KFC

31 01 2010

Korean Fried Chicken. Well, more like Southern style fried chicken with a Korean kick. The Colonel ain’t got shit on me. King Kong either, for that matter. Fried chicken is hands down one of my favorite foods ever. EVER. It’s probably my “if you were stuck on an island and could only eat one thing for the rest of your life…” – yes, I’d eat it forever.

This can easily work as just a simple fried chicken and it would be bad ass just as it is, but seeing as how I’m equipped with what seems like an unending supply of Korean chili flakes and sesame seeds, I figured I’d put em to good use. This would definitely be better if the bird could sit in the marinade overnight, but the couple of hours I had it in there turned out to be plenty to give it some good flavor.

First step, was to break down the birds. I started with two whole chickens that I broke down and saved the rib cages for stock I made the next day. Recipe for that to follow. I broke them down into ten pieces: two wings, two thighs, two drums, and two breasts that each got split in half. So from two chickens that cost anywhere from $5 to $10 each, you can get 20 pieces of chicken. Basically a buck a piece (at most) for some damn good chicken. I think that’s even cheaper than Popeyes…

Second move is to season the chicken and soak it in the buttermilk. This is basically combining two techniques of either brining chicken in a seasoned bath, or soaking it in buttermilk. The buttermilk helps to tenderize the chicken but if you’re only soaking it for a couple of hours it’s not going to get to do much of that work. If you soak it overnight you’ll see some results. Either way you get great flavor from the buttermilk so why not bring it along for the ride.

I seasoned the chicken pretty liberally with salt, Korean red chili flakes and a bunch of chopped garlic.

The idea was that since the marinade was only gonna to hit the chicken for a short period, I bumped up how much salt I seasoned it with to make sure it was salty enough. If I were going to let it soak overnight I would definitely have pulled back on how much salt was in there to compensate for the extra soaking time. I also imagine it would get a hellofa lot spicier overnight with the chili flakes in the marinade.

I sealed that up and let it hang out in the fridge for a couple of hours.

I headed over to my buddy Kurt’s house where we were having dinner. He made an amazing mac and cheese to go with the chicken… I’m planning to get the recipe and recreate it. It was insane. When it was time to fry I filled up a deep, heavy stock pot with oil and brought it up to about 350F. You want the oil right around 325F for frying but if you start out a little higher, the first couple pieces of cool chicken in the oil will bring the temp back down. You should keep good watch on the temperature until you get a feel for how hot it is by how quick the chicken’s cooking. It shouldn’t ever drop below 325F.

While the oil was heating up I got my chicken all ready for the ball. Obviously I couldn’t just dredge this chicken in flour and call it a day. If you’re frying chicken (or anything really that you want breaded) generally you’ll dredge it in flour to dry it off, then dip it in an egg wash of some sort (or buttermilk), and then dredge it back in either flour or breadcrumbs. You’re kindof just making a batter on the surface that will actually stick, since if you tried to dunk it in batter it would just slide right off. Don’t ask me why, just trust.

Since this stuff was already soaking in seasoned buttermilk – we passed up the massage and the pool and went straight for the flour treatment. I mixed in with my flour some garlic salt and a whole load of sesame seeds. I went with mostly black ones to give it the cool speckled look and added some light brown toasted ones too for the flavor. Now the holy trinity of Korean flavor was complete – garlic, chili and sesame – through the marinade and the breading. It’s really an unbeatable flavor combination… I’d put it up against just about anything.

When the oil was hot I went to town and started bathing those beauties in the tub. You just fry em a couple pieces at a time for about 10 minutes if they’re totally submerged or about 8-10 minutes on each side if you’re doing it in a shallower pan and can’t completely cover them. The oil should be around 325F – no lower – while they’re frying.

You don’t want to rush them or they’ll be undercooked inside and you really don’t want to crowd them in the pot or the oil will get too cool and they’ll just soak it all up

They should come out looking like this and tasting even better…

 
What you need
Chicken
Buttermilk – to soak
Salt – to season
Flour – to dredge
Hot oil – to fry
A lotta soul – to love it

**Added Bonus**
Chili flakes
Garlic
Sesame seeds

The point really though is that you can flavor it however you want… experiment with the coating. Get crazy. Next time I’m gonna pulverize those sesame seeds in my food processor and see if I can get a really dark coating on it. Maybe chop up some fresh herbs into the flour mixture? Or just keep it simple and old school – buttermilk, chicken and flour. Can’t go wrong there…





Forever Lemons

28 01 2010

When life gives you… nevermind. The Meyer lemon tree in our neighbors’ yard is packed and they’re ripe. It’s overflowing into our yard so I feel like it’s my obligation to clean off our side of the tree so they don’t rot and go to waste. I’ll never drink enough lemonade to use all these suckers so I decided that since it’s preserving season… I should preserve some.

