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A Down Home Meal: Fried Chicken and Cornbread

As soon as I saw this recipe in a recent version of the Dining section of The New York Times a few weeks ago I knew I was going to have to give it a try. It’s a very basic recipe for fried chicken without all the bells and whistles of breadcrumbs, crushed cereal, saltine crackers, and various spices. This is just good, simple ingredients that you don’t need much to do. All you need is a good cast-iron skillet, a cut-up chicken, some flour and some oil and you are good to go. The recipe almost sounded too easy and I wondered how good it was actually going to come out. I was not disappointed in the results. While the recipe was posted in the newspaper a few weeks ago, it actually comes from Southern Living.

Southern Living’s Best Fried Chicken

1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon salt
1 chicken with skin, about 2 1/2 pounds, cut up into 8 pieces
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable oil
1/4 cup bacon drippings (or use more oil)

Combined 1 tablespoon of the salt with 3 quarts of water in a large bowl or container. Add the chicken, cover, and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse with cold water, and pat dry.

Stir together the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and the black pepper. Sprinkle half the mixture evenly over the chicken. In a large sealable plastic bag, combine the remaining pepper mixture and the flour. Add two pieces of chicken to the bag and shake well to coat. Remove the chicken pieces, shaking off any extra flour, and set them aside. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken.

Take a large cast-iron skillet or chicken fryer, for which you have a lid, and fit with a candy or deep-frying thermometer. Add the oil and bacon drippings and heat to 360° over medium heat; the oil will ripple and possibly give off a few wisps of smoke.

Using a pair of tongs, immediately add chicken pieces, skin side down (work in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan). The oil temperature will drop to about 325°, where it should stay; adjust the heat so that the oil is bubbling gently around the chicken pieces. Cover the pan and cook for 6 minutes; uncover the pan and cook for 9 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces; re-cover the pan and cook for another 6 minutes. Uncover the pan and cook for another 5 to 9 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces. If necessary for even browning, turn the pieces over a few times towards the end. Remove the pieces and drain on paper towels or in a paper bag. Repeat the process with any remaining chicken pieces. Allow the chicken to cool at least 20 minutes before serving.

There are a couple of notes that go along with this recipe that they pointed out in the article that I think to make a difference to the way the chicken comes out. First, if the chicken is larger than 2 1/2 pounds, you should cut each breast in half so that you have a total of 10 pieces. This will help for more even cooking and keep the pieces to a smaller portion size. Also, I would not use olive oil for this recipe as a substitute for vegetable oil. Olive oil tends to leave a particular taste on the food that you are cooking in it, and this is not the type of meal where you want that to happen. The article itself actually recommends using grapeseed oil, but I do not have any grapeseed oil and I find it to be very expensive to purchase. I simply used the vegetable oil, but you could also use peanut oil or canola oil instead. I did not add the bacon drippings and used more oil instead since we don’t make bacon very often around the house anymore and I didn’t see the need.

Brining the chicken for this recipe does seem to make a good difference in the flavor and the moistness of chicken after it is fried. Not everyone always has the time to do it, but if you are planning ahead and you know you’ll have the time and the space in your refrigerator, I would recommend doing it. Finally, the article highly recommends using a cast-iron skillet for this recipe. I keep mine on the stove pretty much all the time to use for a wide variety of recipes and it was perfect for the chicken. It is plenty deep enough for the amount of oil that you use (and I actually use less oil than the recipe called for and I think it turned out fine), but you do want to make sure that you have some type of cover to put over the chicken.Overall, I loved the crunch of the chicken and there was not too much crust as often happens with fried chicken that has a thick batter. The chicken itself was very moist and cooked perfectly.

To go along with the recipe, I did make some mashed potatoes and coleslaw. I also had some extra cornmeal laying around so I decided that it would be a good opportunity to try and make some cornbread. I’ve made cornbread before and posted the recipe on this blog, but in the past I have made Southern-style cornbread that is made right in the cast-iron skillet. Since I was already using my cast-iron skillet for the chicken, I needed to find a little bit of a different recipe to use. The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook has a good, general all-purpose cornbread recipe that you could easily use for this or use as part of a stuffing if you are going to want leftovers for that purpose.

All-Purpose Cornbread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400°. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with the vegetable oil spray. Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl until well combined; set aside.

In a food processor or blender, process the brown sugar, corn kernels, and buttermilk until combined, about 5 seconds. Add the eggs and process until well combined (some corn lumps will remain), about 5 seconds longer.

