Posts Tagged ‘chicken’

Bulgogi is the name given to the most common form of Korean barbecue. Unlike the daeji bulgogi that I cooked in a previous blog, this one is not based on a chili sauce that can take the roof of your mouth right off.

I used chicken, though this would work with pork as well, and for the best flavor, it’s best to marinate the meat in the fridge overnight.

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2/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup chopped scallions
6 tablespoons sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
5 tablespoons fresh garlic, grated or through a garlic press
5 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon black pepper
5 lbs. chicken pieces (skin-on thighs work best)

 

Combine all the ingredients except for the chicken in a bowl and mix well.

Place the chicken pieces in a large Ziploc bag and pour the marinade in. Seal the bag well and squish it around to make sure the marinade makes contact with the chicken. Place the bag in a bowl (to prevent accidental leakage) and keep it in the fridge overnight. Squish the bag around every few hours to make sure the marinade does its job.

When you’re ready to cook the next day, pre-heat the oven to 350 and remove the bag from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Place the chicken on a sheet pan (discard the remaining marinade) and bake it for an hour.

Light a hot grill and push the coals to one side of the grill. Place the chicken pieces on the cool side of the grill and close the lid, opening the vents. Every few minutes, turn the chicken pieces over so they get nice grill marks but
don’t burn.

 

 

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I’ve always been fascinated by Korean barbecue. Every time I see it on TV or catch a recipe on an e-mail blast, my mouth waters and I say to myself that I’ve got to experience it some day. But the painful reality is: Korean barbecue can be really spicy…and I’m a total wuss.

Korean barbecue 101: Gogigui means “meat roast” in Korean, and it refers to the method of roasting beef, pork, chicken, and other meats. Meats can be marinated or not. Bulgogi is the name of the most common Korean barbecue. Meat is marinated with soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic and pepper, and then grilled. Galbi uses beef short ribs, and adds onions to the marinade. And the hot stuff is daeji bulgogi, because the marinade isn’t soy sauce-based, but based on the hot-n-spicy Korean chili paste known as gochujang.

All of the marinades looked delicious, but the hot one with gochujang would be my biggest challenge, so I decided to start there. I found a great recipe, and quickly realized that I would have to turn the heat way down if I was actually going to try to eat it! For example, the original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of white pepper. I totally left it out. And it called for a full cup of gochujang. Not only did I cut that part in half, I doubled many of the other non-spicy ingredients.

So is it authentic Korean barbecue? Probably not. But it’s my version of it. It’s got lots a flavor and still carries a bit of heat.

For gluten-free diets: finding GF hoisin and soy sauce is easy. Look for the La Choy brand. But I haven’t been able to find gochujang that has a GF label.

 

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3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup gochujang
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon freshly grated garlic (I use a garlic press)
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
4 lbs. chicken pieces

 

Pre-heat the oven to 500 or its top temperature.

In a bowl, mix everything but the chicken pieces. Brush the sauce onto the chicken pieces, then wrap them in aluminum foil. (I like to tear a long piece of aluminum foil and lay it on top of a sheet pan. I place the chicken pieces on the foil, brush them with sauce on all sides, then fold the foil over the chicken, making one large pouch that holds all the meat.) Leave the pouch on the sheet pan and place it in the oven, then lower the oven temp to 350.

Cook the chicken for about an hour at 350, making sure it’s almost completely cooked. Juices should run clear, not bloody, when you poke it with a fork.

Start a hardwood fire on your grill. Push the coals to one side of the grill so you have a hot side and a cooler side with no coals underneath it. Place the chicken pieces on the cool side of the grill (if you put it on the hot side, it will stick and burn), brush with more sauce, and put the lid on the grill, making sure you have the vents open for air circulation.

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See those 2 black bits in the foreground? That’s where the chicken stuck to the grill because I placed them over the hot coals. Don’t do that.

After a few minutes, lift the lid, flip the chicken pieces over, brush them with sauce again, and close the lid. Keep doing this until the chicken is nice and caramelized, with tasty grill marks.

If you want to serve some of the sauce on the side, it’s important to pour some of the sauce off and set it aside in the very beginning, so you’re not using the same sauce that the basting brush touched the raw chicken with.