This is maybe the easiest thing in the world to do with a lemon, other than eat it raw. You just have to be patient… but you don’t even really have to be patient, you just have to be able to forget. This works out great for me because usually my problem is remembering, so I can just forget about these and whenever I do remember they’re in my cabinet, they’ll probably be perfect!

Step one: rinse lemons and slice in half.

Step two: cover lemons in kosher salt.

Step three: forget about lemons for 1-3 months.

Step four: eat.

 
The details (adapted from Charcuterie):

* Use some sort of nonreactive container – I used a glass jar.
* Make sure your lemons are completely submerged in salt. Totally covered.
* They’ll be usable after a month but better after a little longer. They’ll last pretty much forever in the salt… when I say forever I mean months, not like… ten years.

To use them rinse off the salt, scrape out the insides and chop up the rind or do whatever you’re planning to do with it… you can use them in salad too, in which case you should blanch them in simmering water quickly to reduce the intensity.





Soft Pretz

27 01 2010

While we’re on things non-meat… I’ve been back on a pretzel-making kick and I’m pretty excited about it. These little doughboys are one of my favorite bready snacks and – as far as breads go – they’re pretty damn easy to whip up.

Flour, water, purple. Wait no… flour, water, yeast. And some sugar and a little bit of salt. I couldn’t find the recipe I used to make these before but I did it from what little memory I could drum up and they turned out pretty good.

Instead of dipping them in lye, like traditional German soft pretzels, you drop them in boiling baking soda water for a minute before baking. It’s pretty similar to making bagels. My guess is that the extra yeasty, pretzel-y flavor comes from the explosive yeast action from the sugar you add at the beginning. Sugar is like fuel for yeast… it eats the sugar and multiplies like millions of microscopic bunnies.

I’m going to make the lye version soon so I can compare…

 
Super Easy Soft Pretzels

1 cup warm water (not too warm – around 80F is the perfect temperature for yeast)
1 package of active dry yeast
2 tbsp brown sugar

3 cups of flour – bread flour is good but plain white works too

Water Bath
4-6 cups water
3 tbsp baking soda

Kosher salt or coarse sea salt.

 

1. Warm water and sugar in a small bowl – sprinkle yeast on top to proof. You’re re-hydrating it to activate it since it’s been put on hold in its dried state.

2. After about ten minutes, the yeast should be a little bit bubbly on top of the water and smell nice and yeasty. Pour it into about half of the flour – 1.5 cups – and mix.

3. Add flour a little bit at a time until the dough comes together and then turn it out onto a nicely floured surface.

4. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it’s smooth, adding flour as you need to to keep it from sticking to the surface and your hands.

5. Toss it in an oiled bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap for about an hour until it’s doubled in size.

I like to use plastic wrap instead of a damp towel like some people say to because the wrap traps the air in and it seems to make a nice environment for the dough to do its work in. It keeps it warm and humid in the bowl – kindof like a little mini proofing chamber – the little yeasties like that.

6. After the dough has doubled in size, roll it back out on the table and pound it down. Cut it into 8 to 10 pieces and roll them into balls.

7. Roll the balls into snakes and then twist them up into whatever shapes you want.

Stef made some pretty nice twisties. I think this one she’s working on is the “unichorn”.

8. Let them sit and rise again for about a half hour. While they’re rising, put on your pot of boiling baking soda water and preheat your oven to 450F.

9. After the second rise, drop the pretzels one at a time into the boiling soda water. Boil for about 30 seconds on each side then remove and put them on a greased baking sheet or parchment papered sheet.

10. Salt the pretzels while they’re still sticky.

11. Bake until brown – about 10 minutes.





Vegan(!!) Miso Veggie Stew

27 01 2010

I know I know, I’m cracking up. I’ve gone bonkers over here… second day of no meat and tonight it was completely vegan! I think I might have to have a steak or some ribs tomorrow…

A lot of the time, especially when I’m just cooking for myself, I have a lot more than I need of something for a meal and lots leftover. Tonight I used some of the same stuff that went into my dinner last night and added a few other things I had around. I made sortof a vegetable stew with a miso soup base – except I didn’t add the bonito. This soup was super simple and actually really tasty and surprisingly filling.

