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deep-fried turkey

Fried turkey

Frying the turkey



For nine years and counting, it’s been my little tradition to fry a turkey for Thanksgiving. In 2001 when I started my first job out of college, my Louisianan coworker, Brandi, informed me her family deep-fries a turkey every year for Thanksgiving. I pictured a spicy flour battered turkey–just like Popeye’s chicken but in whole bird form and five times larger. I was surprised to learn that fried turkey wasn’t battered at all–simply rubbed down with Cajun spice and then thrown (very carefully) into a vat of hot peanut oil. I was a little disappointed since fried chicken skin is always the best part but since everyone and their mama claimed fried turkey is so good, I decided to give the turkey frying a try anyway.

To try this at home, I recommend acquiring the following items:

  • 1 40-qt. stockpot with basket (these are usually sold together for turkey and crawfish cooking purposes–both Southern/Louisianan dishes)
  • 1 propane burner for outdoor cooking
  • 1 propane tank
  • 1 lg. pc. cardboard to lay under burner so oil splatters won’t stain your concrete

You can find the turkey fryer at Academy; I personally found mine at Tuesday Morning for about $50 if I remember correctly. The propane burner and tank is from Wal-Mart. I imagine you could probably make one stop at a Home Depot or Lowe’s and find all these things.

The advantages of frying a turkey are:

  1. It’s delicious. Once I went fried, I never went back. Even the breast meat is juicy.
  2. It’s quick. Roasting a turkey takes anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes per pound depending on if it’s stuffed or not, and you have to tend to it frequently for basting. Frying, on the other hand, takes 3.5 minutes per pound, just a fraction of the time it takes to roast the bird. And once you get it in the fryer, you don’t have to touch it till it’s finished.

The disadvantage? Obviously, it’s not as healthy. But when you’re stuffing yourself with mashed potatoes and casseroles and pies for the holidays anyway, who cares? That’s the Southern motto.

This turkey has received rave reviews from every mouth it’s touched for the last nine years. So why not do it yourself this year? John and I like to sit in our garage and driveway, pop open a beer, and relax while taking in the wonderful smells of deep-fried turkey.

Note: This photo of the turkey was actually taken in 2006 because the one we took of the turkey this year was half carved and not a good picture.



Fried turkey 2

The tasty end result



Recipe: Deep-Fried Turkey

Summary: Call it Cajun, call it Southern. I just call it damn delish.

Ingredients

  • 3 ga. peanut oil for frying
  • 1 whole turkey, no more than 14 lbs.
  • 1/4 c. cajun or creole seasoning
  • 1 jar cajun or creole marinade with syringe for injecting

Instructions

  1. The day before cooking, remove giblets and rinse turkey. Pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Inject turkey with marinade: 1 syringe-ful in ea. leg, 1 in ea. thigh, 1 in ea. wing, and 2 in ea. breast. During injection, pull syringe out slowly while pushing down plunger to spread marinade evenly throughout meat.
  3. Rub inside and outside liberally with seasoning. Marinate in refrigerator overnight.
  4. When ready to cook, fill 40-qt. pot with 3 gal. peanut oil. (This should fill about half the pot.) Heat oil on high heat to 400 degrees or until oil has lines in it, indicating high heat.
  5. Make sure skin at turkey neck has at least a 2″ opening so oil doesn’t get trapped inside the bird later. Place turkey in basket neck side down.
  6. Slowly lower basket into pot. Cook 3.5 min./lb. or until internal temperature of thigh is 180 degrees.
  7. Remove turkey and let it sit for 20 min. before carving.

Quick Notes

Note that it takes 24 hours to thaw five lbs. of turkey. I.e. a 14-lb. turkey will take 72 hours. And remember that it needs to be fully thawed before the marinade can be injected, which means if I had a 14-lb. turkey I wanted to fry on Thanksgiving Thursday, I need to move it from the freezer into the fridge Sunday morning (thawed by Wednesday so it can marinate a full 24 hours before going into the fyer.

