Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ad Hoc at Home- Thomas Keller's Fried Chicken

If you are reading this blog, you might be familiar with the name Thomas Keller, the man behind Per Se in NYC and The French Laundry in Yountville, CA. The French Laundry and ElBulli in Spain usually fight for the honor of best restaurant in the world. ElBulli is crazy shit, only 8,000 people a year get reso's from the millions of requests they get-ElBulli

This recipe is adapted from TK's version that is served twice a month at Ad Hoc, his latest venture.

Frying your own chicken is not that hard, and you can take a couple steps to reduce the fried odor- use Crisco instead of oil, and for sure utilize the vent hood if ya got one. Also, when done, pour off the used shortening into pop cans and toss them. You never wash your cast iron pot with water, right?! Just wipe with paper towel, otherwise you're not seasoning it properly.

Brining is easy! Cutting up a chicken is easy! The hardest part of this recipe is making sure you have the necessary tools- a cast-iron pan and a thermometer, a frying, candy or probe-type. You'll see my set-up below with a probe.

Thomas Keller's Fried Chicken
3-4 servings

1 G cold water
1 C + 2 ts kosher
1/4 C + 2 TB honey
5 bay leaves
1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled
2 TB black peppercorns
3 sprigs rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
2 lemons, juiced and zested
1 3.5-4.5 lb whole chicken
2 C AP flour
1.5 TB garlic powder
1.5 TB onion powder
1.5 ts cayenne pepper
2 C buttermilk
about 2 C crisco
rosemary or thyme sprigs for garnish
kosher salt

Overnight brine-

In a stockpot, add the gallon of water, 1 C salt, honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary and thyme, zest, juice, and leftover lemons. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and stir until salt is dissolved. Cool completely, then submerge the chicken. Cover and let sit in the fridge 18-24 hours.

Remove chicken from brine, rinse well and dry completely with paper towels. Butcher into 8 pieces, keeping the breast on the bone.

In a shallow pan, combine the flour and seasonings- garlic, onion, and cayenne, then add the 2 ts salt. Whisk to combine thoroughly.

Pour the buttermilk into a large pan with sides. Add the chicken pieces and let soak for 5-20 minutes. One piece at a time, remove from buttermilk and then dredge into the flour mixture, tapping to ensure any loose flour is removed.

In a 12" cast iron skillet, melt enough Crisco to come about 1/3 way up the sides, about 1-2 C, over medium heat. You want the shortening to be around 330F, do not go over 340F. You can try to fry all pieces at once- thighs in the center of the pan, legs and breasts on the sides. Fry in batches if need be, you don't want chicken piled up on chicken. Turn over after about 9 minutes, total cooking time to reach an internal temp of 160F should be about 18-20 minutes.

Once done, transfer to a rack over a sheet pan, do not place on paper towels or brown bag or anything else, that will mess with the crispiness. Try not to keep warm in a gas oven either, too much moisture will interfere with said crispiness. Cover loosely with foil if working in batches.

Frying set-up with thermo and rack-

Sprinkle with kosher salt while hot, garnish with herb sprigs. A nicely acidic Sauvignon Blanc or an Oregon Pinot Gris will pair nicely, I poured a Cloudy Bay SB, and even though mine was slightly overdone, the lemony brine kept the chicken moist, crispy, delicious. Enjoy!

Potato, Caramelized Onion, Gorgonzola Gratin

Do you tire of the same mashed or scalloped potato? Yes, BLT as well, and thus the desire for something a little different- the gratin. Use any type of cheese you wish, I had some Gorgonzola on hand that day.

Potato, Caramelized Onion, Gorgonzola Gratin
four servings as a side dish

2 large yellow onions, halved and sliced thinly
4-5 medium Yukon taters, peeled, halved lengthwise cut into 1/4" slice
2.5-3 oz. gorgonzola, crumbled
2 TB unsalted butter, cut into peices
1 C 2% milk, or if you wish, half and half or dear God heavy cream if you like.

Caramelize onion in a large, heavy saute pan until nice and golden, about30-40 minutes. This is on low, stirring occasionally, with a pinch of salt to draw out some moisture. The more time you can allow this the better.

Fire up the hotbox to 425F, middle rack.