 

 

 

 

This was a huge hit whenever I brought it to a party…but it’s just as tasty when you’re quarantined at home or limiting the size of gatherings with friends! And this being Memorial Day weekend, it’s the perfect appetizer.

It’s easy to set up the parts, then put it together quickly as needed. I even put a to-go package together. If you know what a pulled pork sandwich North Carolina-style is all about (pulled pork on a bun with cole slaw right on top of the meat), then imagine taking away the bun and replacing with a deviled egg! It’s messy, it’s delicious, and everyone loves them.

 

A to-go package, ready to assemble at home.

I’ve tried this two ways now: with pulled pork and with chicken…and the big thumbs up goes to the pork. Of course, I will smoke a pork shoulder for 10 hours, pull the meat, and mix it with the barbecue sauce…all for this dish. If you don’t have a smoker, you can simply buy already prepared pulled pork and use it here.

Be sure to make a lot of these…they’ll go faster than the hard-boiled eggs in “Cool Hand Luke!”

 

 

 

For the BBQ sauce:
2 cups ketchup
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
6 tablespoons white vinegar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat for about 25 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Let it cool to room temperature and then store it in the fridge. It will be good for several weeks.

 

For the cole slaw:
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
2 cups finely shredded cabbage

Combine all the cole slaw ingredients in a bowl or measuring cup, mixing well, and place it in the fridge. Making the cole slaw a day ahead of time is even better.

 

I measure 2 cups of cabbage in a measuring cup, then add the other ingredients.

 

For the deviled eggs:
6 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mustard (I use Gulden’s)

 

Here’s my tip for perfectly hard-boiled eggs every time: place the eggs in a pot, cover them with cold water, and turn the heat on high. Just before the water starts to boil, put a lid on the pot and turn the heat off. Let the eggs sit in the hot water for 15 minutes. Perfect hard-boiled eggs every time! Once cooked, keep the eggs in the fridge.

 

 

Here’s another tip: the easiest peeling eggs are older eggs! No…that doesn’t mean you let your eggs sit out on the front porch for a week. What that means is: but them from your supermarket rather than the farm stand down the road. Super-fresh eggs still have a membrane attached to the shell that makes them difficult to peel. The membrane detaches in slightly older eggs, making them easier to peel.

 

Slice the eggs in half and place the yolks in a bowl with the mayonnaise and mustard. Mix it well and keep it in the fridge.

 

As for the pork…I buy a large pork butt or pork shoulder. I remove any of the skin, but leave the fat. I prefer a pork shoulder with a bone…I think it adds more flavor. A day before I put the pork shoulder in the smoker, I rub it down with my pork rub and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

I set my smoker to 250 degrees (I have an electric smoker) and use hickory chips to smoke the shoulder. Letting the temperature drop to about 225 overnight, I smoke the shoulder for a total of about 14 hours, until the bones pulls out of the meat cleanly.

 

Out of the smoker, and ready to eat!

 

The bone comes right out!

 

I prefer to chop (versus shred) the pork meat, including bits of fat and crunchy exterior with the meat.

 

I mix in some BBQ into the meat–not too much–for extra flavor.

 

To assemble, take a teaspoon of the mayo/mustard/yolk mixture and place it in the cavity of one of the egg halves.

 

 

Place a lump of pulled pork on top (I like it warm, to counter the cold of the mayo and cole slaw.)

 

 

Top with a little BBQ sauce.

 

Then place a teaspoon of the cole slaw on top of that.

 

 

They are one of the more delicious single-bites you’ll ever have!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Fettuccine Alfredo are my daughter’s two favorite pasta dishes. When she couldn’t decide which one she wanted for dinner one night, I decided that she’d get both! (Yes, I spoil her rotten!)

 

 

The addition of chicken and peas made for a more balanced plate. This is now one of my go-to dishes when guests arrive, since many parts can be prepared ahead of time.

 

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Start with the chicken…

The breading for the chicken is bread that I’ve toasted, crumbled and put into a food processor to make breadcrumbs. I get a lot more flavor this way than using store-bought breadcrumbs from a can. I add flour to it to lighten it up.

If you’re on a gluten-free diet, simply use GF breadcrumbs and GF all-purpose flour in the same proportions.

