Archive for the ‘frying’ Category

It’s Fat Tuesday! Laissez les bon temps roulez!

I lived in Mobile, Alabama back in the late 80’s, and if you asked the locals, they’d quickly tell you that Mardi Gras originated in Mobile, not New Orleans.

Joe Caine paraded through the streets of Mobile dressed in a native American costume in 1868, and is credited for our current way of observing the Mardi Gras celebration. Of course, it’s hard not to think of New Orleans when you hear the phrase “Mardi Gras,” and I spent many a weekend on the streets and bars of the crescent city back in the day.

It was then that I fell in love with Cajun food, and needed to learn how to cook it myself. I bought cookbooks by two of the greats: Justin Wilson and Paul Prudhomme. I learned about layers of seasoning, and often I’d use those ideas in my own dishes.

When I moved to Rhode Island in 1990, I had yearly Mardi Gras parties at my house, and I cooked massive batches of these Cajun chicken breasts, using a spice mix I learned from my cooking experiments. They’re so good, my daughter asks for them all the time.

Double-dipping in the seasoned flour is a messy step, but it makes them extra crunchy and flavorful.

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1 cup all-purpose flour (I use Cup4Cup flour to keep it gluten-free)
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon gumbo file (file powder), optional
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken tenders or breasts
4 eggs
oil for frying (I like using avocado oil and some pork fat for flavor)

 

Cut the chicken breasts into manageable pieces. If they’re thick, slice them horizontally to make two thinner breasts. A thick piece of chicken won’t cook all the way through.

Combine the flour, salt, paprika, onion, garlic, basil, white pepper, cayenne, black pepper, thyme and gumbo file in a bowl. Mix well.

I like to separate the 4 eggs, placing 2 eggs in 2 separate bowls. This keeps the first bowl “clean” and not gummed up with flour. You’ll see what I mean once you start, because it’s a bit messy. So, crack 2 eggs in the first bowl and the other 2 eggs in the second bowl. Scramble them up and put the bowls on either side of the seasoned flour bowl.

Pre-heat a pan of oil to 350 degrees.

Dip the chicken in the first egg bowl and then the seasoned flour mixture. Shake off the excess flour and dip the chicken in the second egg bowl, making sure the flour is covered by egg. Then dip the chicken back into the flour for a second coat. Carefully place the chicken in the pan. Fry the chicken until it’s cooked all the way through and golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

 

If you need to feed a crowd, just double or triple the recipe. I used to make a 10x batch for my Mardi Gras parties!

 

 

I love foods from all over the world, but I’m pretty clueless about Indian cuisine. My one experience at an Indian restaurant was in New York City many years ago, where I was served very dry, very spicy grilled chicken. It didn’t thrill me.

Recently, I spotted a recipe that looked like something I could handle first time around: “Indian Cooking 101,” if you will. It uses the traditional 2-step tandoori process of marinating: first, with the spices and then with yogurt for tenderizing. Using chicken thighs and drumsticks (as opposed to breast meat) meant the chicken would be flavorful and juicy. And frying in oil meant a crispy skin. I was ready!

Since the pieces of chicken I used were rather large, I fried the chicken only to get a nice golden color on the outside. Then the meat went into the oven to finish cooking all the way through.

This recipe requires marinating for a full 24 hours, so plan ahead!

 

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5 garlic cloves, chopped
one 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
the juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying (I like to use avocado oil mixed with a little pork lard)
2 teaspoons Kosher salt, plus 1 teaspoon later
1 teaspoon pepper
5 lbs. chicken thighs and drumsticks
1 1/2 cups full-fat Greek yogurt
1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
fresh cilantro sprigs and lime wedges, for garnishing

In a food processor or blender, combine the garlic, ginger, lemon, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, vegetable oil, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Blend until smooth.

Place the chicken pieces in a large Ziploc bag and add the marinade, mixing well so that every bit of the chicken gets coated with the spices. (I like to use gloves for this messy job.)

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Place the Ziploc in the fridge and marinate the chicken for 12 hours.

After 12 hours, add the yogurt to the bag, mixing well, and return it to the fridge for another 12 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. Set a rack over a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

In a bowl, combine the chickpea flour and 1 teaspoon of salt.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy saucepan, heat about 2″ of the oil to 325 degrees on a thermometer.

 

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When the oil reaches the right temperature, take the pieces of chicken out of the bag one by one, letting the excess drip off back into the bag before dredging the chicken in the flour. Shake off the excess, and carefully place the chicken pieces in the hot oil, working in batches. Don’t overcrowd the pan.

 

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Fry the chicken until golden brown, flipping once. You don’t need to cook it all the way through, just to brown it nicely. Place the browned pieces on the baking sheet with the rack.

 

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Once all the chicken has fried, place the baking sheet in the oven and cook the chicken until each piece registers about 160 degrees.

