Thursday, September 29, 2011

American food! Fried chicken mashed potatoes, gravy, biscuit

I don't know what came over me, since I don't normally do mainstream American food, but somehow I started with some chicken. Then threw in some potatoes. Hmm. Some biscuits would work well here. If there's potatoes and biscuits, might as well have gravy, too.

Part of this is because we did chicken in class, then we talked about roux. So I suppose this could be a form of studying. If I want to twist things that far. Or is it twisting? This could be on a test!

Buttermilk fried chicken
  • The marinade
  • Buttermilk
  • Minced garlic
  • Chicken, dark meat pieces, skin on
  • Salt
  • Puréed onions (you can throw the garlic and onions in a blender with the buttermilk for this)
The dredging flour
  • A bit of salt 
  • Nutmeg to taste
  • More minced garlic
  • Black pepper
  1. The day before, marinate the dark meat pieces of a chicken, skin on, in a mixture of buttermilk, puréed onions and garlic, salt, fresh thyme and black pepper.
  2. The day of the feast, preheat the oven to 375° F.
  3. Heat some oil in a pan, about enough to come half way up the chicken pieces.
  4. Put some flour in a more or less deep, wide bowl. Add a bit of salt, a dash of nutmeg, some more minced fresh garlic, and some black pepper.
  5. Dredge the buttermilk-covered chicken through the flour, making sure it's well coated, then slowly lower it into the hot oil.
  6. Cook the pieces until browned, turn over, then take out and place on a parchment paper covered baking sheet. 
  7. When all the pieces have been fried and are waiting on the baking sheet, place the sheet in the oven for about 20 minutes. This will finish the cooking, and also allow some of the cooking fat to drain off.
  8. The chicken is now ready to eat.
That seems like a lot of steps. I suppose I could have followed the sneaky practice I've seen in some cookbooks to combine several steps in one paragraph, thus lowering the count. Well, seeming to lower it. You still have to do all that stuff if you want to make the chicken this way. If you'd wanted simpler, you could have just sautéed the pieces and finished them in the oven, right? 
Garlicky mashed potatoes
  • Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium dice
  • Duck fat. Yes, you could use vegetable oil. Or lard. I happen to like the flavor duck fat gives to potatoes that no mere vegetable oil could ever hope to match without a lot of chemical additives that would probably be worse than the duck fat.
  • Salt
  • Minced fresh garlic (paste)
  • Chicken stock
  • Buttermilk, cold.
  1. Heat a deep frying pan.
  2. Put in a bit of duck fat. Add some more. Hmm. That might be a bit dry. A smidgen more won't hurt. 
  3. Throw in some fresh garlic paste, just enough for it to sizzle a bit and release its aroma. Burning it would be a faux pas here, making it bitter. A bit of light browning is fine, though.
  4. Throw in the potatoes. Add some salt. This will lower the pan temperature and stop the garlic from burning.
  5. Let them sizzle a bit, then add some chicken stock. Turn the heat way down, cover and let things simmer gently until the potatoes are cooked and just starting to get a bit mushy. 
  6. Scrape all the potatoes off the bottom of the pan, stir them around a bit.
  7. Mash the spuds with a fork, then slowly add some buttermilk. Don't panic, it's only 1% milk fat, so it's actually leaner than whole milk. Add bit by bit until you have a smooth, creamy consistency. Cover and reserve.
The gravy

  • Flour and butter (equal amounts by weight) for the roux
  • Salt
  • Chicken stock
  • Nutmeg
  • Garlic, minced fresh
  1. Make the roux with the flour and butter (I use butter, but who would object to duck fat?). Mix them together and put them in a pan on low heat. Stir frequently so nothing burns or sticks. You want to cook the flour to eliminate any raw taste, but beyond that how dark you cook it is up to you. I went for a light tan, a bit beyond white. I want some color in my gravy so it doesn't just look like Bechamel sauce.
  2. When the roux is your favorite shade of tan, get a whisk and add the cold chicken stock and the nutmeg. Whisk frantically and pour moderately so everything blends together happily.
  3. Put the pan on low heat until it thickens. Remember to keep stirring. If you made thick gravy stir more often. If it's thin and watery you can relax a bit since convection currents will do some of the stirring for you.

Fire-roasted pepper biscuits

  • All-purpose flour
  • Salt
  • Baking powder
  • Butter
  • Bell peppers, seared 
  • Buttermilk
  1. I wanted something a bit more fun than normal biscuits, so I added a brunoise of flamed bell peppers. 
  2. First, burn the peppers over a gas burner, on a grill or blast them with a chef's torch. You could also use another type of pepper, but would get more heat in the biscuits.
  3. The peppers have a lot of moisture content, so I reduced the liquid in the recipe to compensate. I weighed the peppers and subtracted a bit less than this amount from the liquid. If you forget, you may need to increase cooking time to compensate and dry things out.
  4. The biscuits go together the usual way: mix the sifty stuff together dry with a whisk: flour, baking powder, salt. These are savory biscuits, so no sugar. Then add the butter and mix it in well. Then the pepper brunoise. Finally, the liquid - in this case, buttermilk. Knead lightly until the dough firms up, roll or smash it down (if it's too wet, smashing works better). Cut into whatever size you think is appropriate, place on parchment paper lined baking sheet and pop them into a 425° F oven for about 15 minutes. 
You can do the biscuits in advance. If you want, pop them in the oven to heat them up - or just smother them in gravy.

When the chicken comes out of the oven, it's showtime. Spoon some mashed potatoes into a plate, arrange the chicken on top, pour a bit of gravy around the potatoes, and garnish with a biscuit and whatever other garnish you have around. I only had flat leaf parsley. Not too original, but a bit of green is better than none.

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