Get a big pot of salted water boiling for the taters, add them once on full boil, stirring occasionally and carefully, for about 5 minutes. Drain immediately.

Butter an appropriately siced baking dish, bout 2 QT I think. Start with a layer of potato on the bottom, slightly overlapping. Season with a touch of S&P, then throw on half the unjins. Sprinkle half the cheese on that, then repeat with another layer, seasoning with S&P on both sides of this layer. Throw in pieces of cut, cold butter, then add your liquid dairy.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until nicely golden delicious and tasty. Pairs well with a 3 mile run and 40 push-ups.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Belgian Ale Braised Rabbit

What better way to celebrate Easter than eat a bunny! It's better than coloring eggs, ain't it?

Thanks to a coworker with an actual rabbit farm, I was excited to cook some new animal. I've had rabbit before at Le Bouchon, and it's pretty tasty, similar to dark meat chicken. Maybe next time I'll use the organs, this time I was just concentrating on the braise. You can probably find some frozen, disjointed rabbits somewhere near you, or just google it. The answer to everything!

There's been a lot of Belgian ale wetting the whistle lately with Brugse Zot being the beer of the month at the Map Room. It's yeasty and slightly fruity and tastes like beer should. I've had the fortunate experience to taste a few pints at the Brewery De Halve Man in Bruges, Belgium. They do call the Map Room the 'travelers tavern' for a reason.

With a Brugse Zot in hand, I grabbed a different ale from Belgium for the braising liquid, a Gouden Carolus, which is hoppy and fruity and will get along very well with the little hopper. Well, not hopping much anymore. The braise did include a couple carrot chunks, I thought appropriate for the protein in question.

Belgian Ale Braised Rabbit
serves two

1/4 lb. slab bacon, sliced without rind or thick-sliced pre-cut bacon
3/4 C AP flour, seasoned with S&P
rabbit pieces if frozen, or 1 3 lb rabbit, butchered
2 medium onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
20-26 oz. ale
1 bay leaf
fresh thyme sprigs
fresh thyme

Slice the bacon into 1/4" pieces, if you have some Nueske's bacon fat in the fridge, throw in a TB of that in a large pot over medium heat, a large ceramic pot with lid recommended. If you don't have some Nueske's bacon fat, you have something on your to-do list. Once the fat is rendered, remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.

Dredge the rabbit pieces in the seasoned flour, tapping off loose flour.

Brown rabbit on all sides, in batches if necessary.

Add the carrot, onion, and garlic, stir and cook for about 5 minutes until soft. Sprinkle a couple TB's of the leftover flour, if available, over the veggies. Cook for a couple minutes, stirring occasionally, then even everything out nicely for the rabbit pieces, return those to the pot.

Add the ale gradually, 1/3 at a time, so the liquid will thicken a little each time. This should be done over medium-low heat, with a slow simmer. Once all is added, toss in a couple thyme sprigs, rosemary, whatever you got.

Cook on a low simmer, covered, for about 75 minutes, until very tender.

For the sauce, I took about 1 C of the braising liquid, with one carrot piece and some onion, zapped that with an immersion blender. You could just spoon sauce over if desired. Definitely add the reserved bacon and some of the braised onions.

Enjoy, and Happy Easter!

Plated legs with sauce, bacon, onion and fresh thyme-

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lemon Garlic Shrimp Linguine

I had to come up with a special way to use a very nice gift from a very gorgeous little girl. Lemons fresh off the tree in her backyard in AZ, thanks Addi! I don't think I would tire of that delicious resource. As I write with the snow collecting into the 1" range on the grill cover, lemon trees sound very foreign to me. Yesterday it was 65 F and sunny. Today it is 32 F and snowy. That's Chicago in March for ye.

My preference for purchasing shrimp is to acquire them frozen, butterflied and deveined, tail on. Sometimes I need that tail for skewering, and the tails and shells are great for making shrimp stock. That will make for some good shrimp risotto.

99% of the time the best way to defrost protein, like these shrimpies, is to soak them in cold water with a couple changes in bath water. Just make sure the bag won't let water in. You're not using the microwave's defrost setting, are you? That's nasty.

