Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thomas Keller's "Buttermilk Fried Chicken" from _Ad Hoc at Home_

Serves 4-6

NOTE: Begin preparing brine at least 24 hours (ideally 48) ahead.

Two 2.5 to 3 lb chickens*
Chicken Brine, cold (see below)

*This is on the small side, esp. in most grocery stores. I've found that Whole Foods's very smallest birds usually just make the cut. Otherwise yous might need access to a good Farmer's Market. Smaller birds ensure a proper brine and a good meat to crust ratio.

For Dredging and Frying

Peanut or canola oil for deep frying (Gonna need a lot -- I usually buy it by the gallon at the local Asian market and reuse it a few times.)
1 qt. buttermilk
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper


6 c. all-purpose flour
.25 c. garlic powder
.25 c. onion powder
1 T + 1 t paprika
1 T + 1 t cayenne
1 T + 1 t kosher salt
1 T + 1 t black pepper

Ground fleur de sel or fine sea salt
Rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnish

Additional materials

Candy thermometer
Dutch oven or other heavy pot
Big freakin' stock pot for brining


1. Break down each chicken into 10 parts (2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings, 2 breasts that are then sliced in half). Add to brine, and leave set for EXACTLY 12 hours. Remove, rinse, & dry. (Chicken can be held at this point, refrigerated, for up to 1 day.)

2. 90 minutes before beginning frying, remove chicken from fridge and allow to come to room temp & sort by cut, putting breast pieces into the bottom of a bowl, followed by (in order) wings, drumsticks, & thighs.

3. Fill pot (I use a heavy, cast iron Dutch oven) with AT LEAST 2" oil, BUT NOT MORE than enough to come 1/3 the way up the pot. Heat to 320º. A good thermometer is absolutely necessary. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.

4. Combine coating ingredients in a large bowl, then divide between 2 bowls. Pour buttermilk into 3rd bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper. Set up a dipping station: 1.) bowl of chicken parts, sorted; 2.) bowl of coating; 3.) bowl of buttermilk; 4.) 2nd bowl of coating; 5.) parchment-lined baking sheet.

5. Just before frying, dredge thighs in 1st coating bowl, dip in buttermilk, drain, dip in 2nd bowl, set on parchment-lined baking sheet.

6. Add thighs to oil, adjusting heat to maintain 320º temperature. Fry 2 minutes, undisturbed. Then move pieces about, flipping to ensure even frying, another 11-12 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the next cut (in the first case, the drumsticks) to be fried.

7. Transfer cooked thighs to cooling rack, skin side up. Check temp then repeat, first for drumsticks, leaning these on end against the thighs to improve oil drainage.

8. Turn heat up to 340º and coat the breasts and wings. Working in batches, lower these into the oil and fry for 7 minutes. Transfer to rack, skin side up, sprinkle with salt, and allow to rest for 7 minutes. Turn off heat.

9. Arrange chicken on serving platter. Add herb springs to (still hot) oil and allow to fry till crisp, a few seconds. Arrange over chicken. Serve.

Chicken Brine (for 10 lb. of chicken, roughly double what's needed for the chicken recipe)

5 lemons
12 bay leaves
1 bunch (4 oz.) Italian parsley
1 bunch (1 oz.) thyme
1/2 cup clover honey
1 head garlic, halved through equator
1/4 cup black peppercorns
2 cups (10 oz.) Diamond Crystal kosher salt*
2 gallons water

Combine all ingredients in a (very) large pot, cover, bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute, stirring to dissolve salt. Remove from heat and chill completely (at least overnight). Brine can be refrigerated up to 3 days.

*If not using Diamond Crystal, weigh another brand to exactly 10 oz.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pulpo en Escabeche

Hi all,

I recently pickled some octopus and there was a call for the recipe, so I thought I'd post my source, from the incomparable Diana Kennedy's militantly authentic The Art of Mexican Cooking (p. 199). The flavor is wonderful, and the presentation is absolutely show-stopping -- tiny purple-pink baby octopi, their little tentacles curled up by the cooking, mottled with black ink spots and set off by green peppers and surrounded by the scents of vinegar and onions and Mexican oregano. I served them as appetizers, straight from the pickle (as Kennedy suggests), but they would look wonderful slightly warmed and served over white rice.

The Recipe:

4 tablespoons fruity olive oil
2 pounds cleaned octopus*

4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
sea salt to taste
1 large white onion, cut into thin rings
1 small green bell paper, seeds and veins removed, diced
1 teaspoon crumbled oregano, Yucatecan if possible [I subbed Pueblan oregano.]
3 California bay leaves, roughly broken up [or add a fourth European bay leaf]
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
4 chiles güeros or Fresno or wax chiles, charred [over a gas burner or under a broiler, turning regularly] and kept whole, unpeeled [I used Hungarian.]

1 cup mild vinegar [Pineapple's most traditional. I used white, though I think cider would have improved it.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan, add the octopus pieces and garlic, sprinkle with salt, and toss, almost stir frying, for about 5 minutes. [I might have overdone this step slightly, as I was using very small octopi, which I kept whole, on which see note below. A mere minute or two might have been better.] The octopus should be tender but al dente. Transfer half the octopus and juice to a small, deep enamel or stainless-steel pan. Cover with half the onion rings, the green pepper, half the oregano, and the bay leaves. Cover with the rest of the octopus and the remaining ingredients, and continue simmering, covered for about 10 minutes. Taste for salt and set aside for at least 2 hours or overnight.

*A note on cleaning octopus: I'm really not clear on the best way to do this (though I imagine there are YouTube videos to e, but the three main points seem to be: 1) remove the ink sac and organs from the tubular "head" space (this was already done on the octopi I purchased from Pete's Fresh Market on Cermak, just west of Western, 2) dig out the hard beak from it's mouth hole on its bottom, and 3) dig out / slice off the eyes. I tried to keep the little critters as whole as possible for presentation's sake. Kennedy stresses the importance of obtaining octopi that weigh less than a pound a piece -- mine weighed in at only a few ounces a pop.