1/2 lb. chicken breasts, cut into 1″ pieces
1 egg, scrambled
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
olive oil, for frying

Scramble the egg in a bowl. Cut the chicken into pieces, and add them to the egg, making sure they get evenly coated. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the bread crumbs, flour, parsley, oregano, basil, garlic, onion, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Fill a pan with about an inch of olive oil. Heat to medium-high, for frying.

In batches not to overcrowd the pan, take the chicken pieces out of the egg and toss them in the bread crumb mixture, shaking off the excess. Place them carefully in the hot oil and fry on both sides until golden. Since they’re small pieces, they should cook all the way through easily. Drain on a plate covered with paper towels. Do this with all the chicken and set it aside. Try not to eat it all before you make the rest of the dish! (This chicken can also be eaten as is–these are my daughter’s favorite nuggets–or used with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese to make a delicious chicken parmigiana.)

 

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The carbonara factor…

Many recipes for Spaghetti alla Carbonara use pancetta or bacon. But the original recipe calls for guanciale: cured (but not smoked) pig jowls, or cheeks. It’s easy enough to find in a good Italian food store, but I cure my own. I buy raw heritage Berkshire pork jowls from a farm that raises the pigs humanely, and cure the jowls for about 3 weeks in a combination of salt, pepper and fresh thyme leaves. Then I rinse them, pat them dry, and cut them into portion-sized pieces, wrapping them individually and freezing until I need them. It’s a lot of work, but to me, totally worth it.

3 oz. guanciale

If the guanciale is frozen, let it thaw just a little, then cut it into the smallest cubes you can manage. Place it in a pan and cook them until they’ve browned and crisped beautifully. Keep an eye on the pan, as guanciale can burn easily. Use the fried meat bits for this recipe and save the fat for flavoring a future dish! Set aside.

 

The Alfredo sauce…

Despite what you get in crappy restaurants like Olive Garden, Alfredo sauce should not be runny or soupy. It should cling to the pasta and be rich in flavor. My Alfredo sauce is based on a recipe from the legendary Italian cookbook author, Marcella Hazan.

1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
Fleur de Sel or sea salt
1 lb. pasta, fresh or dried
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
freshly ground black pepper

 

Put 2/3 of the cream and all the butter in a large saucepan that will later accommodate all the pasta. Simmer over medium heat for less than a minute, until the butter and cream have thickened a bit. Turn off the heat.

Drop the pasta in a bowl of boiling salted water. If the pasta is fresh, it will take just seconds. If it’s dry, it will take a few minutes. (Gluten-free pasta takes a little longer.) Either way, you want to cook the pasta even firmer than al dente, because it will finish cooking in the pan with the butter and cream. Drain the pasta immediately when it reaches that firm stage, and transfer it to the pan with the butter and cream, tossing the pasta gently for a few seconds to coat.

 

 

Turn the heat under the saucepan with the pasta on low, and add the rest of the cream, all the Parmigiano Reggiano, and a bit of pepper (no salt because there’s plenty in the guanciale and cheese.) Toss briefly until the sauce has thickened and the pasta is well-coated.

 

At this point, you don’t want the pasta to get to dry, so you add…

1 cup of frozen peas

…tossing gently to warm them through. Also add the cooked guanciale at this time.

 

With or without chicken, it’s delicious!

 

 

Plate the pasta in a bowl or dish and serve the chicken alongside.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s never a healthy option to eat fast food. Michael Pollan said it best: “It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car.”

So while I’m quarantined in my home, it’s really not fair that I’m getting my biggest cravings ever for some of my favorite fast food guilty pleasures. The answer? Try to re-create them at home.

A few years ago, the nephew of Colonel Sanders revealed the 11 secret herbs and spices that made KFC‘s original recipe chicken a worldwide success. He claimed he worked for his uncle for many years and had to make huge batches of the seasoning mix.

For me, KFC is like crack. Although I’m a big proponent of grass-fed this and pastured that, my kryptonite is KFC‘s original recipe chicken. There’s a KFC right next door to a local Home Depot in my area and my car literally drives itself to the pick-up window…I can’t help it. I justify the consumption of this heavenly grease by asking for no sides–no biscuit, no nothing. I get one breast and one thigh, and I drive off, steering my car with my knees as I indulge in my dirty secret, the hot grease dripping down my chin, a roll of paper towels at my side.

