Southern Fried, Part Deux

Thoughts of our sinfully delicious Steel Magnolia-themed dinner were still hovering in the recesses of my subconscious.  I was not done frying yet!  As I scrolled down the usual Facebook news feed, nursing my first cup of coffee on an empty stomach, my eyes naturally gravitated towards an article about how the fried chicken and donuts at Federal Donuts in Philadelphia have been generating so much buzz in the foodie world that it’s giving the comfort food staple of chicken and waffles a run for its money. Now most people would just hit up Yelp and try to find a local place that serves their clone version of this trendsetting dish.  However, being the culinary geek that I am, I headed straight for my freezer and pulled out some donut dough to thaw.  “What?!? Who the hell keeps donut dough in the freezer?” you may ask.  I am not ashamed to admit (to quote a chef friend of mine) that I’m a card-carrying “Dough Ho.”  My freezer is stocked with all kinds of carbs and gluten-laden products (e.g. pizza dough, donut dough, pie dough, and for a time croissant dough) because I never know when inspiration will hit me, though it’s safe to say it’s usually when I’m surfing the internet or watching the Cooking Channel on an empty stomach.

Now I know Federal only makes cake donuts to go with their impossibly crispy fried chicken, but I like raised donuts…besides I’m impatient and didn’t feel like making a whole other batch of cake donuts from scratch when I had some handy-dandy yeast dough in the freezer.  The dough recipe is a very basic one out of Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book, which I then tweaked for my own purposes.  It’s a nice soft dough and very easy to handle.  On a side note, while I love using my 6 qt. Kitchen Aid  stand mixer for most things, I prefer using my Cuisinart food processor (fitted with a dough blade) when I want to make a quick yeast dough.  It’s faster, cleaner, and more efficient.

Raised Donut Dough (adapted from The Breakfast Book)

Yield:  3 dozen sliders (or 2 dozen regular donut rings)

1/3 cup Warm Whole Milk

1 package or 2 1/4 tsp. Dry Active Yeast

1 cup Water

1/2 stick Butter

1/2 cup Sugar

2 Large Eggs

1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

4 cups All-Purpose Flour

1-3/4 tsp. Salt

1/2 tsp. Ground Nutmeg

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and allow it to dissolve (about 5 mins).  Meanwhile, heat the water until it’s just about to boil, then remove from the heat and stir in the butter and sugar.  Allow mixture to cool to room temperature before whisking in eggs, vanilla, and the dissolved yeast.  Whisk together the remaining dry ingredients.  In a mixer fitted with a dough hook or in a food processor fitted with a plastic dough blade, mix together the wet ingredients with about half of the flour until incorporated. Then, mix in the remaining flour until you’ve got a smooth, elastic dough.  *If using a food processor, pulse the dough at 5 second intervals.  If you have neither a stand mixer or food processor at your disposal, don’t worry.  You can mix the dough by hand.  In a large mixing bowl, just stir together the wet ingredients with about half of the dry until fully incorporated, then mix in the remaining flour until you have a manageable dough.  Finish the dough by kneading it on a floured surface until it becomes smooth and elastic.  Turn the dough out into a large greased bowl (big enough to allow the dough to double in size).  Spray the surface of the dough with a little non-stick cooking spray, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough proof in a warm, draft-free space until double in bulk (about 1 to 1-1/2 hrs.)  At this point, you can either roll and cut out all the dough, or split the dough in half and freeze part of it for later use.  Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/2″ thick, then cut into your desired size and shape (I did both rings and sliders).  Transfer the cut pieces onto a greased, parchment-lined sheet pan and allow them to proof to double their size.

Heat the frying oil to 365F and carefully lower three to four pieces (depending on size) of dough into the oil at a time. As with the fried chicken, fry in batches and don’t overcrowd the pan!  I like to use two long chopsticks to flip the donuts halfway through the frying.  Drain the golden brown donuts on a wire rack.  If you’re going to toss them in a granulated sugar mixture (e.g. cinnamon sugar), do it while the donuts are still warm.  If you want to glaze them, allow the donuts to cool completely before glazing, otherwise the glaze will just run off the donuts (SO not pretty).  Speaking of donut glaze,  this time I made a Maple Bourbon Glaze (emphasis on the bourbon) to compliment the fried chicken.  It’s a pretty killer combo of maple syrup, maple and vanilla extracts, rendered bacon fat (yeah, I keep a jar of that in my fridge, too), powdered sugar and….Bulleit Bourbon!

Maple Bourbon Glaze

2-1/2 cups Powdered Sugar

3 Tbsp. Rendered Bacon Fat (melted)

2 Tbsp. Maple Syrup

2 tsp. Maple Extract

1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

1/4 tsp. Kosher or Sea Salt

1/4 cup Bourbon (preferably Bulleit)

Whisk together the ingredients until smooth.

Since I’ve already provided the recipe for fried chicken in the previous post, I won’t repeat myself.  The only thing I did differently this time around is use boneless, skinless chicken thighs and cut them into small slider-friendly size pieces before coating and frying.