 

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Place the chicken on a plate, then garnish with cilantro leaves and lime wedges.

 

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Other stuff…

Chaat masala is a spice powder mix that typically contains dried mango powder, cumin, coriander, dried ginger, salt, black pepper, chili powder and more. It’s commonly used at the end of cooking a dish like this as a sprinkling on top. Since the only jar I could find contained 1/2 lb., way too much for my needs, I chose to leave it out.

Despite that coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant, the two are not interchangeable in cooking. Coriander seed has a lemony essence when ground. Always good to have in the pantry.

 

Fat Tuesday is February 28!

I lived in Mobile, Alabama back in the late 80’s, and if you asked the locals, they’d quickly tell you that Mardi Gras originated in Mobile, not New Orleans.

Joe Caine paraded through the streets of Mobile dressed in a native American costume in 1868, and is credited for our current way of observing the Mardi Gras celebration. Of course, it’s hard not to think of New Orleans when you hear the phrase “Mardi Gras,” and I spent many a weekend on the streets and bars of the crescent city back in the day.

It was then that I fell in love with Cajun food, and needed to learn how to cook it myself. I bought cookbooks by two of the greats: Justin Wilson and Paul Prudhomme. I learned about layers of seasoning, and often I’d use those ideas in my own dishes.

When I moved to Rhode Island in 1990, I had yearly Mardi Gras parties at my house, and I cooked massive batches of these Cajun chicken breasts, using a spice mix I learned from my cooking experiments. They’re so good, my daughter asks for them all the time.

Double-dipping in the seasoned flour is a messy step, but it makes them extra crunchy and flavorful.

fullsizerender-8

 

1 cup all-purpose flour (I use Cup4Cup flour to keep it gluten-free)
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon gumbo file (file powder), optional
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken tenders or breasts
4 eggs
oil for frying (I like using avocado oil and some pork fat for flavor)

 

Cut the chicken breasts into manageable pieces. If they’re thick, slice them horizontally to make two thinner breasts. A thick piece of chicken won’t cook all the way through.

Combine the flour, salt, paprika, onion, garlic, basil, white pepper, cayenne, black pepper, thyme and gumbo file in a bowl. Mix well.

I like to separate the 4 eggs, placing 2 eggs in 2 separate bowls. This keeps the first bowl “clean” and not gummed up with flour. You’ll see what I mean once you start, because it’s a bit messy. So, crack 2 eggs in the first bowl and the other 2 eggs in the second bowl. Scramble them up and put the bowls on either side of the seasoned flour bowl.

Pre-heat a pan of oil to 350 degrees.

Dip the chicken in the first egg bowl and then the seasoned flour mixture. Shake off the excess flour and dip the chicken in the second egg bowl, making sure the flour is covered by egg. Then dip the chicken back into the flour for a second coat. Carefully place the chicken in the pan. Fry the chicken until it’s cooked all the way through and golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

 

If you need to feed a crowd, just double or triple the recipe. I used to make a 10x batch for my Mardi Gras parties!

 

 

December 30 is National Bacon Day!

Sometimes the happiest of cooking accidents happen with bacon. My original plan was to make Chinese-style honey ribs for dinner. But instead of pulling a nice rack of ribs out of the freezer, I accidentally took out a slab of pork belly. I only realized my mistake when I thawed it and started cooking it, so I decided to continue the process with the pork belly instead. The results were pretty damn tasty.

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Marinade:
¾ cup light soy sauce
6 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
5 lbs. pork belly
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 whole star anise
2 cinnamon sticks (3”)
1/2 cup honey
4 cups chicken broth
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Mix the marinade ingredients. Set aside.
Cut the pork belly into pieces that are about 3 inches square. Place them in a large pot. Cover therm with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Drain.
Place the pork belly pieces on a sheet pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil. Coat them with marinade. Let them sit for 10 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the pork belly pieces on the sheet pan for 30 minutes.
While the pork belly is baking, start the sauce in a large non-stick pan or pot: combine the lemon zest and juice, star anise, cinnamon sticks, honey and chicken broth. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
When the pork belly pieces have finished baking, add them to the sauce pot and simmer (covered) for at least 15 minutes or until meat is tender.
Turn heat on high, uncover pot and cook until the sauce is reduced to a glaze that coats the ribs. Reduce the heat as the sauce thickens to avoid the sugars in the honey from burning. When the pieces are sticky and gooey, they are ready!
Let a piece of pork belly cool…then slice to desired thickness and fry like regular bacon. Makes an amazing omelet!
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Every Rhode Island home needs to have a box of corn meal in case of Johnny Cake emergencies. If you’ve never had a Johnny Cake before, you’re missing out on a simple, delicious Rhode Island treat. But that’s a topic of another blog. The point is, I always keep a box of white corn meal in my pantry, and I used it to make the coating for my chicken.

