Purple Kitchen Treats

Over the past few years, I have been working on a cookbook. During this time, I took time off to finish my Master's Degree. Now that I have accomplished that, I am working again on my cookbook, slowly but surely.

However, over the past few months, something interesting has happened...I have received multiple requests for baked goods, particularly my cookies. I am also receiving multiple requests for granola. So, with all these requests in mind, I have started to make my cookies for sale, along with my granola.

My official web site is available, but will be undergoing a significant redesign. Be sure to visit my "official" web site at: http://www.susanshonk.com and watch for some exciting changes.

From the heart of my purple kitchen to you,

Sunday, September 18, 2011

365 in 365 - # 109 - Baked or Fried Chicken Parts - Act 1: The Strips

There is a complete science to fried chicken that only the most seasoned southern cooks really get.  Let's break down some of the areas of the US and how we treat food....oh, this should be fun!!!

     The Northeast - if you boil it, they will eat it
     The South - if you fry it, they will eat it
     The West Coast - if you make it small and pretty, they will eat it
     The Pacific Northwest and Alaska - if it's game, they are game
     The Upper Midwest - if it will "stick to your ribs", they will eat it

Now, this is not to say that any region won't try anything else, this is just a very high-level view of regional American cuisine.  I'm from New England, and it used to be that if you boiled it, I would eat it...well, not any more.  We had clambakes, boiled dinners, all kinds of soups, chili with beans (sacrilegious....at least from a Texas perspective) and any number of other stewed, poached, boiled and / or simmered preparation methods......which all "boiled down to" something simmering in some kind of liquid.

Growing up in my house, we had fried chicken, but we had "Shake-n-Bake".  If you recall from one of my earliest posts, I was very clear that my mother was an adequate cook, but she was an extraordinary baker.

Anywho.....If I have learned one thing, there is fried chicken, and then there is fried chicken (spoken with a slow southern drawl) and is an entirely different experience.  Let's be clear about one thing right now......I do not know what a "gizzard" is, I will not be frying any of them, and there will be no chicken parts in my kitchen that are not "normal".   The cats get the "giblets" as a treat.

At this point, I am playing with versions of fried chicken.  Despite the rumblings of some of the most seasoned southern cooks, I like to completely immerse my chicken in buttermilk overnight.  Buttermilk has a "tang" that subtly infuses the chicken and it keeps the chicken moist and tender.  

So, get yourself a chicken, if whole, cut it into parts, or you can get a fryer all ready cut up.  I happen to like purchasing the parts separately so that I can choose how many of each that I want.  Today, it is 4 boneless breast pieces for chicken strips and / or chicken bites (not nuggets).  One of our new commercials (In the US) asks, "what part of the chicken is a nugget?".  My answer, "Well, I simply don't know."

The first step is to trim the breast pieces of fat and cartilage.  Cut them into 1 inch strips, being sure to cut side to side, not top to bottom.  Put in a large bowl with a cover and then douse the whole thing in buttermilk, being sure to stir well so that the buttermilk gets in between all the chicken pieces.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  You can refrigerate for as little as 2 hours, but the chicken just won't be as tender.

For the breadcrumbs, you will need 2 cups of bread crumbs.  I am a big advocate of making my own with chunks of ciabatta bread (crust and all) thrown into a food processor with 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cracked (not finely ground) black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/4 cup of dehydrated onion flakes and 2 tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley.  Process until all is well blended and pour into a pie plate.

Let's talk about "club finger"......that terrible condition that results from taking wet meat, dredging it in flour, dipping in egg wash and then into what ever coating is going on the meat.  To avoid this terrifying condition, take the chicken strips out of the buttermilk bath with a fork and let some of the excess milk drip off.  Then, using the fork, place the chicken coated in buttermilk in the bread crumbs and coat it nicely on all sides.

For a nice baked version - place the strips on a jelly roll pan, lined with tin foil and sprayed with cooking spray.  Preheat your oven to 350` F, and cook the strips for approximately 20 minutes, or until firm and golden brown.  test one of the larger strips for doneness by cutting in in half to ensure that the meat is cooked thoroughly.

For a nice fried version - be sure to heat at least 1 inch of oil in a deep frying pan to 375` F, carefully "slide" the strips into the oil on by one, and fry (turning as needed) until golden brown on all sides, remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.

These are simply wonderful.  I'll be posting a few versions of these with different seasonings from around the world.

From the heart of my purple kitchen to you,

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