The success of these quick, easy meals hinge on the quality of your ingredients. Literally from start to finish, from the EVOO to the parm-reg. That stuff in the green can? That's not cheese, that's garbage. Life is too short to eat shitty food.

Lemon Garlic Shrimp Linguine
4 servings

1 lb. 16-20 size shrimp
3 TB diced shallot
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
pinch chili flake
1 C dry white wine
1 C heavy cream
1/2 ts lemon zest
1/3 C fresh lemon juice
herbage- that day I used dried, a touch of fresh thyme would have been ideal
1/2 ts dried thyme
1/2 ts dried rosemary
1 lb. linguine, fettuccine, angel hair, etc.

Defrost the shrimp and remove the shell and tail, season lightly with S&P. The crustaceans should come to room temp during this process, you don't want them to hit the pan super cold. Get the salted water going in your pasta pot. Coat a large skillet with EVOO, place over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, add the shrimp and cook for one minute, then stir well and continue to cook another 3-4 minutes, making sure they brown evenly without overcooking. This is not the time you check the dryer or take Scruffy for a walk. Remove the shrimp from the skillet into a bowl, set aside.

Add a healthy (pun intended) amount of EVOO to the skillet, then the shallots. Stir and cook for a couple minutes, then add a pinch of chili flake and the slivers of garlic. Remove from heat and continue to stir so the garlic does not burn. Burnt garlic does not taste good. Once golden brown, return to heat and deglaze with the wine, scraping to loosen the fond. I don't need to explain this right? Reduce by half, about 5 minutes over medium heat. During this time, start the pasta cooking. At this point, some would advise to strain this sauce, but BLT does not usually take that step, we like things rustic and as they are, you may strain if desired. Add the cream and stir to combine, then turn down a touch to medium-low. Add the herbs, lemon zest and juice, S&P to taste. Cook for about 5 minutes, the sauce should be on a low simmer and thicken up a bit.

Once the pasta is al dente, drain and quickly add to skillet. Add the shrimp and fold everthing together. Plate, grate the cheese over, garnish with a pinch of chili flake. The pairing for this? 2008 Kim Crawford Sauvingnon Blanc, which is pretty much the house white.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Reuben Dip

Hopefully you have some leftovers from the corned beef you made. I cheated and bought the pre-made variety, although it was Vienna Beef's Chicago Classic Corned Beef. It's good, but next year I think I'll 'corn' my own. It's pretty damn simple-

My favorite intentions for leftover corned beef? Corned beef hash, of course, and this reuben dip for a crowd.

Simple pairing for this meal!


Reuben Dip-
2 cups leftover corned beef, shredded or finely chopped
2 cups swiss cheese
8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1/3 C dressing of one thousand islands
1 C kraut, drained well
fresh black pepper to taste
2 TB green onion, finely diced (optional)
Rubschlager cocktail rye bread- or rye toasts, rye crisps, etc.

Combine all ingredients (except for the rye toasts, of course) in a crockpot, fire it on LOW for a couple hours, mixing every half hour. Serve with toasted rye bread.

Yep, that's Irish food for ye. Looks like shit, and almost tastes like it. Naw just kidding. Go get yourself some and sit down and enjoy that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

White Clam Pie

Another meal thrown together while scavenging the cupboards, hoping to find something appetizing. Alton Brown calls it the pantry raid, I prefer to call it there ain't shit to eat cause no one's been to the store or everything's frozen.

White Clam Pie


1 packet dry active yeast

1 C warm water, 105-110 F

1 ts honey

1.25 C bread flour, King Arthur preferred

1.25 C AP flour

1 ts salt

Stir the yeast, honey, and water in a small bowl and let sit for 10 minutes until foamy. Combine the flours and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer or other large bowl and stir with a whisk attachment to mix thoroughly. Add the yeast mixture and stir until incorporated. Mix for about 5 minutes using a dough hook on speed 2, until the dough forms a ball and clears the sides of the bowl. The dough should climb up the hook and be smooth and elastic. If you don’t have a stand mixer, once all the ingredients are incorporated knead for 10 minutes on a lightly-floured surface. Then go buy a stand mixer.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly-oiled bowl, rolling it around to cover the ball with oil. Cover with a kitchen towel and place in a somewhat warm, draft free area. Let proof until doubled in size, about 1.5 hrs.