It went a little something like this… First, I sliced sunchokes and boiled them for 15 minutes, according to the reccomendation in my Vegetable Book, by Colin Spencer. It’s a pretty nice reference about vegetables organized by species that I picked up at a thrift store years ago for like a dollar… very informative.

I wasn’t super familiar with sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) but I did know they had a flavor and texture similar to artichokes. They almost look like little balls of ginger root, but when cooked they taste like artichokes. Weird shit… Apparently they can make you pretty gassy and boiling them ahead of time can reduce that.

So I boiled the sunchokes and then set them aside. Drained the water (to avoid the fart fest) and refilled with some new water that I simmered a couple of small pieces of kombu in. Kombu, if you don’t know, is the hard, thick, dried seaweed that’s one of the main ingredients in the broth used to make miso soup. Usually that broth, called dashi, also has bonito (dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna) flakes in it but I opted to leave them out.

So I basically just started with a mildly seaweedy broth and added to that some diced carrots first that simmered for a bit and then a pile of chopped kale, some of which I chopped a little more finely to add some color and texture to the broth. After that simmered for a couple of minutes I turned down the heat and added some miso paste. You don’t ever want to boil after you’ve added the miso because you don’t want to kill all that good bacteria. After that I tossed in my leftover cooked quinoa from last night (which wasn’t much and I could have used more), the cooked sunchokes and some finely diced jalapeno. The result, topped with some sliced scallions, was pretty damn good…

My idea with the sunchokes was that they’d add sortof a firm-ish potato-y texture to the soup without totally starching it out and mucking up the miso. You could try potato if sunchokes aren’t around but honestly I think it would have been just as good without em… they didn’t really bring anything amazing to the soup, just helped fill it up. I think they’re probably better to just eat on their own so you can enjoy the flavor.

 
Vegan Miso Vegetable Stew
In order of appearance:

2-3″ of kombu (not the end of the world if you can’t get it, just leave it out)
6 cups water
4 carrots
4 cups chopped kale
3/4 cup miso paste* (more or less to taste – treat it like your salt seasoning for the soup…)
1 cup cooked quinoa (I’d use more if you have it… 2 cups probably would have been perfect)
6-8 cooked sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes)
1 small jalapeno pepper

Chop it however you want, stew it all together, and rest easy knowing that no animals were hurt or even consulted about this meal.**

*When you’re adding miso paste it helps a ton to thin it out with a little bit of hot water in a small bowl before pouring it in – you’ll avoid fat chunks of undissolved miso in your soup.

Vegetarians/vegans stop reading here.

————————————————————-

**I’m sorry I just can’t resist – this would have been awesome if it was started with bacon… I’d simmer the water with the kombu in a separate pot. While that was going on, I’d sautee some chopped bacon in the soup pot. You could leave it in to really flavor the broth or remove it to use later as a topping. I’d then sautee the carrots with the fat (and bacon if you leave it in) for a minute before adding the hot broth and continuing from there.





Vegetarian What?

26 01 2010

I’ve been getting a lot of “even though your blog is all about meat and I don’t eat meat, I’ve been sending the link to my friends who do” comments lately… it’s not ALL about meat! So here it is. No meat. I didn’t eat a single piece of meat all day today. I’m cutting back. I don’t even eat as much as it seems like from the pictures… most of these meals last me days. But I’ve decided, after reading Food Matters, by Mark Bittman, that I’m gonna cut back a bit. Not out, just back. I don’t really want to cut anything out completely… I am a huge believer in moderation. Most of my meat-centricity on here is because it’s fun to talk about. But it’s far from the only thing I cook or eat… I have a salad with just about every meal I eat and always have some vegetables around my meat… I don’t like it to get lonely….

My philosophy on food is that the healthiest way to eat is to diversify yo bonds. Eat everything. It’s part of the reason I love Korean food so much – in just about every meal you get cooked, raw, pickled, spicy, mild, vegetables, fish, meat, broth, rice… in one meal! So a lot of the time I try to work that kind of diversity into the things I eat…

Tonight it was meat-free because I had a chance to swing by the Berkeley Bowl and couldn’t help myself with the produce. I came out with a pile of awesome fruits, vegetables and bulk grains and I decided to put some to use for my feeding.

