Suzi's Blog

Oven-Fried Lemon Chicken

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I am about to change your life. Below is the recipe for the best fried chicken recipe ever.

Oh, I’m sure that claim will rattle the edges a tad. By what right can I make such a claim?

Sixty years of fried chicken experience. When I was 8 [yes, you can figure it out], my parents moved to a suburb of Portland where there was a tiny restaurant called The Castle. 800 square feet. The outside was sculpted in stone, there was a two story turret and the top edge was crenelated so that archers could shoot arrows. Not that there were that many bands of errant knights roaming around Portland at the time.

Inside there was 30 square feet for a counter where you picked up orders of fried chicken, along with biscuits and little cardboard containers of honey that always spilled when you opened them, so I always ate honey fried chicken. The chicken was spectacular. It had to be because they need a cover for all the traffic that came and went at The Castle. The other 770 square feet was devoted to (a) a small kitchen and (b) a large gambling room. Portland was a wide open town with such industries and girls and gambling.

Periodically, law enforcement would visit The Castle and shut it down. My family could agree on only two food: potato salad and fried chicken. During those dark periods, we would look for other places offering fried chicken. There were dozens. With its logging industry, Oregon had many lumberjacks who need to consume a few thousand calories a day. What better way to calorie-up than by fried chicken. [I said this recipe was the best, not healthy].

Every café on the mountain back roads had a fried chicken special. Crusty or moist, browned or almost black. The perfect Oregon meal was fried chicken with dark brown gravy over mashed potatoes. Complete the meal with Chocolate Chiffon Pie and coffee served black. No salad need apply.

I did wonder in my childhood days why it was called Southern fried chicken because I lived in Northern Oregon.

Decades have past. My naivety is long gone. I have sample many fried birds across this nation. I understand, now, why it is called “Southern fried” and I have sampled south of the Mason-Dixon in many establishments. Last fall, and I blogged this, I finally ate at Lucy’s in Austin. I left the table knowing I had eaten the best fried chicken in my life and that none could surpass it. None.

I underestimated three things: my wife’s diligence to find great recipes, the gunpowder power of raw buttermilk, and the publication of Maximum Flavors. Authors Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot have continued their explorations in perfecting flavors through exceptional techniques and combinations of ingredients. They have succeeded.

Yes, you may have seen a recipe to marinate the chicken in buttermilk. But this idea calls for a carefully balanced array of spices to extend that marinades potency. And, you let the chicken sit in this buttermilk mixture for 24 hours.

The result is sublime chicken, crusted in flavorful bread crumbs, suitably brown, tender and moist. Perfect. Just perfect.

One minor note here. Suzen looked at all the chicken and the recipe and doubled the amount of bread crumbs. She actually used more than 2 cups and less than 4. It will all depend for you on the size of your chicken pieces and how wet they actually are the second when dipped into the bread crumbs.

Oven-Fried Lemon Chicken

Yield: serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

For the chicken:

  • 2 cups cultured buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • Grated zest from 2 lemons
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

For the bread crumbs:

  • About 2 cups dried bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grams freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon sweet Spanish paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

Preparation:

Begin by brining the chicken. In a large bowl, whisk together the whey, soy sauce, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon oil, cumin, and cayenne. Add the chicken thighs and stir gently to coat them. Cover with plastic wrap or transfer to a lidded container and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450°F (235°C). Put a large rimmed baking sheet—big enough to hold all of the chicken in a single layer—in the oven to preheat.

Next make the bread crumbs. In a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmigianino, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, and salt and whisk to blend.

Drain the chicken, discarding the brine. Set the chicken next to the bowl of bread crumbs and a large baking sheet on the other side. Take one piece of chicken, still damp from the brine, and put it in the bowl of crumbs. Turn it over a few times to coat it thoroughly, then gently shake off any excess crumbs, and transfer it to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Once all of the chicken has been coated and the oven is hot, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Add the butter to the baking sheet and swirl the pan so the butter coats the bottom. Immediately add the chicken thighs, setting them skin side down, and put the pan in the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 400°F (205°C) and cook for 20 minutes. Flip over the chicken pieces and bake until golden brown and the meat is starting to pull back from the tips of the bones, about 20 more minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let the chicken rest on the baking pan for 10 minutes before serving.

Source: Maximum Flavor Aki Kamozawa and Alexander Talbot

Photo Information [top picture]: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/2.8 for 1/100th second at ISO-1600

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Brian’s Chicken and Dumplings [Big, Fluffy, Wonderful Dumplings]

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Comfort food. We all respond when we hear this term, and we all have that short list of favorites that we can instantly taste in our brains, in not in our mouths. If you survey people, you’d be surprised how many of us overlap in those foods that always entertain and please us.

