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.

Lobel’s : Who are your customers?

Wed, Mar 11 • 0

I took advantage of a promotional $50 gift certificate from Lobel’s, an upscale New York meat market that also does mail-order, at least 7 or 8 years ago, and I’ve been on their mailing list ever since. I have to admit that their products do look appealing, and am occasionally tempted to make a purchase, until I think about how much I’d be spending for what I’d be getting.

bacon_smoked_bgFor example,while I was looking around their site, I noticed that they sell Double Hickory Smoked Slab Bacon, unsliced, in 2½ pound slabs, for $29.98 — pricey, but considering how difficult it is to find uncut slab bacon, it might be worth it for a splurge — that is, until you roll in their shipping fees : another $26.95 on top of that. This means the bacon ends up being $22.78 a pound, or a total order price $56.93.

It really makes me wonder who they think will order from them, especially in this economy. Still, they’ve been in business for 5 generations, so there’s got to be people willing to part with their money.

Revenge of the Roasted Beast

Wed, Jan 21 • 0

This past weekend, we had a late family holiday get-away in the Pocono’s and I volunteered to make dinner for one of the nights, so I pulled out my recipe for Roast Beast, the same one I posted here last month. This time, I made four roasts instead of just one, for a crowd of about 20 people, kids and adults. Each roast was about 3 pounds each. And instead of just plain pepper, I coated each with a mixture of Penzeys’ Mignonette and minced, dried garlic. Despite all the problems with the kitchen in the lodge we’d rented (only the 2 smaller of the 4 electric burners worked, and the only pan I could find was a very, very scratched non-stick griddle pan), the dinner was a total success. The meat turned out perfectly done … though I probably should have rotated the pan in the oven during the long, slow roast, because the uneven heating made one roast more cooked than the other three. Still, even the pickiest of kids finished what was on their plate, and many people came back for seconds and thirds. My sister-in-law raved so much, I ended up giving her the print-out of the recipe I was using.

I do think one crucial necessity for the recipe is a good, accurate probe thermometer. I use a Thermapen, but the high price ($89) makes it a total luxury item for most. (I have read that there’s a cheaper alternative that is used in the air-conditioning industry that has a slightly larger probe diameter, but is otherwise identical to this one, and costs about half as much.)

Pecan Crusted Turkey Cutlets

Thu, Jun 26 • 0

A low-fat, inexpensive alternative to breaded chicken cutlets.

I was originally going to make this with chicken breast cutlets, but the turkey cutlets were half the price in my grocery store, so I went with them instead. The recipe is relatively low fat. If you’d rather not waste the egg yolks and don’t mind the extra cholesterol, substitute the 3 egg whites for another whole egg, but the extra egg whites seem to make the coating stick better after cooking.

¾ c pecans
1 egg
3 egg whites
¼ c flour
4 turkey cutlets
salt and pepper to taste

Take ½ c of the pecans and pulse in a food processor to make a coarse chop. Set aside on a plate. Take the rest of the pecans, plus the flour, salt and pepper, and process until a fine powder, and set aside on another plate. Put the eggs in a bowl and mix.

First, dredge each cutlet in the fine pecan and flour mixture. Then, dip into the eggs. Then dip into the coarse pecans. Let the cutlets set a bit.

In a frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil, and then slip the coated cutlets in, and fry until golden brown, about 3 or 4 minutes a side. Remove to a paper towel to wick off excess oil.

Meatloaf, Attempt 1

Thu, Apr 17 • 2

I tried making a meatloaf last night, and I think it ended up turning out pretty good. My wife said she thought it tasted a little too “porky.”

I started off with a quarter pound each of ground beef (85/15), pork, and veal. I put a carrot and a 6″ length of leek through the food processor, along with 4 slices of applewood smoked bacon, and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, and made a fine paste. I mixed that into the meats, plus one egg, some salt and pepper, and some bottled bbq sauce, and then I turned it all out onto a parchment lined sheet pan and formed a loaf shape. I covered the whole thing over with a little more bbq sauce. I cooked it in a 375° oven for about an hour, and then let it rest for 10 minutes.

As I said, I thought the flavor was really very good, though the texture was a bit off. It fell apart easily when I tried slicing it. I think next time, I’ll add something that will bind it together a little better… maybe milk soaked bread.

How to Braise

Fri, Apr 11 • 2

Braising is just cooking a tough bit of meat, partially submerged in a moist, flavorful liquid, for a long time, at a relatively low temperature. You wouldn’t want to try it on a tender New York strip steak, or a chicken breast. They’d just end up falling apart into nothing. But a lamb shank, or a 7-blade chuck steak, or short ribs are all pretty tough, and do well in a braise. The low-and-slow cooking method basically makes the gelatins in the meat break down, which gives the food a good mouth-feel, and has lots of flavor.

Keep reading…

Antibiotics in Meat

Sat, Mar 1 • 1

mooSenators Ted Kennedy (D., Mass) and Olympia Snowe (R., Maine) must have read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, because he recently introduced a bill to limit the use of antibiotics in chicken, beef, sheep and pork farms. According to the book, modern industrial cattle farms force the cows to eat something they normally wouldn’t touch — corn. As a result, cows are prone to acquire all kinds of illnesses that normally wouldn’t be an issue, and so industrial farmers feed their animals large doses of antibiotics to keep infections down, even if a particular head of cattle isn’t showing any signs of needing them. Critics claim that this abuse of antibiotics contributes to increased antibiotics in humans. In the book, an industry insider flat-out admitted that if government were ever to step in and ban the use of antibiotics in farm animals, all of the modern industrial farming practices that have been in vogue for the last 30 to 50 years would cease to be profitable, and farmers would have to go back to raising livestock the old-fashioned, but more natural (and humane) way. This would have an impact on consumers at the check-out, doubling the cost of beef.