Chanterelle mushrooms, garlic, carrot, zucchini, radicchio, kale and red quinoa. Quinoa is an amazing thing. I owe my knowledge of its existence to Andrea. Apparently it’s a “pseudocereal”. It’s like a grain, but not quite a grain… And, among other things you’d expect to find in something you treat like a grain – it’s full of protein. Which makes it pretty useful if you’re into cutting meat proteins out of your diet. The coolest thing about it though by far… is that it tastes damn good. It has a great texture – somewhere between rice and cous cous, which makes it really fun to eat. Oh yeah and it’s amazingly simple to cook. You can’t fuck it up. It’s like cooking rice except you have a zero percent chance of failure.

It also comes in a few different colors, which makes it pretty fun to use too. White, red and black, that I’ve seen. The best shot I have of it is a closeup of my half-finished plate… you can see how it sprouts little tails when it’s cooked that help the grains cling together kinda like rice.

Super simple meal. Dry sauteed the chanterelles to take out some water and then sauteed the garlic in olive oil then the carrots, then zucchini, mushrooms back in, chopped kale and radicchio just for a bit. The radicchio adds a nice bitterness and the kale adds a nice crunch and some bright color. Sometimes when I make a dish like this I’ll leave the kale raw and just chop it up and mix it in at the end.

Like I said before – baby I like it raaaaw (but not all raw). I like to have a mix of cooked and raw, but this time I just cooked everything. I got my raw non-meats in the form of pickled cauliflower that I made last week – I’ve been pickling my leftover veggies left and right so they don’t go bad when I can’t finish them all in time. It saves waste and gives me another easy flavor boost that I don’t have to do anything for but take it out of the jar. Just had that on the side.

 

The beauty of this is that you can basically use anything. I used:

1 cup red quinoa + 2 cups of water with a little bit of spicy garlicky salt in it (more on that later): boil water, pour in quinoa, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes

2 big chanterelle mushrooms, chopped
1 small white zucchini, diced
1 carrot, diced
3 cloves of garlic
a few leaves of radicchio, chopped
a few big leaves of kale, chopped
salt + pepper
a nice splash of balsamic vinegar at the end for some good, sweet acid

Shaved some Old Amsterdam aged gouda on top.

I’m not gonna lie – it would have been better with bacon. But anything would and it was fine without it.





Pig Party

22 01 2010

I decided to do a little bit of curing… I’ve been in a curing mood lately. I think it must be the season… it’s just natural to want to preserve things in the cold wintry weather. I had a couple of nice pig bits in the fridge that I wasn’t going to get to and it was long past time to do some bacon-making anyway. I had a belly and a couple of gigantic jowls. The jowls were over a pound each and beautiful pieces of meat… that’s right, I said it – those jowls were gorgeous. Range Bros Capay Valley pork never fails to amaze me… it’s always incredible.

Curing meat in this sense is so easy it’s kindof stupid not to do it if you really do love a good piece of bacon. It is one of the oldest methods of preserving food and pretty much every culture utilizes it in some way. The difference between this and store bought bacon is unbelievable. It’s so easy – you salt the meat, let it sit for a week, take it out and smoke it or roast it or hang it to dry and you have bacon or pancetta or whatever. The difference between bacon and pancetta is basically just that bacon is hot smoked after it’s been cured and pancetta is air dried. Guanciale is essentially pancetta made with the pig’s jowls. For some reason the cheeks of a lot of animals are some of the most amazing parts. Some of my favorites are beef cheeks, pork jowls and yellowtail cheeks. Broiled yellowtail cheeks are one of the best pieces of cooked fish you’ll ever taste… but that’s another story.

So with my belly and my jowls, I’m going to make a slab of bacon and a couple of nice chunks of guanciale. The essentials that you need – pig and salt. The things that help make it a little better are some sugar, garlic, brown sugar, herbs and sodium nitrite, a super common curing salt that goes by the name “pink salt”. You don’t absolutely have to have it but it definitely helps. The pink salt helps the meat keep its bright pink color and it helps prevent botulism in other applications… you don’t really have to worry about that here and that’s why it’s really just useful for helping maintain the color.