For the marinade, we always use Tony Chachere‘s Creole butter flavor. As for the rub, we used both Rudy’s turkey rub and Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning.

Peanut oil is ideal for deep-frying because it has a high smoking point.

Birds 14 lbs. or less are ideal for this method of cooking–any larger, and the bird’s skin could be overexposed to the hot oil, resulting in a charred skin. And we can’t have that considering skin is the best part!

Be extremely careful when frying the turkey. They say you should cook this completely outdoors in case a grease fire shoots up to the sky, but we always cook ours in the garage and have yet to have a black hole on our ceiling. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

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“quick” & easy vietnamese chicken noodle soup

Pho ga

A comfort food staple in our home

Ahh…the most famous Vietnamese dish in conjunction with the baguette sandwich, banh mi thit. How can we talk about comfort foods and not talk about pho? Pho ga–or noodle soup with chicken–is perhaps my favorite of the pho family. I grew up eating pho on occasional Sunday mornings, and while I know it’s a cliche to say so, my mama seriously made the best pho. Seriously. The best. My parents’ friends had even urged her to open up a little pho restaurant. She was bestowed the recipe by a Vietnamese chef she once knew. Unfortunately, my mama died before I ever got the chance to learn her secrets, and my dad never found the written gem anywhere. Quite literally, she took the secret to the grave.

Years later, I discovered Quoc Viet, a handy little brand of soup base. They make a variety of soup bases, including pho bo (Hanoi beef noodle soup), bo kho (beef stew), and bun bo Hue (spicy lemongrass beef noodle soup from central Vietnam), to name a few. I have yet to be disappointed by any of the outcomes using Quoc Viet products.

Pho is definitely a comfort food: eaten on cold days or after a late night of partying, it hits just the right spot. Vietnamese people often eat it for lunch, brunch, or even breakfast. (I’ve seen Pho Danh, which I believe has the best pho in Houston and which I will review next time I go, crowded with diners at 9 AM.)

So what makes a good pho? It’s mainly in the broth. It can’t be too oily, it has to be flavorful with the right flavors. You’d be surprised at some of the weird tasting pho broths out there. For example, Les Givrals Kahve–not to be confused with the original Givral on Bellaire, this one is an entirely different chain: one on Washington, the other on Congress–has one-dimensional broth that reeks of pepper and nothing else. Blegh.

Quoc Viet makes a delicious broth. I actually prefer my homemade quick & easy chicken pho to any other restaurant’s. One day I will attempt to make it from scratch, but till then, this is a simple yet savory substitute. And remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.


Recipe: “Quick” & Easy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

Summary: Pho ga–instructions can be found on the label of the Quoc Viet soup base, but here is my version.

Ingredients

  • 1 jar Quoc Viet brand “chicken pho” soup base
  • 15-20 chicken legs
  • 1 pc. fresh ginger, unpeeled but washed
  • 1 whole onion, unpeeled but washed
  • 1 (13.5 oz.) can chicken broth
  • 2-3 gal. water
  • 3 pkg. rice sticks (banh pho), cooked al dente
  • 1 bunch scallion/green onion, washed & finely chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, washed & finely chopped
  • 3 limes, cut into sm. wedges
  • Sriracha, hoisin sauce & fish sauce to taste

Instructions

  1. In a lg. stockpot, combine chicken, ginger, and whole onion. Add enough water to cover ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Add contents of the Quoc Viet soup base, making sure not to tear open the enclosed spice bags. Boil at med. heat for 20 min.
  3. Remove chicken, ginger, onion, and spice bag. Add chicken broth to soup and adjust water to 2-3 gal. of water, depending on taste. Bring back to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and let simmer until ready to serve.
  4. Meanwhile, remove skin from chicken and shred meat.
  5. To serve, in a lg. bowl, place noodles, chicken, scallion, and cilantro. Pour steaming broth into bowl. Garnish with freshly squeezed lime juice, Sriracha, and/or hoisin sauce.