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Okay, now I think I’ve satisfed (for the time being) my urge to fry and am ready to move on to something else.  Where to next week???  Hmmm….we’re feeling nostalgic.  There’s music in the air…sweeping up the crisp Austrian Alps.  Edelweiss anyone?

Small Dice Challenge: Quick Chicken Spaghetti Dinner

I am far from being a great cook.  Though I’m surrounded by plenty of cooks and chefs  among my friends and family, including Puddingyrl.  I do not have the patience to cook or bake, but this summer I spent a lot of time watching reruns of Chopped with my daughter.  I like the idea of not following a recipe and putting ingredients together to see how they go.  Of course, on the show, they’re seasoned chefs, and I’m just trying to feed my family.  One night after watching Chopped, my daughter had the idea to pick out four ingredients for me to create something like in the show.  I wanted to challenge myself, however, and came up with something that was edible and good for my kid. The first night was a success, so now every Thursday after Jazz class, my daughter chooses her ingredients, and I whip up an easy meal that pretty much anyone could make (no, really, anyone). Most recently, she chose corn, angel hair pasta, apples, and ranch dressing. I had chicken that needed to be cooked, so I marinated it with the apples and white wine. Then, I browned it in a pan with coconut oil and baked it at 350 degrees in the oven. I cooked the pasta and just added butter, salt, and pepper. I put ranch dressing in the corn and sautéed it.

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Preparation and cooking time was all under 45 min. Not Chopped time, but I’d like to see contestants balance cooking and two hungry kids asking for supper. Final word: 3 stars. My daughter loved everything but the baked apple. She spit it out and said, “WHAT was THAT?!!” Lesson learned.

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Steel Magnolias…or Drink Yer Juice, Shelby

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Steel Magnolias is one of those movies we like to watch over and over again not only for its depiction of southern charm, wit, and eccentricity, but its celebration of family, friendship, big hair and over the top 80’s melodrama (cue M’Lynn’s epic breakdown monologue here). So it comes as no surprise that the news about a certain Louisiana mansion inspired some creative ideas!

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While all three of us here are a cheeky bunch, we have a serious love of good food that never wavers. Mimi, a renowned pastry chef, was determined to create a delicious menu based on the movie’s memorable scenes, unique characters, and Laura and Rina’s childish banter. Here’s Mimi’s take on her Steel Magnolia-inspired culinary concoctions:

First: The Aperitif

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There’s no such thing as a “wrong” time for Mimosa (or “natural beauty” for that matter).  Sure it was dinner, but hey we couldn’t get it together early enough for brunch.  Besides, the whole Steel Magnolias thing started with us talking about cocktails, specifically what Shelby would drink.

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Of course it had to be pink…or pinkish.  I went with an inspired combo of fresh tangerine and ruby grapefruit juices, then added a splash of blood orange juice and raspberry puree to give the cocktail Shelby’s signature pink hue.  Yeah, we did the classy fresh sliced orange garnish (not the big pineapple garnish carved to look like big hair…though a sugar-free candy stick would’ve been hilarious too.)

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Shelby “Drink Yer Juice” Mimosa

8 oz. Fresh Tangerine Juice

8 oz. Fresh Ruby Pink Grapefruit Juice

3 oz. Blood Orange Juice

3 oz. Raspberry Puree

2 tsp. Sugar (or Agave Syrup if you prefer)

1 bot. Champagne or Sparkling Wine (e.g Prosecco or Cava), chilled

Place everything except the booze in a pitcher and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Mix in the chilled bubbly, then pour into champagne flutes or wine glasses.

The Appetizer

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While “Drum’s Revenge” would’ve been funny, I’m just not a bean person myself.  It’s totally a textural thing for me, that papery skin on whole beans…BLECH!  I say lose the beans and add the puff pastry…which brings me to a dish that made me giggle out loud as I was making it–“Two Pigs Fightin’ Under A Blanket,” inspired by the infamous Janice Van Meter and her ungirdled waistline.

The idea is relatively simple and delicious.  Bound a split piece of Cajun Andouille Sausage in puff pastry, brush it with a little cream or egg wash (an egg beaten with a little water), finish with some grated Parmesan cheese, and bake until a lovely golden brown.

You’ll need about 1 package of store-bought puffed pastry (I used Pepperidge Farms), 6 links of Cajun style Andouille Sausage (I used Aidell’s) cut in half horizontally, then again in half lengthwise so you end up with four split sausage pieces per link.  Store-bought puff pastry is already perfectly folded into thirds out of the box, so just cut the pastry into 3 strips.  You’ll need to roll each strip out a little to make them wide enough to wrap around each pair of sausage pieces and tuck into the middle.  You should be able to get about 5 rectangles of dough per strip.

fightin pigs

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To give each pair that added “bound together” look,  I also cut a 1/4″ strip of dough and wrapped it around the middle of the bundle, then flipped the whole thing upside down so that the end pieces were neatly tucked under.

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Brush each bundle with either heavy cream or egg wash, then sprinkle with a little grated Parmesan cheese.  Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 15-18 mins. or until golden brown.