And salt… I love it. I love salt so much I wanna take it behind the middle school and get it pregnant. It’s without a doubt the most powerful ingredient or tool in the kitchen. I swear by Diamond Crystal kosher salt. To me it’s the perfect texture and weight for cooking – nice big grains, but they’re soft and fluffy at the same time. Whatever brand it is, always use kosher salt for cooking… put that cannister of iodized table salt back in the cupboard and go to the store. Now. Save that shit for baking cookies and cakes.

It’s best to weigh out your ingredients when you’re doing something like this where you need specific ratios because the different consistencies of different salts makes it tough to get accurate volume measurements.

The recipes that I use for these and pretty much any charcuterie I do are all based on stuff from the book, not surprisingly titled – Charcuterie. It’s by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn and it’s really brilliant. It’s definitely one of the most used books on my shelf… most cookbooks I just read for inspiration but this is one of the ones that is really a reference I turn back to all the time.

Try it out…

Homemade Bacon

– Get a slab of pork belly(2-4lbs), and mix up some cure. Basically 2 parts salt to 1 part sugar and a little bit of pink salt. I think what I used ended up being about 1/4c of salt, 1/8 cup of sugar and about a teaspoon of pink salt.
– Slather it on the belly, toss it in a big ziplock bag in the fridge and turn it every day or so to redistribute the cure.
– After about a week, if it’s firm it’s done. If not, toss it back in for another day or two.
– At this point you just rinse it off and dry it and it’s almost ready to go. Right now you basically have half-cured salt pork. You can roast it in the oven for about 2 hours at 200F, or toss it on the grill with some wood chips and smoke it. After that you just slice it up and fry it and wallow in that fatty goodness.

*I like the smoking method it because it really tastes like bacon that way but honestly it’s a slab of cured, fatty pork belly… it’s gonna be good no matter what you do with it.

To see the finished product, go here.

 

Guanciale… maybe another day.





Chicken Fried Tonkatsu

20 01 2010

 

I love pork. It’s no big secret, and it’s nothing new right? Everyone loves pork these days, it’s cool to like pork. But it’s actually a great thing that it is so hip to like pig because it means we can get amazing quality pork everywhere now.

One of my favorite things to make lately is a brined pork chop. A big thick hog chop brined over night and then pan seared and oven roasted. But you don’t always have time for all that nor do you always have a nice fat center cut chop just lying around. What you can find pretty much anytime anywhere are boneless shoulder and sirloin chops that are cheap and… usually terrible due to the large amount of connective tissue they contain. They just don’t cooperate – sear and sautee as you may, they always end up the texture of a twelve year old truck tire. Not any more. I’ve got the trick – beat it. Beat the shit out of that chop and then bread it and fry it or sear it or whatever you need to do to get it crispy – torch it, broil it(?) toast it, microwave it. I don’t think it matters… once it’s pounded and breaded you can do whatever you want with it – it’s gonna be good.

No no but in all seriousness – chicken fried steak, wiener schnitzel, milanesa, tonkatsu – every culture has their own version of breaded, fried, flat meat… it’s all good any way you fry it. Tonaktsu is usually just a piece of boneless pork breaded and fried. I like to take the chicken fried steak/schnitzel method to make sure it’s tender… you just pound it thin (around 1/4″), bread it and fry it. I’ve deep fried and I’ve pan fried… similar results. Pan frying obviously seems a little bit healthier. I’m not totally convinced that it is, but I’m no expert. You’re also essentially pounding out the meat in favor of having a much higher breading to meat ratio… so let’s be serious – the reason you eat fried food is for the breading so just give it up already.

I put a little bit of a Korean twist on this too… because German/Texan/Japanese just wasn’t enough. I spiked the breading mix with a healthy dose of korean chili flakes and garlic salt. Otherwise it’s just flour and an egg for dipping.

I pan-fried these until they were crispy and cooked and then tossed a little bit of the seasoned flour and a knob of butter into the pan for a quick roux. I poured in a splash of the Belgian style trippel I was drinking and simmered it for a minute to make gravy. Side note – beer makes great gravy. In many many cases, for whatever you’re cooking, you don’t have stock or broth but you do have beer – 90% of the time, if you’d be needing less than say… a cup of broth or stock – I’d say substitute away.

 

I ate the chicken fried pork steak with a soft-fried egg (like katsudon),beet greens (the tops left over from a bunch of beets that I pickled) and pickled daikon over 50/50 rice (half white, half brown).