Quick Notes

I put quotation marks around the word “quick” because while it is quicker than making pho from scratch, it still takes some time to prepare.

You can often find the Quoc Viet soup bases, along with the other ingredients, at your local Asian grocery store. You can also find them online but you’ll probably have to purchase in bulk.

The specific brands of ingredients I like to use are:

  • Swanson chicken broth
  • Sriracha brand hot sauce which is a Thai sauce made of sun-ripened chili peppers and garlic
  • Koon Chun hoisin sauce

As for rice sticks, I like to get the medium-sized noodles (rather than the small that are served in most restaurants), simply because this is what my mama used to serve, and it’s nostalgic for me. As for brand, I used to get the one with a red rose on the package, but that brand has become increasingly harder to find, so I’ve resorted to using one with an elephant. Some cooks I know say it’s an abomination to use dried rice sticks, preferring to only use the fresh ones in the refrigerated section of the store. Anyone have a suggestion as to which rice stick brand I should use?

Variations

Different people like different garnishes and condiments with their pho. I personally only add lime, choosing to forego all the various sauces and veggies. Call me a purist, but I tend to like tasting the essence of a dish. For others, though, you can serve raw veggies: bean sprouts, mint, basil. My mama used to like stalks of green onion blanced in broth. Sometimes, I like slices of red onion doused in vinegar. Place these garnishes in the center of the table and let diners help themselves. Just be sure to let the newbies know it’s for the pho and not a side salad; my dad’s seen a man eat this at a restaurant before his pho came out.

This recipe should make about 20 servings.

Cooking time (duration): 60

Meal type: brunch

Culinary tradition: Vietnamese

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snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles

I like 'em soft.



Last but not least, we come to our final third course: a simple dessert that can be highly addictive. A college friend, Jeanette, gave me this recipe years ago after she baked some, and we just couldn’t get enough. Snickerdoodles are similar to sugar cookies but what sets them apart is their use of a cinnamon-sugar coating. Cinnamon reminds me of wintertime, and thus, comfort food. It also made for the perfect third course because its smaller portion and lighter taste provided a nice balance to our heavier first two courses, not to mention it’s the thing Karen always requests from me. Naturally, I had to give her what she loves for her birthday dessert. They were popular with everyone else, too. They were sliding off the plate even before dinner was served.

In the ten or so years that I’ve had this recipe, I’ve always wondered where the term snickerdoodle came from, but I never bothered looking it up. Till now, that is, when I actually have a reason to dig up some information.

My husband said he once baked snickerdoodles for school when they had a colonial history unit, so he claims snickerdoodles have been around as early as the 18th Century. After browsing around online, I found his statement to be true: the snickerdoodle originated from early America and was likely adapted from European recipes after they settled in the New World. According to the every so reliable Wikipedia resource, the origin of the name is unknown, although some claim the word is either Dutch or German while others say it was, like many other New England cookies, named on a whim. Whatever the origin, I’m just glad it finally reached me. It’s simple to bake and keeps well so could be made in large quantities and given away for the holidays.


Recipe: Snickerdoodles

Summary: Recipe from Jeanette

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. shortening
  • 1.5 c. white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2.75 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. white sugar for coating
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon for coating

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a med. bowl, mix together butter, shortening, 1.5 c. sugar, and eggs. In a separate lg. bowl, blend together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Then combine mixtures until fully blended.
  3. In a sm. bowl, combine 2 tbsp. sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon. Shape dough by rounded tablespoons (approx. golf ball size). Roll balls in mixture to coat. Place 2″ apart on cookie sheets.
  4. Bake 8 to 10 min. until set. Transfer cookies to cooling rack.

Quick Notes

This recipe yields 24 cookies. The serving size is 2 per serving.