The Main Course

Whether it’s prepared by a “good Christian woman” (as Truvy says of the basket of fried chicken she brings home to tempt her husband Spud) or a Buddhist (okay, I’m a lapsed Buddhist…just kidding), it just ain’t a Southern meal without Fried Chicken and Biscuits.  My secret to a delectably crispy, crunchy crust is (drum roll)….crushed cornflakes…also allowing the battered chicken to rest on a wire rack for about 15-20 min. to help dry out the surface and set the batter.  The chicken tends to not splatter as much as it’s frying.  I soak the chicken pieces in a combination of buttermilk, hot sauce and seasonings for about 12 hrs. to tenderize and flavor the meat.  When you are ready to start the battering/frying process, simply drain off the excess liquid and coat the chicken pieces in the seasoned corn flakes/flour mixture.

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When possible, use a large cast iron skillet to fry.  Unless you have a fancy-pants electric skillet or deep fryer, a cast iron skillet is the best piece of cooking equipment for frying (or just about anything).  Use a thermometer to gauge the temperature.  The oil should be between 350-360F, and for goodness sake, don’t overcrowd the skillet!  That’s a surefire way to drop the oil temperature and you’ll end up with greasy chicken.  Suck it up and don’t be impatient–fry in batches!

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Drain each batch of fried chicken on a wire rack over a sheet pan.  If you’re worried about the chicken not being done enough, pop it in a 350 degree oven for 10 mins. or so to finish cooking it.  Okay, and if you’re really neurotic about it, use a digital thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken (should be 160F).

Crispy Fried Chicken

Yield:  10-12 pieces

10-12 Chicken Drumsticks and/or Thighs

4 cups Buttermilk

3 Tbsp. Hot Sauce (Louisiana or Siracha)

2 tsp. Smoked Paprika

2 tsp. Garlic Powder

2 tsp. Onion Powder

2 tsp. Kosher or Sea Salt

Combine all of the above in a large gallon-size Ziploc bag and shake it around a bit to evenly distribute the seasonings and coat chicken.  Place the bag in a large bowl and refrigerate for at least 12 hrs. or overnight.

For the coating, combine the following ingredients in a large shallow dish:

4 cups Corn Flakes, crushed into coarse crumbs

3 cups All-Purpose Flour

2 tsp. Salt

1 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning

Shake off the excess buttermilk from the chicken and coat each piece thoroughly in the crumb mixture, then place the coated chicken on a wire rack to dry out for about 15-20 mins.  Heat about 1″ of frying oil (e.g. canola, grapeseed, peanut, etc.) to 360 degrees in a 2″ deep heavy skillet.  Carefully lower each piece of chicken into the oil (preferably with tongs).  The oil temp will drop a little bit, so adjust the flame to keep the temp consistently between 350-360.  Fry each side to a golden brown, then let the pieces drain on a wire rack set over a sheet pan.

Oh…and the biscuits (can’t forgot about the biscuits)

Buttermilk Biscuits

Yield:  12

2 cups All-Purpose Flour

1/4 cup Cake Flour

1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder

1/2 tsp. Baking Soda

1 1/2 tsp. Kosher or Sea Salt

1 tsp. Sugar

2 tsp. Chopped Fresh Thyme or 1 tsp. Dried Thyme

4 oz. or 1 Stick Very Cold Butter (cut into 1″ cubes)

2/3 cup Cold Heavy Cream

2/3 cup Cold Buttermilk

1 Large Egg

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut the cold butter into the dry mix until the butter pieces are no bigger than tiny peas.  Whisk together the wet ingredients and mix into the butter/flour until it forms into a dough.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently roll out into rectangle about 3/4″ thick.  Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the dough into 12 squares (3×4).  Transfer the squares onto a parchment-lined sheet pan and leaving at least 1 1/2″ space in between each piece.  Brush the surface with heavy cream or cool melted butter.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15-18 mins. or until biscuits are a light golden brown and spring back when touched.

**Place the sheet of biscuit dough in the freezer for 10-15 mins. before baking if it’s too warm and they feel a little too soft.  It’ll keep the biscuits from spreading and flattening out in the oven.

And For Dessert…

pink is my signature color

Much has been said about Shelby’s obsession with pink, more specifically her wedding colors “Blush” and “Bashful” (still not sure exactly which is which).  Not content to stop my “Shelby Pink Tribute” at simply a cocktail, I decided to double down and make the ultimate “Blush and Bashful Cake” (no “bleedin’ armadillo” for me).

Voila...Blush and Bashful!

The components are as follows:  (Dyed) Pink Chiffon Cake (flavored with vanilla and raspberry extracts), Raspberry Syrup, Raspberry Mousse, Fresh Raspberries, and Raspberry Italian Buttercream (color naturally pink from the raspberry puree). While I could go ahead and list out all the ingredients and steps for all three recipes contained in this one cake (and that would be pain in the ass), I think you get the picture.  Suffice it to say, you can come up with your own “study in pink.”