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Corn meal is great, because it adds a wonderful crunch while keeping my recipe gluten-free, an important factor in my house. But even if you don’t have to be on a GF diet, corn meal adds great flavor.

To keep the batter light, I add flour to the corn meal.

 

2 cups buttermilk (whole milk is fine, too)
1 tablespoon hot sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot)
4 lbs. chicken wings
1 cup white corn meal
1 cup flour (I use Cup4Cup, a gluten-free flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon paprika
oil, lard or a combination of the 2 for frying

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Pour the buttermilk or whole milk into a large Ziploc bag. Add the hot sauce. Drop in the chicken wings, seal the bag,  and let them soak in the mixture in the fridge for at least several hours…overnight is better. Place the bag in a bowl to prevent bag leakage accidents.

In a separate bowl, combine the corn meal, flour, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and paprika. Mix well.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

I like to use a combination of olive oil and pork lard when frying. Carefully take the wings out of the bag one by one, and drop them in the bowl with the cornmeal mix, coating the chicken well on all sides, then shaking off the excess. Place the chicken wings in the hot oil carefully.

Cook the chicken in the oil on both sides for just a few minutes, until golden. You’re not trying to cook them all the way through.

Place the chicken pieces on a foil-lined baking sheet. when you’ve fried all the chicken, place the baking sheet in the oven and cook until the wings are done, about 25 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Chourico is as important to the Portuguese as bacon is to us Lithuanians. Here in Southern New England, they pronounce it “sha-rees,” not the exaggerated Spanish “chaw-reezo,” like you hear on the Food Network.

I was joking with a friend the other day that if I won the lottery, I could buy a lifetime supply of chourico at my favorite store: Mello’s in Fall River, Mass. His response was: “Is there such a thing as a lifetime supply of chourico?!”

Good point!

If you’ve had really great chourico, you’re always looking for new ways to include it in your cooking. And arugula is one of the easiest greens to grow in the spring or fall garden. Even now, in November, I’ve got lots of it growing, just waiting to be turned into pesto.

Inspired by chef Chuck Hughe’s recipe, this is a great chourico appetizer that’s really easy to make. Whip up the arugula pesto ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. Then when guests come, just slice the chourico, saute it in a pan until brown, and serve.

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3 cups fresh baby arugula
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup + one tablespoon grated Parmigiano Reggiano or other good quality parmesan cheese
2 lbs. chourico, sliced into 1/2″ pieces

Combine the arugula, walnuts, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and the 1/2 cup of cheese in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Set the tablespoon of cheese aside for garnishing later.

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Remove the casing from the chourico and slice it into 1/2″ thick pieces. Saute the chourico in a pan until both sides are caramelized and golden.

Place the chourico on a plate, topping with some of the pesto. Sprinkle a touch of the grated cheese to garnish. Serve immediately, while the chourico is still hot!

 

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These tasty, crispy wings get fried just enough to brown, then get finished in an oven. The result is crispy, salty chicken wings that will be devoured in no time. Your only regret will be that you didn’t make enough! My gluten-free version tastes just as good as the original…you’ll never know the difference!

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3 lbs. chicken wings
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons hot sauce (I use Frank’s)
1/3 cup breadcrumbs (I toast Udi’s gluten-free bread til dry and crisp, then put it in a processor)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour (I use Cup4Cup GF flour)
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon paprika
oil for frying (I use a combination of lard and olive oil)

 

Pour the milk into a bowl and add the hot sauce. Mix well, then add the chicken pieces and toss to coat well. Let the chicken sit in the milk at room temp for an hour. (I’ve found that whole milk–or even 1/2 & 1/2–works better than thinner, low-fat milk. It sticks to the chicken better.)

In a separate bowl, combine the bread crumbs, flour, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, garlic, onion and paprika.

Heat the oil in a pan until it reaches 350 degrees.

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One by one, carefully move the chicken from the milk mixture to the seasoning bowl and coat well with the seasonings, shaking off any excess. Gently place the wings in the oil and fry until both sides are golden, just a few minutes.  (You’re not cooking the chicken, just making the skin crispy.) Place the fried chicken wings on a metal screen raised above a sheet pan lined with foil or parchment.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, and when all the chicken has been fried and put on the sheet pan, place the pan in the oven and finish cooking, about 30 minutes.

 

Yesterday was National Cheeseburger Day!

My inside-out burger is not a very complex idea. I just put the stuff that’s usually on the outside, on the inside of my burgers. Why? Why not?

Instead of dealing with a package of bacon and a package of cheese and a stack of burgers, I’ve got all the ingredients conveniently inside the patties. And as the burgers cook, the fat from the bacon and the gooey cheese melt and combine with the burger meat to make a really tasty and moist burger.