What is cream of tartar, and why is it used in this recipe? It is a byproduct of wine-making. Grapes are a natural source of tartaric acid, and after fermentation, they leave behind a deposit of tartaric acid inside the barrels. This mixed with potassium hydroxide creates an acidic salt: cream of tartar. In baking, baking soda is the leavening agent that works faster than yeast. But it needs 2 parts of the acidic cream of tartar mixed with 1 part baking soda in order to produce the gas bubbles that lighten and raise the dough as soon as it is moistened.

Variations

Now if you want to forego 2 products and just use 1, note that 2 parts cream of tartar mixed with 1 part baking soda creates baking powder. I used to wonder what the difference was between baking soda and powder, and there you have it. Baking powder is the acidic and basic mix of the 2 ingredients thereby becoming the leavening agent in baking.

Cooking time (duration): 40

Meal type: dessert

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

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real men bake banana nut & pumpkin nut breads

Pumpkin nut bread

Pumpkin nut bread made entirely from scratch

Recently, John and I took a leisure trip to Macy’s in search of things on which we could use the last of our registry Star Rewards credit. Ever since the Paris part of our honeymoon, John has been on a French baguette kick. About a month ago, he decided to finally give baguette baking a try. He bought bread flour, looked up recipes, rolled up his sleeves, and started kneading. The first baguette looked awesome but wasn’t fluffy like a true baguette. The second attempt looked unappetizing and hardened into a rock within two days. Then our friend, Mei-Mei, said, “Why don’t you just buy a bread maker?”

At first, John was reluctant; he knew that now, when any bread turned out delicious, it wouldn’t be due to his blood, sweat, and tears. He would have to give most of the credit to the boxy machine on our kitchen counter. But we had leftover credit at Macy’s and opted for the Cuisinart CBK-200, a 2-pound convection automatic bread maker. The thing is heavy-duty, taking up a fourth of our counter space, but what it lacks in sleekness, it makes up for in efficiency and convenience. Now all John has to do is pour the measured ingredients into the machine, close the lid, and turn it on. It’ll beep when it’s ready for mix-ins (e.g. nuts) and beep again once it’s done. Like a slow cooker, we can just throw everything in and forget about it for a few hours. Then later when we return to it, we’ll have a freshly baked bread. A bonus is how nice the house smells when you’ve got something baking. Mouth-watering, I say.

In the month we’ve had it, John’s used it to make a French loaf, banana bread, pizza dough, and the latest creation, pumpkin walnut bread. Except for the French loaf (which still turned out edible), everything has been pretty damn delicious. He’s gotten a lot of compliments for his breads, and while our friend Daniel said that with all this baking, John’s lost his nuts in his bread, John says real men bake.

The truth is I’m happy John’s been spending more time in the kitchen. It gives the Blind Cook a much needed break. The following recipe is one he found online for banana nut bread. He used the same recipe to make both the banana bread and the pumpkin walnut bread; for the former, he baked it sans nuts since we didn’t have any on hand, and for the latter, he simply substituted the bananas with the fresh pumpkin he had spent five hours the other evening preparing. (That in itself was a whole ordeal. First he had to cut open the pumpkin, roast it in the oven with a layer of brown sugar on top to sweeten the field pumpkin, puree it in the food processor. That wasn’t all. Then I had to stand there with a knee-high sock in hand, which we read was an acceptable substitute for cheesecloth, while he spooned globs of pumpkin puree into it in order to extract all the water from the orange mass. Craziness, I tell you.)

But what we got out of it was a pumpkin walnut bread truly made from scratch. I’m so proud of my hubby. If a computer geek can bake it, so can you. You just may need to throw some money down for a bread machine first.

Banana bread

Banana bread sans the nuts



Recipe: Banana Nut or Pumpkin Nut Bread for the Bread Machine

Summary: Original recipe from the Bread Maker section of All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. margarine or butter, softened
  • 2/3 c. milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2.5 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. white sugar
  • 2.5 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 c. mashed bananas or pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Instructions

  1. Spray bread machine pan with vegetable oil spray.
  2. Pre-mix ingredients in the order listed. Place mixture in bread machine pan.
  3. Select the “Quick Bread/Cake” cycle. Press “Start.” Check after 1 min. to see if dough is well-blended.
  4. Cook until cycle ends. Remove pan and cool completely before removing bread from pan.