Preheat your oven to 500° F with the stone on a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Punch down dough and let rest for 15 minutes. Turn out onto a lightly-floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out into something that resembles a round shape, perfection is not important. Your dough should be about a 12” round and about ½” thick. Transfer to a pizza peel that has been dusted with cornmeal, keeping the shape as best as possible. If the dough springs back too much, let rest for 10 minutes and try again.


2 cans clams, drained, about 12 oz.
3-4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
2 oz. blue cheese
1/3 C good parm-reg, freshly grated
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
3 TB onion, diced

Coat a small saute pan with EVOO. Over medium-low heat, saute the onion for a few minutes and then add the garlic, cook for one minute and then remove from heat. Preferably, do this in the pan you crisped the bacon in, leaving a bit of fat behind. Fat is good! Add the clams and stir to mix.

To assemble the pie- spread a TB or so of EVOO evenly on the dough which should be resting on the peel. Then evenly spread the clam/bacon/onion/garlic mixture. Top with blue cheese, then the parm reg. Add chili flake or pepper or whatever you'd like.

Bake for about 9-12 minutes or until golden brown and delicious. To wash down this tasty goodness, perhaps you would enjoy a Bell's Third Coast?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Car Bomb Cupcakes

Yes, I know the term Irish Car Bomb is not politically correct. Don't ever call them that if you're in an Irish bar, or more importantly, Ireland. Someone will probably call you a fooking idiot. And it would be deserved.

Where did this cupcake craze emanate from? There are bakeries that just do cupcakes, nothing else. I think that is overdoing it, but apparently I'm in the minority.

These might become a yearly thing, as they debuted quite well this year.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Makes 24 to 26 cupcakes

Car Bomb Cupcakes

1 cup Guinness
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Jameson

Baileys Frosting
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup Guinness and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using stand or electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. A paring knife would work too. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out. Those are your “tasters”. Put the ganache into a piping bag and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.

When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

Ice and decorate the cupcakes. I don't have fancy tips or piping bags. I have ziploc and scissors, and a knife to spread the frosting. And I did not have any green sprinkles, so some sugar dyed green was a quick substitute.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Panko-crusted Salmon

A couple of days of almost 50 F has just enough energy to melt most of the current snow cover and inspire thoughts of spring, although I'm not going to put the sweaters out of reach just yet. Stowing the car's snow brush back into the recesses of the garage would certainly bring flurries. During the warm-weather outdoor cooking months I have a particularly fond way of preparing certain things, like smoking some wings or grilling some beer-soaked brats. Come May through October, there might be only one or two salmon dishes that are not Cedar-planked salmon. It's just so damn good, no opportunity gets passed up. And this year I'm armed with some new planks from the Chief, the days of indoor roasting or pan-frying are thankfully dwindling.

Adjectives like easy, quick, tasty and healthy are hard to find in one fork or spoonful, but you got that with this oven-roasted salmon. You can find panko breadcrumbs anywhere now, a must try if you've never done so. The crumbs are light and crunchy, lending a great texture contrast to the salmon. A good pour would be something with acidity to pull through the rich, fatty fish, my choice was a Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. A wide range of whites and reds can be prepared with salmon, from Pinot to Chardonnay to Riesling and even sparkling. Drink what you like.

Panko-Crusted Salmon

2 salmon steaks, about 6 oz, 3/4" thick
2 ts EVOO
1 TB good mustard of your liking-stone-ground, spicy brown, honey-mustard, or Dijon
1 ts fresh thyme, finely chopped (or 1/2 dried)
1/2 panko breadcrumbs
1/2 ts smoked Hungarian sweet paprika
1 TB flat leaf parsley, chopped

Fire up the hotbox to 400 F, set the rack in the middle of oven. In a small bowl combine the mustard and half the thyme. In another small bowl, mix the panko with the remaining 1 teaspoon of thyme, olive oil, parsley, and paprika. Add a smidgen of salt and pepper. Spread the mustard mixture evenly over each steak, then the panko mixture.

Roast for about 10-12 minutes, when done the flesh will be flaky and firm. Top with a slice of lemon and a couple wedges. A green salad would round out things nicely, please do enjoy. Thanks for the lemons right off the tree in AZ!