Making the KFC chicken recipe at home means I do have some control over product quality. I can use pastured or organic chicken. I can use clean oil. I don’t have the fancy pressure fryer they use at KFC, but I can use the healthier option of oven-frying. That means I fry my chicken in oil until golden brown, then finish the cooking process in the oven.

I have to say, the recipe really works! Maybe if I placed the real KFC side-by-side with my home-made chicken, I’d notice a difference. But it was pretty damn close and absolutely delicious! If I could change one thing, I would use smaller chicken pieces next time. I used large pieces and the meat-to-breading ratio was off. Though it was mighty tasty, I was craving more breading per bite.

The recipe calls for all-purpose flour, but if you follow a gluten-free lifestyle, using Cup4Cup GF flour works just as well.

 

 

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon celery salt
1 tablespoon dried mustard
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons basil
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
5 lbs. chicken pieces…your choice
oil, for frying

 

Combine the flour and the “11 herbs and spices” in a bowl. Mix well.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk and the egg. Add the chicken pieces to this bowl and let the chicken soak in it for 10 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pour a couple of inches of the oil into a pan with high sides and heat it to 340 degrees, using a thermometer. Don’t fill it with too much oil, because oil expands when hot and it could spill over.

Take the chicken pieces out of the milk and egg mixture and coat them with the seasoning mix one at a time, making sure you coat them well. Carefully place the chicken in the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan…work in small batches. Too much chicken could cause the oil to spill over the top.

Fry the chicken pieces just until golden…no need to cook them all the way through. Place the pieces on a baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil. When all the chicken has been fried, place the baking sheet in the oven and cook until the chicken pieces reach an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees.

 

 

Make a lot! Leftovers are great, and they re-heat really well in the oven! (Don’t use a microwave…the oven is best.)

The combination of sweet with a little heat is something I just can’t get away from. Whether I’m barbecuing, putting together a poke bowl, or preparing my favorite Asian recipe, I gotta have it.

I was looking back at a previous blog I had written about Korean barbecue, and I was really craving a lot of the flavors in my recipe…but quarantined here at home, I wasn’t about to go out to the store to buy the one key ingredient I didn’t have: a spicy sauce called Gochujang. So, I looked in my fridge for a reasonable substitute, and there, on the shelf, was a brand new bottle of Chinese chili garlic sauce. It was exactly what I needed.

 

Chicken was in short supply at the supermarket last week, but I got lucky: I showed up just as they were replenishing their stock, limiting purchases to 2 packages per customer. I grabbed the chicken leg quarters, because there was more meat per package…plus, the quarters have a drumstick and a thigh, my favorite parts of the chicken.

 

*Raw chicken hack*
Long before the corona virus, I kept disposable gloves in my kitchen to use whenever I handled raw chicken. I’ve got a special trimming knife that I use…and it goes right in the dishwasher after I’m done. (I don’t normally put knives in the dishwasher, but this inexpensive blade goes in.) I also use acrylic cutting boards, because they, too, can go right in the dishwasher to be sanitized. Doesn’t matter how much you scrub a wooden board, it will absorb odors and liquids and never get completely clean. I have two beautiful wooden boards in my kitchen, but they’re more for show than practical use. And then the gloves: I wear them while trimming the chicken, then toss them when I’m done.

 

The amazing sauce that I use here will last through the preparation of this dish and then some. Once you’ve mixed up a batch, it might be good to separate it into 2 bowls. Use one bowl to brush it onto the raw chicken. The other bowl will be untouched by anything that touches the chicken, so you can use it cooked or uncooked. As soon as the brush you’re using touches the raw chicken and then sauce, you can no longer use it uncooked. (Salmonella!) No licking the bowl by accident!

The extra sauce will be awesome if you want to brush even more sauce on leftovers.

 

More sauce than you need, but trust me: you’ll keep slathering it on more and more!

 

3 lb. package of chicken parts (I used leg quarters)
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chili garlic sauce
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon granulated garlic

Combine everything but the chicken in a bowl and mix well, then divide them into two bowls…one to use with the raw chicken and one for later.