Quick Notes

For best results, use King Arthur flour. It’s more expensive but seems worth it for quality breads.

Baking powder = 2 parts cream of tartar + 1 part baking soda. This will be further explained in my snickerdoodles post.

The prep time listed below only accounts for the mixing of ingredients and does not include the time it spends in the bread machine.

Variations

We’ve used this same recipe to make both banana bread and pumpkin nut bread. I’m sure there are other mushy fruits/purees that could be added into this bread. Why not try?

Cooking time (duration): 10

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: snack

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

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country green beans

Let’s face it. Most Southern cookin’ recipes are not the healthiest–fried this, fried that, butter this, lard that. Typically, a hefty scoop of mashed potatoes would go wonderful with this birthday meal #2 next to the chicken fried chicken and the baked mac ‘n cheese, but I decided to “healthen” it up a bit and cook some fresh green beans instead. The nice thing about this choice is that it also adds color to the dish, making it more appealing to our visual sense. (I know this shouldn’t matter to the Blind Cook, but I am, after all, cooking for others who are sighted.)

Okay, so once I took a look at the list of ingredients, the green beans didn’t look too healthy any more, but I figured I’d be using much more butter in mashed potatoes, so better to just stick with the greens.

It turned out this was the only dish that incurred no leftovers. Was it because a pound of beans could easily be devoured by six hungry stomachs? I like to think that it was just that good. The best thing about these country green beans, however, may be that it was damn easy to cook. I mean, look at the instructions–it’s only one step!


Recipe: Country Green Beans

Summary: Original recipe from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1/4 c. chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 c. chopped cooked bacon
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 c. water
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a med. saucepan, combine all ingredients. Cover and simmer over med. heat until beans are cooked through, about 15 to 20 min.

Quick Notes

You can use kitchen scissors to trim the ends off green beans. But being blind, I found that snapping them off with my fingers was more efficient. This will work if the beans are fresh enough to snap easily. Otherwise, they’ll be too soft and pliable, and you’ll end up losing more bean. In this case, stick with the scissors.

Variations

The original recipe used ham, but since I already had turkey bacon on hand from the clam chowder, I decided to use that instead.

Cooking time (duration): 25

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

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baked mac ‘n cheese

Who doesn’t love mac ‘n cheese? Besides the lactose intolerant, of course. And if you don’t like mac ‘n cheese because you don’t like cheese, then I have nothing more to say to you.

Up until this birthday dinner, my mac ‘n cheese was always of the Kraft variety. I remember due to a NMO exacerbation several years ago, I was on corticosteroids whose main side effects on me are insomnia and increased appetite. Often accompanying these appetite changes were strange cravings, and during this particular round of steroids, I ate at least one serving of Easy Mac every day. I even had to go to Costco and buy in bulk.

But thank heavens, my taste buds have since sophisticated, and I tried making good ol’ mac ‘n cheese from scratch this time. The idea came to me when I was watching this “Good Eats” episode on melted cheese, and Alton Brown baked some mac ‘n cheese. And then when I went online to search for the recipe and saw it’s enthusiastic reviews, I was sold.

It was definitely a hit. The panco bread crumbs made all the difference. Overwhelmed by the exoticism? Let’s break it down.

Panco is simply Japanese for “bread crumbs.” The difference between this variety and the American kind is that panco is flaky rather than crummy–uh, I mean crumby (sorry, another bad joke). This means there is more surface area so to make a long story short, your foods will turn out crispier, crunchier, yet lighter. Even after microwaving the leftovers, the panco still added a delightful crunch to the mac ‘n cheese.

