Eleven Herbs and Spices Revealed?

Mon, Jul 27 • 1

Ron Douglas, author of America’s Most Wanted Recipes, claims he has discovered the secret recipe after lots of chicken, and years of testing. According to an article in The Guardian, the secret ingredients are :

1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons Accent (MSG)

Unfortunately, it’s still pretty difficult to duplicate the fast food chain’s cooking methods, since they use pressure cookers to fry their chicken. However, the home cook does have the advantage of being better able to drain the excess grease from the fried chicken, since we’re not cooking dozens of chickens at once. Also, home cooks have the option of buying better quality, organic, free-range chicken if they choose to. The Guardian even claimed to have come up with what they call a superior mix of herbs and spices, that doesn’t include MSG. This is their recipe and recommended process, the best I can interpret it from the article, as they only roughly describe the process, but they do give a detailed listing of their choice of herbs and spices. The recommend poaching the chicken in milk to insure the chicken is cooked completely to the bone, but that’s a step I’ve never seen in any fried chicken recipe.

“It’s worth noting that chicken marinaded and poached in milk has an unbelievably suave flavour and texture, and that the poaching liquid thickens to create the most soothing cream of chicken soup I’ve ever achieved,” says the article.

1 half gallon whole milk
1 whole chickens, each cut into 8 pieces
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp sage
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried onion flakes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground white pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
peanut oil
for frying

Cut the chickens into 8 parts, splitting the breast in half to allow for even cooking, and saving the backs, necks and wing tips for stock. Marinate overnight in the milk. The next day, lightly poach the chicken in the milk bath for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and drain. Use enough peanut oil to make a depth of 1 inch in a frying pan. Bring up to 350º heat. While the oil is coming to temperature, mix the spices with the flour. Coat each piece of chicken with the flour mixture, and let set for a couple of minutes, then re-coat each piece. Fry the chicken in the oil, 6 minutes on each side, or until the coating is golden brown. Remove the chicken to a rack and allow excess oil to drip off.

The results were ok. Nothing fantastic. Each piece of chicken was fully cooked, but I didn’t really detect the suave flavor and texture described. In fact, some of the skin was a little chewy and flabby. And frankly, the coating did not come near the flavor of KFC, or any other chain-store fried chicken place I’ve tried. In fact, I’d say it was comparable to cheap grocery store fried chicken.

In the end, my wife and I just didn’t think it came close to competing with my personal favorite recipe for fried chicken, which I think is better than anything you can buy. What I may do, though, is use most of my technique from that recipe, but try to spice it up with the different herbs and spices from these new recipes. Look for that in the coming weeks.

Smothered Pork Chops

Tue, Sep 16 • 0

Serves 4

4 thick, center cut pork chops
1 cup salt
½ cup brown sugar
1 gallon water
3 slices country bacon, diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon oil
salt & pepper
2 medium onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped

Take a couple thick center cut pork chops (preferably not enhanced pork) and brine it in a mixture of water, salt and brown sugar for several hours in the fridge.

When ready to cook, cut 3 slices of good country bacon into 1/4 inch dice and fry it in a saucepan over medium heat until crispy. Fish out the bacon bits with a slotted spoon and set aside. If the bacon grease doesn’t equal 2 tablespoons, add enough oil to make it so. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour, and cook this mixture over medium heat until it’s darkened to the color of peanut butter, stirring frequently. Add 1 and a half cups of good chicken stock (either home made or canned, low sodium), mixing constantly until incorporated. Heat to a boil, stirring often, then cover, and set aside.

In a frying pan, heat over high heat, 1 tablespoon oil until smokey. Dry off the pork chops with paper towels, season with pepper, and put in the frying pan, making sure they’re not overlapping, and brown each side for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Reduce the heat, add a touch more oil, and 2 medium sliced onions, a teaspoon of salt, and a couple tablespoons of water. Cook this for 5 minutes, scraping the brown crusties from the pork chops from the bottom of the pan, until the onions are clear and the edges are lightly browned. Add 2 crushed cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of fresh thyme, and cook for another minute or two. Add the pork chops back into the pan, again in one layer, and cover with the onion mixture, and the gravy. Lower the heat and cover the pan, and simmer for 30 or 40 minutes (or until the meat thermometer reads 160).

Remove the chops one more time to a heated serving plate, and cover with foil. Reduce what’s left in the pan over high heat for 5 minutes or so, stirring often.

Serve the chops smothered in the gravy over mashed potatoes, rice or egg noodles. Sprinkle the bacon bits over the top.

Southern Fried Chicken – “The Virginia Way”

Sun, Mar 9 • 1

rwf-chicken.jpgFunny how my brother and I sometimes end up being simpatico but always with slightly different perspectives. My wife had been talking about feeding our kids Kentucky Fried Chicken when I ran into a deal at our local Asian food market – chicken legs for 69 cents a pound. I knew I had to use the chicken legs immediately (there presumably was a reason why they were on special).

Soup was a possibility, but my boys love fried chicken. So fried chicken it would be (and no, I had not seen my brother’s posting before making this decision).

So, as my brother asks: “what breading?” I started making a batter coating that has been successful in the past, but then thought better of it. I grew up in Connecticut, but I now live in Virginia. How do Virginians make southern fried chicken?

To find the answer, I looked in some of my favorite southern cookbooks. [Footnote: Camille Glenn’s The Heritage of Southern Cooking is a true authority from which I have learned a lot. I also sometimes look at Craig Claiborne’s Southern Cooking since I know it’s meticulously researched. I haven’t picked up the Lee brother’s book yet, but plan to one of these days.]

The authorities I consulted were consistent: the coating is flour mixed with some salt and pepper (Claiborne cautions that “pepper is important in this recipe”). Thus, Southern Fried Chicken is really very simple. Take some chicken. Rinse and dry it. Coat it in flour mixed with some salt and pepper (you can shake in a bag if you like). Shake off the excess. Fry in hot oil (preferably in a large cast iron skillet) for 8 minutes, turn over and fry another 12 minutes (or more) until it’s “cooked through”. (Ms. Glenn talks about covering the skillet for the first eight minutes, presumably to reduce the spatter. She has you take off the cover when you turn it because you have to watch it).

How do you know when it’s “cooked through”? Good question. Undercooked chicken is dangerous. This is where experience comes in. Ms Glenn has the experience to know when its done just right. Lacking that, do what I did – simply take out a piece, cut it up and see if it’s done.

Other variations: Claiborne tells you to soak the chicken in milk with some tabasco sauce for an hour before your coat. I did not do this. Claiborne seems to always put in something extra to make it special. I knew my boys wanted plain old fried chicken.

Of course, eating this stuff every day is not good for you. It’s also not good for your kitchen – the oil spatters and you have a big mess to clean up. But the kids do love it!!

Any real southerners out there with comments? How did your grandmother make fried chicken?

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