For days, I have wanted Chicken and Dumplings, a dish I had two or three times a month as a kid. Bisquick dumplings were the ones I grew up on. And I loved them. Truth is, dumplings can be a bit better. Lighter. Fluffier. Ambrosia if made perfectly.

I sought just that perfection. I spent an hour online going through twenty recipes. I had some criteria: nothing too easy, buttermilk for the dumplings, no soup mix.

At SimplyRecipes.com, I found a lovely recipe, which I want to credit for inspiration. I did change it and the recipe below reflects my inputs: differences in ingredients and some more details about how to prepare this dish.

What makes this recipe so good? The dumplings. There are big and fluffy and tender. To get a great dumpling, you have to steam the batter not cook it in the sauce. That’s exactly what I did and, as the pictures show, they are abundant in size and flavor. Using baby carrots and adding peas is a pairing that was not in my childhood version. I love the color and flavor they add.

Finally, some recipes call just stewing the chicken, and perhaps doing that in water. Here, you brown the chicken, then poach it in stock. I used homemade turkey stock to give an added tang to the dish. You can use chicken stock and even store-bought stock but homemade is superior.

Brian’s Chicken and Dumplings

Yield: serves 4

Ingredients:

For the Chicken:

  • 2 tablespoons mixed herbs, chopped: sage, thyme and rosemary, separated into two equal portions
  • 2 quarts homemade turkey stock
  • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 3 to 3-½ pounds chicken thighs, skin-on, bone-in, trimmed of excess fat
    • Salt
    • 3 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into ½-inch chunks
    • 2 cups baby carrots
    • 1 large red onion, roughly chopped
    • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
    • ½ red wine
    • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
    • Ground black or white pepper

For the Dumplings:

  • 2 cups (250 g) cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • ¾ cup buttermilk, plus more if needed

Preparation:

Finely cut up the herbs and separate into two equal portions.

In an 8-quart stock pot, place the stock and bring to a simmer.

In a second 8-quart thick-bottomed pot, heat the butter over medium-high heat. Pat dry the chicken pieces. Lay them skin side down, seeking to render out the fat for use in the stew/sauce.

Cook for about 5 minutes, moving the chicken pieces around so they do not stick. Turn and cook for another 5 minutes or so until all the chicken pieces are browned on all sides. Remove the chicken from the large pot, and turn off the heat. Pull the skin and any dangling fat from the chicken pieces. Place the chicken pieces in the simmer chicken stock. Add 1 tablespoon of chopped herbs.  Place a lid on the pot and let the chicken poach until thoroughly cooked, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove the chicken pieces and set on a tray to cool momentarily. When the chicken pieces are cool to touch, use a knife and a fork to separate the meat from each thigh. You should get two large pieces of meat and perhaps one or two smaller one. Set the meat aside.

Do not fret about getting all the meat off the thighs. Instead, leave meat on, reserve the thigh bones, and use these pieces to make more chicken stock [refrigerate, of course, if you are not stocking until tomorrow].

Return the heat on the large pot used to brown the chicken to medium-high. When the pot is hot, add the onion, celery, carrot and thyme and sauté until soft, but not browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add the flour and stir well. The flour will absorb the fat in the pot and may stick a little to the bottom. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir the flour vegetable mixture constantly for 2-3 minutes. Do not let it burn.

Get a ladle ready and have the pot of simmering chicken stock nearby. Add the red wine to the flour vegetable mixture. Stir to mix. The pan contents may appear to be dry. Before anything can burn, add a ladle of hot chicken stock to and stir well. Add another ladle, then another, stirring all the while, until the broth comes together. Add the rest of the chicken stock, the reserved chicken meat, and second tablespoon of herbs.

Increase the heat and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer while you make the dumplings.

Make the dumpling batter by whisking together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and buttermilk to the dry ingredients. Gently mix with a wooden spoon until mixture just comes together. Don’t over mix or your dumplings will not be soft and fluffy. If necessary, add a little more buttermilk. Stir just to incorporate.

Drop dumpling batter into the simmering stew by heaping spoonfuls over the surface of the stew. Some people start with rounded teaspoons of batter, but I used the batter 2 tablespoons at a time. I want my dumplings big. My larger dumplings quadrupled in size when they cooked.

Cover and simmer until dumplings are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Once you have covered the pan. DUMPLING ALERT: do not uncover and peek while the dumplings are cooking. For the dumplings to be light and fluffy, they must steam, not boil. Uncovering the pan releases the steam. If after 15 minutes they are still not cooked through (use a toothpick or skewer to test) cover pan again, and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Gently stir in the peas and, if you wish, more herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle portions of meat, sauce, vegetables, and dumplings into soup plates and serve. Note that the stew will continue to thicken the longer it sits.

 

Source: Inspired by Simply Recipes

Photo Information: Canon T2i. EFS 60 macro lens, F/2.8, 1/100th second, ISO 1000