Another differentiating factor is the sharp cheddar. None of that bland, watery mild cheddar here. We like a hearty, pungent cheddar. I cheated and opted for the kind that come already shredded in a bag, but if you’re looking to build up forearm muscles, try buying a block of sharp cheddar (either white or yellow or both) and grating it yourself? We received this sweet mandolin slicer as a wedding gift, and it makes cheese grating easy. And remember that if the Blind can Cook it, you can too.


Recipe: Baked Mac ‘n Cheese

Summary: Original recipe from Alton Brown

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. elbow macaroni, cooked slightly less than al dente
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 4.5 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 tbsp. mustard powder
  • 3 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1 lg. egg
  • 18 oz. grated sharp cheddar
  • 1.5 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp. butter for topping
  • 1 (3.5 oz.) pkg. panco bread crumbs

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a med. saucepan, melt 3 tbsp. butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard powder, and whisk continuously for 5 min. so that no lumps form. Stir in milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for 10 min. before removing bay leaf.
  3. Temper in the egg, and stir in 3/4 of the cheddar. Season with salt & pepper. Fold in the macaroni, and pour into a 2-qt. casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
  4. In a separate sm. saute pan, melt the remaining 3 tbsp. butter, and toss the panco to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 to 40 min. or until edges are slightly browned. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 min. before serving.

Variations

I changed up some of the measurements only because the ingredients came packaged in varying amounts. (E.g. I didn’t want to purchase 2 boxes of panco or have to save only 4 oz. of the 12-oz. pkg. of macaroni.) And I thought the recipe still turned out okay. I think the thing with casserole type dishes is they don’t have to be an exact science. This is good for all you non-recipe followers out there. (You know who you are.)

I also baked the macaroni for longer than what the original Alton Brown recipe called for because I like the edges a little burnt. Personally, I think it tastes better and adds that toasted crunch.

Cooking time (duration): 60

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

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chicken fried chicken

With a side of country green beans and baked mac 'n cheese



Aahhh…even the post title can make one salivate. In my last post about chicken fried foods, I talked about the Luby’s $2 Thursdays, which I have yet to try. Since then, I found a chicken fried chicken recipe online and watched a Travel Channel “Food Paradise” episode on deep-fried foods, and it was only a matter of time before I busted out the cooking oil. And then came along my friends’ request for comfort food. Perfect.

Before we get to the anticipated recipe, did you ever gaze at a Cracker Barrel or other diner menu and wonder what the difference was between a country fried steak/chicken and a chicken fried steak/chicken? In college, (it seems I learned many things in college), I met some folks from Philadelphia who brought it to my attention that the term “chicken fried steak” is just odd. Is it a chicken? Or is it a steak? Is there such thing as chicken steak? Well, the term “chicken fried,” whatever it precedes, refers to a style of frying the food item the same way one would prepare fried chicken–that is, to batter it and then deep-fry it. Indeed, the Philadelphian folks were appalled and overwhelmed by the range of things us Southerners deep-fry: steaks, bacon, pickles, Twinkies, Oreos, Snickers, beer, Coke, butter, even shoes. Because in Texas, you deep-fry everything just because you can. But back to the original question: what’s the difference between country fried and chicken fried? According to Alton Brown, a country fried steak/chicken is dressed in brown gravy while a chicken fried steak/chicken uses white gravy. So there you have it. Consider yourself a Southern fried expert.

So without further delay, here’s the chicken fried chicken recipe I used as the entree for the birthday dinner. Not only was it delicious (what fried thing isn’t?), it was easy. So for sure, if the Blind can Cook it, you can too. Use this to impress your non-Texan friends next time they’re in town. Or throw a Southern-themed dinner party. Just make sure you have some Tums on hand.


