Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fried Chicken

There’s something comforting about a plate piled high with fried chicken, a side of slaw, potatoes and gravy, and a few pickles. It’s not the healthiest dinner in the world, but cooked correctly the chicken should be anything but greasy.

This is a pretty good base recipe, if you want to kick the heat up a notch or ten add cayenne to the brine, and up the percentage to three in the dredge, don’t go overboard in the dredge though as the higher percentage spice likely burn when fried.

I’ve used wheat starch as it’s gives a crispier coating that keep crunch for longer than plain flour, but there’s no reason you can’t use flour if you don’t have any at hand. Potato starch could be substituted also. Wheat and potato starch can readily be found at any asian market in Wellington.

Chicken portions
Oil for frying, canola or rice bran

4% Salt
6% Hot Sauce

Wheat starch
1% Salt
1% Cayenne

Mix together the brine ingredients and pour into a ziplock bag, place in the chicken portions and seal, removing as much air as possible. Place the bag in a bowl in the fridge overnight.

Half an hour before cooking remove the chicken from the bag, shake off any excess brine and arrange on a rack, allowing any excess brine to drip away.

In a heavy based pot, I use an enameled cast iron pot, pour in a couple inches of oil, enough to cover the chicken. Place the pot on a medium heat and monitor the temperature, you want it to get to 180-190°C and then maintain it at about 160°C when cooking.

Combine the dredge ingredients together in a bowl, mix thoroughly. Toss the chicken in the dredge, shake off any excess and place back on the rack.

Get a rack set up ready for the cooked chicken, if you’re doing a large batch you could put it in a warm oven, but if you’re only cooking up half a dozen pieces the bench will probably be fine.

Carefully lay a piece of chicken, away from you, into the hot oil, don’t overcrowd the pot. Cook for about 5-10 minutes for a drumstick, or until the internal temperature has hit about 65°C, it will rise while resting, if you’re a bit worried cook to 70°C. As the chicken cooks you’ll notice that the oil starts of vigorously bubbling and slowly subsides, this is the moisture in the chicken turning to steam and escaping, it’s also a good indicator that the chicken is getting near done when the bubbling starts to calm down.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Garlic parsley mayonnaise

I have quite the collection of containers and jars sitting under the stairs, pulled out whenever needed, mostly for mise en place or temporary storage, but there are a few jars, usually pickle jars, that have a different purpose and aren't grabbed for any old use, they are just the right size and shape for my stick blender. These jars are ideal because the opening is just bigger than the wand of the blender, widens slightly and there isn't too much of a bulge at the base to interfere with the blade. When it comes to making mayonnaise these jars make it a cinch, you don’t have to be gentle with oil addition, usually I just get the emulsion started and then dump in a few slugs of oil at a time rather than a dribble, or drop by drop.

Garlic parsley mayonnaise (for a 670g pickle jar)
1 egg yolk
Juice of a lemon
2–3 Garlic cloves
Mustard, Dijon
Olive oil
Sunflower oil
Cider vinegar

This method can of course be adjusted for plain mayonnaise, just leave out the parsley and garlic, the lemon juice can be substituted for vinegar, or vice versa, however mustard is a must as it’s an important emulsifying agent.
  • Put into the jar the lemon juice, parsley, garlic, a spoonful of mustard and egg yolk.
  • Insert the blender and whiz on high speed until everything has been puréed.
  • While the blender is running, slowly pour in about a quarter of a cup of olive oil, this is the only slow addition you should have to do, it’s important to get the emulsion started otherwise it wont happen. It should be thick and homogeneous.
  • Add another quarter cup of oil and blitz until incorporated. Taste and add salt, go a little heavy as more oil is being added, and splash in 2–3 tablespoons of cider vinegar, depending on taste. Blitz again, it will loosen but don't worry it will thicken up when more oil is added.
  • With the blender running start pouring in sunflower oil, keep going until the jar is full.
  • If you’re worried about it being too thick, splash in a little vinegar or water, but be careful a little will drastically loosen the mayonnaise.
  • Taste and adjust the salt and acid if needed, blitz. It should be nice and thick and have a good wobble to it. Screw on a lid and store in the fridge until used.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Corned beef potato cakes.

Corned beef is one of those truly filling, soul warming meals, the kiwi version of Pot-au-feu. Slices of tender simmered cured meat, salty and sweet, with vegetables, often cooked in the same liquid, and a creamy mustard sauce being the more traditional. Now I like a few vegetables in the cooking liquid, a few stock basics such as carrot, celery and onion, but these are destined for the bin as they are well and truly spent after the long simmer, that is if I don’t cheat with the pressure cooker, fresh vegetables are added nearer the end so they are still vibrant and only just touched with the salty goodness of the stock. Other additions are important too, pimento, clove, garlic and ginger, some people add sugar or vinegar I forego these. My ideal dish is a plate with a few slices of beef, a smear of hot english mustard, poached baby fennel and carrot, and a baked potato that has been sliced in half and had some cooking liquid spooned over it.

When preparing a meal that you know, with a little self control, there will be substantial leftovers it’s always nice to prepare a little extra to make the next meal a meal to itself rather than just a rehash, so it’s always ideal to roast a few extra spuds or vege, even if it’s to throw together a spicy hash for brunch the next day, add in some bok choy, chilli and fish sauce topped with a fried egg you have quite the meal.

This recipe, however, was more the cart before the horse as I had plans for leftovers that didn’t exist yet, so we had a nice corned beef dinner and extra spuds were baked in the oven.

Corned beef, shredded or chopped
Baked potatoes
Cheddar, grated
Panko breadcrumbs

While the potatoes are still warm, peel or scoop the flesh out of the skins and pass through a mouli, or fine sieve. Add the beef, a dollop of butter, handful of chopped parsley and cheese, stir through with a spatula. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Press down into a dish lined with cling film, you want it to be about 1–2cm thick. Cover and place in the fridge to firm up overnight. If you don’t feel that your potato mixture is going to hold together add in a spoon of flour and an egg, it’s nicer if you don’t though.

Set up three bowls, one with seasoned flour, one with beaten egg mixed with a little water and the third with panko crumbs. Remove the potato mixture from the fridge and cut into rounds, you should be able to mash and scraps together to form patties. Gently coat a round in flour then egg and cover in crumbs, arrange on a tray and when all done place into the fridge for at least half an hour.

Heat a heavy based skillet on a medium heat with a centimetre of oil in it. When hot, place the rounds in the oil and cook until golden brown all over. Transfer to a rack to drain.

Serve with watercress salad and fried egg, oh and plenty of hot sauce.