Other benefits of doing away with the modern industrial farm practices include making the food supply safer from e-coli contamination, and less risk of bovine spongiform encephalitis, aka “mad cow” disease.

Interestingly, corn farmers probably won’t be too upset about the passage of this bill, since the US government pays them a certain amount of money for a bushel of corn, regardless of market prices or demand. You can expect big opposition bill from industrial agrifarm giants like ADM and Tyson’s Food, though. Until the bill’s passage, you should probably stick to only buying meat with the green “USDA Organic” seal.

Homemade Sloppy Joe’s Sauce

Tue, Feb 26 • 0

A recipe from Gourmet, October, 2007, which they call “Sophisto Joes.” I’m betting it will taste just as good on spaghetti as it would on a kaiser roll. Sort of like a bbq’d bolognese.

1 14½oz can of whole tomatoes, drained
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 T unsalted butter
1 medium carrot, chopped fine
1 celery rib, chopped fine
1½ lb ground beef, chuck
1 T chili powder
1 t ground cumin
½ c dry red wine
2 T worcestershire sauce
1½ T packed brown sugar
4 kaiser rolls

Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor. Heat a 12″ heavy skillet and brown the onion in the butter (4-5 min), adding the garlic at the last moment. Add the carrot, celery, and a little salt (½t) and cook another 4-5 minutes until veg are soft. Add the beef and break up the big lumps while browning, 5-6 mins. Add the chili powder and the cumin, another ½t salt and ¾t pepper (maybe a mix of black and red, if you like it spicy?) and cook, stirring, for 2 more mins. Add all the liquids (tomatoes, wine, wooster sauce) and the brown sugar, and cook to thicken — about 10 mins.

Cooking a Steak

Mon, Dec 31 • 0

The first step in cooking a steak is picking the right steak. Part of it comes down to personal preference, and part of it comes down to having the right eye for it. The cut you choose is mostly preference. My favorite cut is the New York Strip. The Ribeye is good — though a little too fatty for my taste. The Tenderloin is extremely tender, and is my wife’s favorite, but I think it completely lacks any flavor, and isn’t worth the money. (I make it and buy it for her, though.)steak

When I’m buying a steak, I look for decent marbling. The flavor is in the fat. I also try to get a steak that’s at least an inch thick. Usually you’re not going to find these in the styrofoam containers in the refrigerated case. You’ll need to talk to the butcher.

So here’s what I do when I’m gonna prepare steak for dinner. An hour before I’m ready to start cooking, I take the steak out of the refrigerator and let it sit out on the counter, to get closer to room temperature. 30 minutes before dinner, I turn the oven on and get it preheated to 300°. 10 minutes later, I put the cast iron pan onto the stovetop and turn the burner on beneath it to high. I’ll also probably turn on the exhaust fan then, too. Then I take some paper towel and dry off the steak as much as I can … moisture inhibits browning. I’ll usually just sprinkle the steak on both sides with a little kosher salt, but I sometimes use a salt/spice mix like McCormick’s Asian or Mediterranean Sea Salt mixes. (Avoid mixes with things that go bitter when they’re cooked at high heat … this includes garlic flakes or paprika.) I’ll also dab the steak with a couple drops of canola oil and rub the salt into the flesh.

Depending on the thickness of the steak, I’ll cook it in the hot cast iron pan for 3 – 4 minutes on each side. There’s usually quite a bit of smoke involved here. After I’ve seared both sides, I put the steak into the oven, and set the timer for 8 minutes. After that, I check the steak with my tongs. If the steak is still too rare, it’ll feel like the fleshy part between your thumb and forefinger when your hand is relaxed. It’ll be medium when it feels like the same spot with your thumb flexed. You’ll want to undercook it a little, because the heat will carry over a little while it rests, which you should always do — 10 minutes, minumum, on the plate before serving.

Unusual Meat in the Mail

Mon, Dec 24 • 0

Here are some sources for unusual products. (If you’re on this list, and you’d like to send me samples, by all means…)


  • D’artagnan (Newark, NJ) is a pretty well-known supplier of packaged pàtés … in fact, my supermarket carries it for the holidays in the specialty cheese case … but I had no idea they also sell game meat for not completely outlandish prices.
  • Cajun Grocer (Lafayette, LA) is your source for authentic Cajun and Louisiana foods. I’ve bought from these guys before — andouille, boudin, chaurice. They also ship crawfish and turduckens.
  • Exotic Meats (San Antonio, TX) seems to sell the hardcore game stuff — antelope, elk, wild boar, even yak. Their prices seem a little high to me, but then, I don’t really know the going price for a good hunk of yak.
  • Lobel’s (New York, NY) is a high-end, high-class butcher. They offer more than my grocery store butcher, but at prices that make me lose my appetite. I bought a single hanger steak from them more than 5 years ago, as part of a promotion, and I’m still getting email from them. If you order from them, you’ll get a friend for life, I think.

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