Recipe: Chicken Fried Chicken

Summary: Original recipe from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to 1/2 to 3/4″ thick
  • 25 Ritz crackers
  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c. oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Place Ritz crackers in a gal.-sized Ziploc bag and smash to crumbs.
  2. In a shallow bowl, mix together flour, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika. In the next shallow bowl, mix together the beaten eggs with salt & pepper. In the third shallow bowl, pour the smashed Ritz crackers.
  3. Coat each side of the tenderized chicken breast halves first in flour mixture, then egg, then cracker crumbs. Double-coat in flour and egg if desired. Let sit for 10 min. or until chicken is dried before frying.
  4. Meanwhile, heat oil to med.-high heat. Fry chicken for 10 to 15 min. or until done, flipping every 5 min.

Quick Notes

Peanut oil is best for deep-frying since it has a higher smoking temperature. Other good oils for deep-frying are safflower, sunflower, or canola. (I foresee a post on deep-frying coming up.)

Variations

The original recipe didn’t call for any of the spices but I figured garlic and onion and paprika couldn’t hurt. They are, after all, what goes into good fried chicken. I used Ritz crackers since that’s what I had on hand, plus I figured the buttery flavor of the Ritz would add flavor to the chicken. But original recipe uses saltines, so those could work too.

Cooking time (duration): 45

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

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caramel apple dip

Granny Smith apple

Introduced to the U.S. in 1972

In my 31 years of life, I have never carved a pumpkin. I’ve lived a deprived existence. This Sunday, however, a few of us are getting together and doing just that. Not only are we making jack-o’-lanterns, we are going all out and making caramel apples too. (I would bob for apples but my occasional lockjaw will prevent me from winning at that game, and if you know me, I must be excellent at everything I do.)

With Halloween being around the corner and the start of autumn, I have been seeing a lot of caramel apple recipes everywhere. Today I got the “Recipe of the Day” email from Food Network, and guess what? It was for Perfect Caramel Apples. I decided, however, to take the portion-controlled route and look for a caramel apple dip instead in which we can dip slices instead of entire humongous apples on a stick (which may make me sick). So although we won’t be making this until actual Halloween on Sunday with “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” playing on the TV in the background (I have all the holiday Peanuts DVDs and like to watch them on their appropriate holiday as tradition).

The recipe calls for Granny Smith apples (as pictured), which are so named after Maria Ann Smith who founded them in Australia in 1868. They are tart, juicy, and crisp: suitable for baking and used in salads since they take longer to brown than other varieties. The Beatles even adopted the Granny Smith as the logo for their Apple Records label. I personally find them a little too tart to eat raw, preferring fuji or gala apples, but the color is just oh so pretty.


Recipe: Caramel Apple Dip

Summary: Original recipe from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 6 apples, preferably Granny Smith, sliced
  • 16 individually wrapped caramel pcs., unwrapped
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar (optional
  • 1 sm. pkg. chopped or crushed peanuts (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a med. saucepan over med.-low heat, melt caramel with water, stirring frequently.
  2. Once caramel is melted, add cream cheese to saucepan and stir frequently until well-blended. Add brown sugar as needed to achieve desired sweetness. Add crushed nuts, remove from heat, and serve with sliced apples.

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dessert

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

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clam chowder

Clam chowder

Now we just need a sourdough bread bowl



We recently hosted another birthday dinner at our house. This time, the guests of honor were another two friends from our wedding party: Karen and Daniel, both October babies. Daniel requested comfort food, and Karen toasted to that. October is also a good time to start cooking up that comfort food–as I mentioned in my previous broccoli cheddar soup post, we start craving comfort foods as the weather cools.

I never truly enjoyed clam chowder until seven years ago during a trip to San Francisco. Being that it was my first time to the Bay area, I had to do all the touristy things, including a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf where I ordered the notorious Boudin clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. I sat on a bench at the Wharf on a chilly November afternoon and enjoyed my little precious bowl of touristy goodness. (I don’t particularly like sourdough, however, because it has that fermented taste that errs it on the side of almost rotten, but how could I not possess the “when in Rome” attitude? I’m such a poser.) Now I need to make a trip to New England and try some of their clam chowder, and I’ll have to do it in a Patriots jersey.

Anyway, here is the way to recapture that moment, the first of what was again a three course meal. Remember, if the Blind can Cook it, you can definitely cook it.