 

*Ginger root hack*
I love fresh ginger. But I never use it often enough. It gets moldy in my fridge and I have to toss it out. But I learned a trick from a local organic farmer who grows their own ginger–my pal, Liz, at at Wishing Stone Farm in Little Compton, RI: Put the ginger root in a plastic bag, and keep it in the freezer. When you need it for a recipe, take the frozen root out of the freezer and grate it–skin and all–according to your recipe. Then put the rest back in the freezer. An amazing trick that really works, and you’ll never peel ginger again!

 

Looks good, but it’s not cooked yet! Once it’s basted, fold the foil over the top of the chicken to make a packet.

 

Grab a baking pan, and tear a long sheet of aluminum foil, placing it over it. Place the chicken pieces on the foil bottom-side up. (I need to use 2 sheets of foil overlapping each other because my chicken pieces were larger.)

Brush the bottoms of the chicken pieces with the sauce, then flip them over and brush the tops. Be generous!

Wrap the foil around the chicken pieces to make a pouch, making sure the pieces are not sticking out.

Pre-heat the oven to the highest temperature it will go. When the oven is hot, place the pan with the chicken in the oven, close the door, and turn the oven down to 325.

Bake the chicken for one hour.

When the chicken is done, open the foil packet. It will look like this…

 

Carefully pour off the fat, then brush more of the sauce on the chicken, and place it under the broiler, watching it carefully so that the sugars in the sauce don’t burn. Broil it until it’s caramelized. (Another option is to light a charcoal grill and cook it on the grill rather than putting it under the broiler. It’s just a matter of how much time and effort you want to spend.)

 

I used a new sheet of foil and a new pan under the broiler.

 

Discard any of the sauce that touched the raw chicken. Use the “clean” bowl of sauce on the cooked chicken, if you want to add more.

Leftovers are awesome. Simply take the chicken out of the fridge, brush with more sauce, and place it in a 300-degree oven for about 10–15 minutes. It will take on an even darker color.

 

Leftovers the next day: I brushed more sauce on it before re-heating.

 

 

It was cold day, and I was craving comfort food. I didn’t want to go to the store, so I looked in the pantry and fridge for tasty ingredients, and went this route. There are many similar versions of this dish out there, using different cuts of chicken–or a whole bird cut up. I just happened to find a great deal on organic drumsticks at the store, so I went with that. But you should use any cut of chicken that is your favorite.

 

 

It takes about an hour to prepare this dish from start to finish, so it’s something you could even cook on a weeknight…and it’s certainly easy enough to double the recipe if guests are coming over.

 

It starts in the pan!

 

Traditionally, this is cooked in a large cast iron skillet, started on the stovetop, then placed in the oven. I choose to cook mine in a baking pan that fit my smaller convection oven, so I started everything on the stovetop, then made the transfer to the baking pan.

 

Now that the chicken has seared, we start the veggies.

 

I’m on a diet, so calories matter. Chicken drumsticks aren’t all that bad in the calorie count: about 100 calories for a medium-sized drumstick (whatever medium is)…and that’s with the skin on. No need to get into exact gram weight measurements here, but the real calories come later when you add a starch to the dish. It does go really well with pasta, rice or potatoes. (My choice would be fresh Italian bread to really sop up the sauce!) But alas…I had none of those. Just a salad on the side. I’ll bring the bread out once my diet’s over.

I go with organic ingredients whenever possible, especially kale, which is on the “Dirty Dozen” produce list almost every year. (Along with strawberries, potatoes, apples, and others, kale is one of the most heavily sprayed produce items you can buy. I always go organic.)

 

If sodium is not a problem for you, add more olives!

 

3–4 lbs. organic, pastured chicken drumsticks (about 12 medium)
salt, pepper and paprika
olive oil
2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, squeezed through a press
1 teaspoon each: dried oregano, parsley, and thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock (homemade is best)
dry white wine (optional)
1/4 cup olives, sliced in half (I like green olives from Greece)
4 cups organic chopped kale (optional)

 

Pre-heat an oven to 350 degrees.

Season the chicken drumsticks with salt, pepper, and a bit of paprika.

Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a hot pan. Add the chicken to the pan, and sear the drumsticks on all sides, getting them nice and brown. It’ll take about 10–15 minutes.

Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and add the chopped onions to the same pan. Let them cook for a few minutes until they’re translucent, then add the garlic. Let the garlic cook for about 10 seconds, then add the oregano, parsley, and thyme. Now add the tomato paste and stir it all around, cooking it for just a minute to caramelize it and give it more flavor.