I cook these on the grill, but the cast-iron skillet method, described below, works really well,  too.

I make 2 lbs. of burgers at a time, using humanely-raised local grass-fed beef, from my friends at Simmons Organic Farm in Middletown, RI.  Support your local farmers when you can!

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2 lbs. ground grass-fed beef
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked crisp, cooled and crumbled
garlic salt
avocado oil or pork fat

 

In a bowl, combine the beef, the cheese and the bacon, mixing well so that all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.

Form the beef into 1/4 lb. patties or larger. Refrigerate them until you’re ready to cook to firm them up.

Heat a cast iron skillet and add a drop of oil or pork fat. Place the burgers in the hot skillet to sear and sprinkle with the garlic salt. When browned, flip the burgers and place the skillet in a 350-degree oven to finish cooking.

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As if I needed more reasons to eat bacon, this Saturday, September 3rd, is International Bacon Day!

Let’s face it: there are few foods as magical as bacon. Add bacon to just about any dish you’re preparing, and it elevates it to incredible new heights of flavor. The BLT is possibly the greatest food combination ever invented: just a few simple, fresh ingredients, when placed together, transforming into one of the most amazing sandwiches on planet Earth.

Bacon comes from the pork belly. One of the places I buy pork bellies is from my friends at Fire Fly Farms in Stonington, CT (http://www.fireflyfarmsllc.com). I also get Berkshire pork bellies from Heritage Pork International (http://www.heritagepork.com). I follow the simple curing techniques outlined in “Charcuterie,” a great book written by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.

To cure bacon, all you really need is Kosher salt and what they in the curing biz call “pink salt,” which is not to be confused with salt that happens to be pink, like Himalayan salt you’d find in a gourmet store. Pink salt is bright pink—to let you know that this is special salt that should only be used in small quantities for curing. The reason for that is because it has nitrites. Nitrites delay the spoilage of the meat, and help keep the flavors of spices and smoke. They also keep the meat nice and pink instead of an unappetizing gray. That’s good. But nitrites can break down into nitrosamines, which have been known to cause cancer in lab animals. But let’s face it: you would need to eat a ton of cured meat to really worry about this.

To make the basic dry cure:

1/2 lb. kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 ounce (5 teaspoons) pink salt

Mix the ingredients well. An important note: all Kosher salts do not all weigh the same (Diamond Crystal weighs less than Morton), so go by the weight and not a cup measurement. You can use this rub on your pork belly, but I make a large amount of the dry rub and keep it stored in my pantry. When it’s time to make bacon, I take it out and add other ingredients…

 

 

Bellies in the smoker

Bellies in the smoker.

 

Alz Bacon Rub:

1/2 cup basic dry cure
1/2 cup turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw brand)
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated garlic

Once you rub the pork belly thoroughly, place it in a Ziploc bag, squeeze the air out of it, and seal it tightly. another method is to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then seal it with tape. Place it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, flipping it over every few days to let gravity do its work. You’ll see that the salt will draw moisture out of the meat and form a brine. This brine will continue to cure your pork belly, so leave it in there.

After a few weeks, once the pork belly has been cured, wash the brine off the meat, pat it dry with paper towels. Now it’s time to cook. You can simply cook the pork belly at 200 degrees for about 2 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees, but I always place the pork belly in a smoker, cooking it at 250 degrees for 1 hour, then add hickory chips and smoke it at 250 degrees for at least another hour.

Smoked bacon

Smoked bacon

That’s it. You have achieved bacon!

The reward is so worth the effort. You still have to fry it at this point…you can’t just take a bite out of the slab! But that first slice you cut off your bacon and toss in a pan to lightly fry for a few moments will be the best bite you’ve ever had in your life!
And if you’re making one slab of bacon, why not make it three or four? It freezes well. And…you will eat it. You know you will!

Frying in the pan!

Frying in the pan!

Pork chops were a favorite of mine growing up, but my Mom cooked them only one way: breaded and fried in a pan full of oil. They were good, but they were greasy, and my Mom was not big on seasonings. And she cooked the hell out of it. It was time to improve on the original.

Using the best quality pork I can get, like Berkshire pork, makes a real difference in flavor. It also matters to me that the animals are humanely treated while they’re on the farm. No factory-farmed meats.

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2 Berkshire pork chops
1 egg
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs (I use gluten-free)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
olive oil

 

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Set up 2 bowls. In one, crack and scramble the egg. In the other, combine the bread crumbs, salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, granulated garlic and granulated onion.

Place an oven-proof pan on medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. Once the oil is hot, cover the pork chops in the egg wash and then coat with the bread crumb mixture. Place in the hot pan to brown and sear. Do this with both chops.

After a few minutes, flip the chops over in the pan and place the pan in the oven to finish cooking.

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Remember, good pork does not need to be cooked until well done!