Using a rubber spatula, make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; pour the wet ingredients into the well. Begin folding the dry ingredients into the wet, giving the mixture only a few turns to barely combine. Add the melted butter and continue folding until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth the surface with the rubber spatula.

Bake until the cornbread is a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Allow the cornbread to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert the pan onto the wire rack, and turn right side up and allow the cornbread to cool until just warm, about 10 minutes longer, and serve. Leftover cornbread can be wrapped in aluminum foil and re-heated in a 350° oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Adding the extra corn in with the cornmeal gave it up pretty nice flavor, and the combination with the light brown sugar really did give some extra sweetness to the bread. I also like the golden crust that came out on this bread. The recipe recommends using Quaker yellow cornmeal and I guess that is what the recipe was designed for. I only had a stone-ground cornmeal on hand, and the bread did come out a little bit drier, just as the recipe had indicated it might.

Those of the recipes for today. Next time out, I’ll be posting the recipe that I used just last night for some scallops with a carrot cream. Check back for that one and see if you like it. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Breads, Cooking, Dinner, Poultry

 

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Down Home Cooking: Sloppy Joes and Cornbread

Michelle has been asking me to make Sloppy Joes since before we got back to Charlotte, so tonight is the night. I was trying to come up with a good side dish to go along with the meal, and I tweeted America’s Test Kitchen to see if they had a recommendation. They suggested I make some cornbread to go along with the meal, so that’s what I am going to do. I’ve never made cornbread before, but the recipe looks as easy as the sloppy joes, so we’ll give it a try.

Sloppy Joes

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 medium onion, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

3/4 pound ground beef

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Salt and pepper

1 cup tomato puree

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup water

Tabasco

Hamburger buns

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chili powder and cook for 1 minute. Add the beef, brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, breaking the meat into small pieces, until the meat is no longer pink, about 4 minutes.

Stir in the tomato puree, ketchup and water. Cook until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with Tabasco and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon 1/2 cup of the meat mixture into each hamburger bun.

Trust me, making your own sloppy joe sauce is so much better than using anything out of a can or a spice package. Homemade doesn’t require a lot of ingredients (the only thing I didn’t have in the house is the tomato puree) and it will taste far better than anything you can buy.

Now for the cornbread. As I said, I’ve never made it before, but the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen seems pretty basic and I had all the ingredients on hand, so let’s give it a shot.

Skillet Cornbread

4 teaspoons bacon drippings or vegetable oil

1 cup yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup rapidly boiling water

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Set a cast-iron skillet with the bacon drippings or oil in the oven while it heats. Measure 1/3 cup of the cornmeal into a medium bowl. Whisk the remaining 2/3 cup of cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda together in a small bowl and set aside.

Add the boiling water to the 1/3 cup of cornmeal and stir to make a stiff mush. Gradually whisk in the buttermilk until smooth, then whisk in the egg. When the oven is pre-heated and the skillet is very hot, gently fold the dry ingredients into the mush mixture until just combined.

Carefully remove the skillet from the oven. Pour the bacon fat or hot oil from the skillet into the batter and stir to combine. Quickly pour the batter into the skillet. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Flip the cornbread out of the skillet and onto a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

According to the recipe, baking the cornbread in a greased and pre-heated cast-iron skillet will give the cornbread a brown, crunchy crust, which is what I like. If you don’t have a cast-iron pan, you could use a cake pan (round or square) or a regular skillet, but it may not be as crunchy. Just a quick note on this recipe. I didn’t have buttermilk on hand, but it’s very easy to make your own buttermilk at home. For 1 cup of buttermilk, stir 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice into the milk and let it stand for 5 minutes until thickened.

That’s all there is to it. I do have a menu for the rest of this abbreviated week. It is:

Thursday: Apple and Prune Stuffed Pork Loin

Friday: Roast Chicken with Oven-Glazed Carrots and Warm Parsley Sauce

Saturday: Snacks for Dinner (This is a Sean favorite, so you’ll see what it is Saturday)

Sunday: Roast Beef with Au Jus

Some good meals to look forward to this week. The apple and prune stuffed pork is a Michelle favorite, and I need the chicken to make some stock this week, so it works out pretty well. Check back tomorrow to see about the pork loin recipe. Until then, enjoy your evening and enjoy your meal!

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Beef, Breads, Cooking, Dinner

 

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