Recipe: Clam Chowder

Summary: Original recipe from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 3 unpeeled potatoes, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 (13 oz.) can chopped clams with juice
  • 1/2 qt. half & half
  • 1 (1.8 oz.) pkg. dry leeksoup mix

Instructions

  1. Place in a large pot, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until crisp and browned, about 10 min. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pot. Set bacon aside.
  2. Stir the potatoes, celery, and carrots into the bacon fat. Season with salt & pepper. Cook for 5 min., stirring frequently.
  3. Pour the juice from the clams into the pot. Add just enough water to cover ingredients, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for another 10 to 15 min., or until potatoes are just tender.
  4. Gently stir in the leek soup mix until no lumps remain. Stir in the clams, reserved bacon, and half & half cream. Cook and stir until chowder returns to a simmer and thickens, about 10 min. more.

Quick Notes

If the soup is still too runny, try running some of the potatoes a batch at a time through a blender or food processor. This mashes up the potatoes into a creamy texture. Add the potatoes back into the soup, and it should thicken. We had to do this to fix our runny soup problem.

Variations

Because I could not find dry leek soup mix anywhere, I tried to come up with my own concoction: some chopped scallion, cream of celery, some minced onion, chicken bouillonn, etc. Or you can substitute with onion soup mix (although I couldn’t find this either). C’mon, people! I tried the Heights Kroger, two HEBs, and even Central Market. Get with the 21st century, stores.

I think next time, if the stores still refuse to stock leek soup mix, I might try substituting it with condensed cream of potato and cream of celery soups.

Cooking time (duration): 45

Diet type: Pescatarian

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

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shrimp & tomato linguine

Photo courtesy of Love to Cook



With half a bottle of chardonnay still left over from our wedding, I’ve been looking for recipes that call for dry white wine. In addition to using it on the scallops a la Julia Child and the mushroom risotto, I found this recipe online. It is also a good opportunity to use up the last of those ripened tomatoes from your garden. I am eating the leftovers as I type this entry, and the dish tastes even better after a day in the fridge.

Remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.


Recipe: Shrimp & Tomato Linguine

Summary: Original recipe from Cindy in Pensacola on All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (optional)
  • 4 c. tomatoes, diced
  • 1 c. dry white wine
  • 1 portobello mushroom cap, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 (16 oz.) pkg. linguine pasta
  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1 tsp. red chili pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garlic and onion and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, mushroom, and wine. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Once tomatoes have simmered into a sauce, add butter and season with salt & pepper.
  2. While tomato mixture is simmering, cook linguine according to directions for al dente pasta.
  3. Season shrimp with red chili pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Heat remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and cook shrimp until pink on the outside and no longer translucent in the center, about 5 minutes. Add shrimp into sauce, and serve over linguine with grated Parmesan if desired.

Quick Notes

My laziness screwed me again! Instead of dicing the tomatoes, I merely chopped them so they did not result in a sauce-like consistency. They were more like chunks. Make sure you chop them up into small pieces, about 1 cm. cubes, so they will soften and result in the right texture. Next time, I’m using the Magic Bullet.

My shrimp turned out slightly overcooked. (I seem to have this problem with shellfish.) The thing with shellfish is there is such a small window after it’s fully cooked but before it becomes too tough. I might have to look into this in a future blog post.

The preparation time below of 45 minutes excludes the shrimp peeling.

Variations

The original recipe didn’t call for onion nor mushroom, but I found some in the fridge and decided to add them. Onion and mushroom usually go well with any Italian-based dish, so why not?

The original recipe also called for Cajun seasoning instead of chili pepper flakes, but I like the less salty spice of pepper flakes more so switched it up.

I also was too lazy to devein the shrimp. (Us Asians tend to eat shrimp poop all the time.) Is it really that harmful for you? Sounds like a future blog post.

Cooking time (duration): 45

Diet type: Pescatarian

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: Italian

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