Pour in the can of tomatoes and the chicken stock, stirring well. (A splash of wine is optional at this point.) Add the olives and let the sauce cook for a few minutes.

 

The sauce is all happy, and ready for the baking pan.

 

Pour the sauce into the baking pan. Add the chicken drumsticks to the pan, nestling them in the sauce. (I like to roll them around in it to cover all sides.)

Place the pan in the oven to cook.

After 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven, and remove the drumsticks from the sauce, moving them onto a plate.

 

It looks like a lot of kale, but it withers down. Remember: go organic!

 

Take the kale and place it in the baking pan, tossing it around in the sauce. The sauce is hot, so the kale will start to wither and meld into the sauce in about a minute.

 

The kale’s withered down, and the chicken goes back in.

 

Now return the chicken drumsticks back to the baking pan, nestling them in the sauce again. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the pan rest in the oven until you’re ready to serve.

 

Turn the oven off, but keep the door closed to keep the chicken warm.

 

Where’s that bread?…

 

 

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
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 or a fryer 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.

 

Nothing like a hot, fresh batch!

 

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!

 

 

Through years of tireless experimentation, I’ve come up with a barbecue sauce that I feel is the best I’ve ever made. Granted, everybody has their favorites, but I prefer a slightly sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. Unless I’m making a classic pulled pork sandwich, I usually avoid vinegar-based sauces.

What makes this sauce special is the citrus. I originally used lemon juice for this recipe and it was good. Lime juice with lime zest was better. I also tried oranges, tangerines, even Meyer lemons. But my breakthrough happened on a day when I was craving barbecued chicken and all I had in my fridge was a grapefruit. I thought: how bad could it be? Turned out to be the perfect foil to the sweetness of the brown sugar and ketchup.

My favorite chicken pieces are the leg quarters: thigh and drumstick all in one. Chicken breasts, even on pastured birds, are pretty flavorless and dry, so I pass on them for the darker meat that’s juicy and fatty. (Honestly, I find it hard to trust anyone that won’t eat meat off a bone.)

Cooking chicken in the oven before putting it on the grill has several advantages. I don’t have to stand over the grill, constantly worrying about the meat burning or the fire going out. I can simply set a timer when I need to brush on the barbecue sauce or remove the chicken pieces. And the chicken cooks evenly…one piece won’t be burned while another piece is undercooked. Cooking them low and slow in the oven keeps the chicken juicy and tender. And I’m assured that my chicken is thoroughly cooked…no worries about salmonella.

I pre-heat the oven to 350 just to get it nice and hot. I line a sheet pan with non-stick aluminum foil, placing the chicken pieces on it. I rub each piece with a little olive oil, and season them lightly with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. The chicken goes into the oven and I immediately lower the temperature to 200 degrees.

While the chicken is cooking, I combine all the barbecue sauce ingredients in a sauce pan, bring it to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer, letting it cook for about 20 minutes, until it has thickened. Then I turn the heat off and set the pan aside.

I’ll bake the chicken for about an hour, taking the sheet pan out of the oven to brush the barbecue sauce on the pieces before returning to the oven again, now bringing the temperature up to 300 degrees. (Because there’s sugar in the barbecue sauce, I don’t want to crank the heat or it will burn.)

Taking the chicken out of the oven and brushing it with sauce.

 

In 30 minutes, I take the sheet pan out a second time, and brush the sauce on the chicken pieces again…then back in the 300-degree oven for another 30 minutes.

Once the chicken’s back in the oven, it’s time to start the grill. For projects like this, I like to use a small grill I bought for our family camping trips. It’s like a mini-Weber, and it grills enough food for 4 people easily, without wasting charcoal like a larger grill would.

These small grills are just 20 bucks, and they save you a ton of otherwise wasted, unused charcoal.

 

I use a smaller charcoal chimney for this project, and I use charcoal briquets, not hardwood, because I want an even fire. The coals are ashed over in just 10 minutes.

Out of the oven and onto the fire! The grill grate was nasty and rusty, so I just grabbed a clean one I had handy and popped it right on top. (I hate scrubbing grills!)

