Friday, December 18, 2009

Tell the Colonel Good-bye...Simply the Best Fried Chicken

The days are getting shorter and shorter, and on Sunday, we loose an hour.  How is that possible, that we can loose an hour? (update…we actually gain an hour, as we fall back)  Where does it go?  (Hey, I figured this out too…it goes to spring forward!)  This is the perfect weekend for some real comfort food!

What makes a comfort food a comfort food?   Usually it’s something enjoyed from childhood, that  makes it a comfort food.  Or something that makes you feel all warm on the inside, that’s comfort food.  A taste, a smell, a texture.  I think this dinner possible menu fits the total bill.

I start with some great home fried chicken. This isn’t just any fried chicken recipe, but with years of tweaking, I think, humbly, it’s simply one of the best.  It’s good hot, warm or cold.  So it would be perfect to take to a tailgate party.

Serve some deliciously smooth and creamy mashed potatoes and a fresh green bean and cherry tomato salad and imagine yourself in a cozy farmhouse kitchen with a fire burning in the hearth…soul-warming comfort.  That’s what that is.
Simply the Best Fried Chicken
There are a couple of tricks to making a really good fried chicken, but one of the most important ones is to soak the chicken in buttermilk for at least a couple of hours. This gives the meat great flavor and a slightly softer texture.  The second thing is to season the meat well, don’t season the flour, put the seasonings directly on the chicken pieces.  This insures that all the meat is properly seasoned.  Cooking at a steady, fairly low temperature is also key.  You don’t want to burn the outside and have raw chicken inside.  That is just not good.  And finally, draining the chicken.  Do it on a wire rack set over a cookie sheet (the cookie sheet is there to catch the oil but if you don’t mind cleaning counters, you can skip it :-) ).  Setting the pieces on paper towels or brown paper bags will soften the coating.  And while it will taste just fine, it won’t have the same crunch.  Now granted, if you refrigerate it to eat it cold, you will still loose the crunchiness in the coating, so if that is your purpose, to eat it cold, then go ahead and use any method to drain it.  Also if you try putting it in the oven to keep warm, the moisture generated will soften the crust.  So it’s best, if you want it crunchy, to eat it as soon as you can after finishing it.

Simply the Best Fried Chicken

Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes.

I love mashed potatoes.  I remember the first time I went to Thanksgiving dinner at what was to be my new in-law’s house. They were setting up a big pot of water, with some milk and some butter and I asked them what they were making…”Mashed potatoes” came the reply.  Potato  Buds to be precise.  Now I think dehydrated potatoes have their place in this world, we used them when, as a child,  we would go camping for a few weeks in the high Sierras, (and practically all we ate was dehydrated food)  but they do NOT belong at Thanksgiving.  I didn’t say anything that year, I bit my tongue, and with enough gravy got them down in a most polite way.  But the next year, I stepped up to the plate, so to speak,  and said “We are having real mashed potatoes”.  But my MIL hesitated, “they always turn out like glue” she said.  With further investigation I found she was always trying to make her mashed potatoes out of White Rose potatoes, and that just isn’t going to work.  White Rose potatoes are a waxy potato, and you need to use a starchy potato to make a good mashed potato, my preference, a russet potato.  While Idaho would like to have us believe differently,  russet potatoes come from all over, not just Idaho…sorry Idaho.  Some people like to use red potatoes, or Yukon Gold, just make sure whichever potato you use, it’s got at least medium starch.  And, it’s always best to “dry” them out a little before adding the butter and milk.  Mashed potatoes should be creamy, smooth, no lumps.  Whipped together with fine butter and milk or cream or half and half, or my fav, buttermilk. Well, at least that’s my comfort food.

Mashed Potatoes

And finally we finish our meal with a simple  Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad. This uses the last of the season tomatoes (or you could dice an heirloom tomato).  It’s simple and delicious.

LindySez: I’m getting ready to hunker down, make a fire in the fireplace, wrap myself in my comforter, with a good book in my hand, or a good movie on the TV and enjoy this next season…full of holidays and family.


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