

3 tbs butter or olive oil
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced celery
2 cups diced onion*
1 lb ground beef (85%/15%)
1 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground sausage
1 cup white wine
1 cup whole milk
1-28 oz can diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp oregano
a few gratings of whole nutmeg
pasta of your choice

*it’s important to try to make all your vegetables the same size dice so that they all cook and break down at the same rate.  We keep everything at about a 1/4″ dice.

In a large stockpot (I adore my Lodge ceramic dutch oven.  Half the cost of Le Creuset and just as good), over medium heat, add the butter and cook until it starts bubbling.  Then, add in the carrots, celery and onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften.  Add in the meats and stir well to incorporate with the vegetables.  Cook until most of the pink is gone, but not all.  Add in the wine and bring to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid is gone.  Do the same with the milk.  After the milk is cooked off, add in the diced tomatoes and stir well to incorporate.  Add about a teaspoon of kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper and let that sucker cook all afternoon.  We let ours bubble away for about 3 hours and as it cooks, I randomly come stir it, ladle off the fat that starts to separate so that the finished result won’t be too greasy.  Really, you can’t  cook this too long.  You can cook it too fast, but if it starts to dry out, simply add some water or beef stock and keep stirring.  When you like the look of it, add in the oregano and nutmeg and season again with salt to taste.  Let it cook another 30 min or so to let the flavors develop.  Serve over freshly boiled pasta (long noodles are the best) with shaves of Parmesan and a few shakes of crushed red pepper.  That’s how we roll, anyway.  Enjoy and mix it up however you like!  The secret is in the long cook time.  It’s amazing what a few ingredients will do together, over time!

Pot Roast Pies

Pot Roast Pie
It’s official.  I’m in fall-cooking mode.  Bring on the orange vegetables and the slow cooked meats and the braising liquids.  Bring on the pies with custard fillings and mulled wine.  Let the apples stew in cider and the cinnamon sticks abound, we have officially fallen into the best time of year!  I love how the natural seasons for foods are meant to put a little extra meat on your bones to survive the cold winter months.  Even though most of us have climate controlled air year round, I still appreciate the way shopping seasonally will naturally guide you through the year.  I am jumping the gun just a tad, but since the 10 day forecast has us in the 40s at night and the 70s in the day, I’m embracing the way things feel.  I have waiting a long, hot summer to start dreaming of stews and caramelized butternut squash.  I’m ready.

Let’s start with bringing back the Sunday pot roast.  Matt and I want to have that tradition for our family.  Growing up, we both regularly had pot roast on Sunday afternoons after church.  It’s the natural ease of letting something cook on the stove or in a slow cooker while you’re at church.  Mom always make yeast wheat rolls to go with it.  Some of my favorite food memories came from that meal and I will feature her winning recipe on this blog soon!  Matt has made a few amazing versions and I tried a recipe I saw on Pinterest yesterday and it was remarkably easy and very flavorful!  Then, today for lunch, I played with the leftovers and came up with little pot roast hand pies, covered in pan juices.

Pot Roast Pie with Pan Juices

This was a good move in all directions.  Leftover pot roast from yesterday with potatoes and carrots.  Chopped up a few pieces of each component and tucked spoonfuls into the only pie dough worth memorizing and baked.  I didn’t want to add too much of the leftover cooking liquid from the roast inside the pies because I didn’t want them to be soggy as they cooked and leak out everywhere.  So, once the pies came out, I ladled warm, beefy pot roast juices over the pie itself and it soaked up just enough for the crust to not be too dry, yet it remained crispy and flaky and buttery.  Best. Fall. Lunch. Ever.  Too bad the baby wouldn’t partake.  She really missed out.  Too many eggs for breakfast, I guess.  Although, I think on a day when she is super hungry, she will really like this.  I can just see her cute little hands holding a tiny pie.  Ah, well.  Maybe next time!

Sunday Pot Roast Pie

Balsamic Orange Pot Roast*
serves 4-6

4 – 5 Lbs of Beef Chuck Roast
2 cups water
1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbs of Soy Sauce
1 Tsp of Salt
1/4 Tsp of Red Pepper Flakes
3 Cloves of Fresh Garlic – Pressed
Zest of one orange
a few fingerling potatoes
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 2″ pieces

Put the roast in your slow cooker and surround with the potatoes and carrots.  Mix all the other ingredients together and pour over the roast.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Eat and enjoy and the next day…

The Best Pie Crust Ever
2 sticks of cold butter, chopped into little pieces
2 cups of flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 cup ice water

Put a cup of flour in your stand mixer with a paddle attachment and add the salt.  Mix to blend.  Add half the butter by small handfuls, beating on low until all the butter is fully incorporated into that cup of flour.  Then, add the next cup of flour and beat on low until completely blended.  Then, add the water sprinkle by sprinkle until the dough comes together and stays together when pressed with your fingers.  Separate into two discs, wrap in plastic and let chill for at least an hour.  Take out 20 minutes before making the hand pies so they will roll out easy.
2 sticks of cold butter, chopped into little pieces
2 cups of flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 cup ice water

Put a cup of flour in your stand mixer with a paddle attachment and add the salt.  Mix to blend.  Add half the butter by small handfuls, beating on low until all the butter is fully incorporated into that cup of flour.  Then, add the next cup of flour and beat on low until completely blended.  Then, add the water sprinkle by sprinkle until the dough comes together and stays together when pressed with your fingers.  Separate into two discs, wrap in plastic and let chill for at least an hour.  Take out 20 minutes before making the hand pies so they will roll out easy.

Assemble!

Take a few components from the leftovers – a bit of roast, some carrots and potatoes.  Chop well!  Heat up the juice from the leftovers on low on your stove.  Roll out your pie dough and cut out 4″ circles.  Fill the circles with 2 heaping tablespoons of roast mixture.  Place another 4″ round of dough on top and crimp the edges.  Brush with a beaten egg and bake at 375F for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned.

Place a hand pie into a shallow bowl and ladle a warmed cup of leftover pot roast juice over the pie and serve immediately!

*recipe adapted from The Chic Site