 

Once the chicken has cooked its total of 2 low-and-slow hours in the oven, I bring the pieces outside. I spread the coals evenly on my little grill, and place the chicken pieces on it, flipping the pieces so that both sides get nice and smokey with a little bit of char…about 5 or 10 minutes per side will do the trick.

Getting that char on the chicken is key to making it taste like it’s been on the grill all the time.

 

The chicken goes back to the kitchen, and while it’s still hot, I brush with the barbecue sauce one last time before serving.

 

 

Perfectly done…perfectly delicious!

 

Here is the magical barbecue sauce recipe…

1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Juice and zest of 1 grapefruit
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce, like Frank’s Red Hot
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
(no salt)

Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring it to a boil and then turn it down low, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

 

 

I like to brine large hunks of meat that I’m going to roast, because brining not only gives it flavor, it adds moisture…so my pork loin, Thanksgiving turkey, or in this case, whole chicken, doesn’t dry out.

Brining usually means you take a lot of water and you add salt and other spices to it, then drop the bird into that liquid for several hours, so the meat can suck up the salty water, releasing it slowly as it cooks, but retaining much of the moisture and flavor.

Recently, I started reading about “dry-brining,” (aka curing)…and I thought that would be a fun thing to try. I created a spice rub that I rubbed all over a spatchcocked chicken, placed it on a sheet pan, and popped it in the fridge to dry age for several days before cooking.

Spatchcocked? Sounds like a dirty word, but it means that the backbone of the bird has been removed, allowing the bird to be flattened and cooked more evenly. As you know, very often the breast meat of a bird is overcooked if the dark meat is perfect. Spatchcocking a bird allows all the parts of the bird to cook more evenly.

All you need to spatchcock a chicken is a good pair of poultry scissors. Cut all the way down on either side of the backbone of the bird (saving the backbone for future stock, of course.) Now you can open the bird up, season it on both sides, and lay it flat on a sheet pan to cure.

 

Spatchcocked and rubbed. I put the bird skin-side down for a day and a half, then flipped it over for another day and a half.

 

My preferences leaned toward Asian flavors this time, so here’s my dry brine recipe:

3 tablespoons Kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal…the brand matters. See why below.)
1 1/2 tablespoons (1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons) granulated garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons (1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons) granulated onion
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Chinese Five Spice
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

I combined all the ingredients in a bowl.

 

The reason why the brand of Kosher salt matters is the weight. But salt is salt, right? Well…different brands weigh different amounts. For example, Morton Kosher salt is more dense than Diamond Crystal. If you use equal amounts of each, you’ll get different results. That’s why most recipes tell you the weight of the salt, not the volume. In this case, 3 tablespoons of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (according to my little kitchen scale) weighs 1.09 ounces.

Once I spatchcocked the bird, I rubbed it really well on both sides with the spice rub.

I lined a sheet pan with non-stick aluminum foil (to be used again later), and placed the bird, skin-side down, on it. I didn’t wrap the bird. I simply moved it to a refrigerator just like that, and let it stay there, dry-aging, for 1 1/2 days. I then flipped the bird (pardon my language) skin-side up and let it cure another 1 1/2 days, for a total of 3 days for a 4-pound bird.

 

Dry-aged after 3 days.

 

Once the bird dry-aged for 3 days, I removed it from the fridge, and let it sit for an hour, allowing it to reach room temperature. I pre-heated my oven to 400 degrees.

I set my oven up so that the bird would lie flat skin-side up (without the sheet pan) directly on the middle oven rack, and the sheet pan (with the non-stick aluminum foil still on it) on the rack underneath it, to catch the drippings. This allowed air to circulate completely around the bird as it cooked, and the pan caught any splatters. (The foil, still on the pan, made clean-up later much easier.)

Once the oven reached 400, I placed the bird on the middle rack, the sheet pan below it, closed the oven door, and turned the temperature down to 275.

 

Although it’s 161, that’s the breast meat temp. The thighs were higher. And the temperature will still rise while the bird is resting.

 

Chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165. Using an instant-read thermometer, I inserted it into the thigh, without touching the bone. I also inserted into the breast. Although the temperature was just a touch low, it rose a few degrees while resting under the foil.

My 4-pound chicken took about 90 minutes to cook.

 

Out of the oven to rest. I covered it with foil to rest about 15 minutes before carving.

 

 

Juicy and delicious!