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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bruschetta

This little dish is a favorite of mine. It's also one of those ones where it's different every time I make it. Bruschetta is an Italian appetizer that involves toasted bread and a topping, often of tomatoes and garlic. This iteration was a little more traditional, but I've also made toppings with sauteed mushrooms and tomatoes, which is just jim dandy, too.

This version here was basically a raw salsa of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs. It came about because I started to make guacamole and then realized my avocado had passed its prime. It was a sad day until I realized that I could give that salsa mixture new life.

Cut a baguette on a diagonal so that you have slightly larger slices. In my experience, if your slices are too thin, the stuff just keeps falling off. I cut mine about one centimeter thick. Brush with olive oil and then broil in the oven, flipping halfway through, until both sides are gently golden.

Chop up a few seeded Roma tomatoes, purple onion, and garlic. The ratios are up to you depending on your fondness for each ingredient. Don't forget a little kosher or sea salt to bring out the flavors. A little pepper wouldn't be a mistake either. Throw in some dry or fresh oregano and basil. Stir the mixture and spoon onto the tops of the toasted bread. You can serve them like this, but I like to add a little Parmigiano Reggiano to the top. I then put them under the broiler for just a few moments to melt the cheese. You don't want to broil them too long or your tomatoes will turn mushy and the juices will start oozing all over your nice crisp toast.

Serve at room temperature. They can be served right away or can sit tight for an hour or so, if necessary.

Oh, and in case you've been wondering where I've been... well, perhaps you will forgive me if I've been loath to spend more time in front of my computer lately than is absolutely necessary. It's just been gorgeous here lately. I've got to enjoy it while I can before the gates of hell open up! I hope the weather hasn't been too miserable in your neck of the woods.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Home Fried Chicken

This is one of those down-home comfort meals that really pleases. However, you have to be aware that home fried chicken does not taste the same as store bought fried chicken. That's the point, right?

Home fried chicken has a classic flavor and texture all its own. It's skin is not break your teeth crunchy but is instead delicately crisp and flavorful. The flesh is so luxuriously moist - and not because it's squirting grease everywhere either. It's so moist, you'll wonder what they're doing wrong at those chain chicken places. If you like super greasy, super crunchy fried chicken, then do yourself a favor and just go order take out. If you want a less boisterous but more flavorful fried chicken, then give this a try.

I like to use all legs when making fried chicken. There are a few reasons for this, not the least of which is that legs are my favorite. However, I also really like cooking pieces that are all the same size and structure. It makes cooking them evenly soooooo much easier. I also like legs because they are smaller and, therefore, cook faster. Mine spend less than thirty minutes cooking. You can use other pieces, but you'll have to adjust the time they spend cooking. I would still recommend at least using all the same type of parts for the best results.

The trickiest part about making this chicken is you have to have patience. You start out cooking the chicken over decently high heat just to set the crust, but then you have to turn it way down. I used to have the hardest time doing that when I was younger. Every time I was at the stove it was all about high heat all the time. Trust me, that just doesn't work at all when making fried chicken. I can't tell you how often I ended up with raw chicken with a burnt crust. Yuck! If you want the chicken cooked all the way through before the crust browns too much, you have to go low and slow for the majority of the time.

Home Fried Chicken
Yield: 8- 10 legs

8-10 chicken legs, skin on or off
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
vegetable oil, for frying

Mix the flour and spices together in shallow bowl or plastic container. In a separate container, lightly beat the eggs and milk together. Dip each chicken leg in the flour, shaking off any excess. Then dip the leg into the egg mixture, being sure to coat all sides. Finally, dip the leg back into the flour mixture, rolling to coat thoroughly. Set the leg on a sheet tray while coating the remaining legs.

Heat 1/4 to 1/2 an inch of oil in a large skillet over medium to medium high heat. I use a small piece of the flour/egg mixture that invariably ends up stuck to my finger to check the heat of the oil. You are looking for that piece of dough to instantly start fizzing vigorously. Once the oil is hot, add the legs and cook, turning occasionally to brown all sides for about five minutes. You may want a spatter shield during this time period.

After the initial browning, turn the heat down to medium low and cover. For normal sized legs, cook about 15-20 minutes, checking periodically with a meat thermometer. When the internal temperature is around 145° F, remove the cover and turn the heat back up to re-crisp the crust, about five minutes. Cook until the crust is nicely golden and crispy. Remove chicken and place on a cooling rack lined with paper towels to drain and cool slightly.
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