July 31, 2009



July 28, 2009

Chicken Kentuckily Fried

It all started with this article which is very charmingly British about the entire concept of deep fried chicken. But it also has the breakdown of the ELEVEN SECRET HERBS AND SPICES

"1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons Accent (MSG)"

MSG is not an herb. nor a spice. But okay whatever.

For perspective's sake, when I make fried chicken, I marinate in buttermilk for 24 hours, I salt and pepper the flour, and if I'm feeling REALLY WILD I add a tablespoon of paprika. But like, hoo, I'd have to sit down after that.

So for this project I quested and procured these SECRET HERBS AND SPICES.

Please note the giant mound of MSG. This is probably the dirtiest thing I've done in a while.

Ground it all up and you get this

Which I mixed with two cups of flour. Then realized it was still REALLY FFING SALTY. And added another cup of flour.

The chicken strips have been patiently bathing in buttermilk, a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of sugar and some pepper.

They've been there for about a day, but as long as they marinate for a couple of hours, you're good. It's small strips of meat, they absorb flavor quickly.

Highly recommend double dipping these. Straight out of the buttermilk into the flour, back in buttermilk, flour. Deep fry.

Incredibly sinful. The buttermilk makes them tangy, tender and juicy. The msg makes them a shock to the system. Like the article states, it's like the crystal meth of chicken. And granted, I'm not convinced that the exact herb and spice combination make that huge of a difference. The biggest difference is that if you fry properly, you get a good shattering crust without the crazy flour tumors that come with commercial KFC. Eaten with Bob's cornbread recipe.

If I were to make the recipe again, I'd add more paprika and some coriander and reduce the msg to a teaspoon if not eliminating it all together. Though, granted, if you're eating fried chicken, there's not really a reason to not make it completely naughty.

This slaw.

Yesterday I made a vaguely Southwestern slaw on a whim to go with KFC for Bad Decisions Night (tm). Except this was a good decision and I want to eat this delicious slaw forever. No pics because I was too busy om-nom-nom-ing.

Here's how:
- 1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
- 1/2 red onion, chopped fine and quick-pickled in apple cider vinegar + salt
- shredded carrot
- sweet corn kernels
- large diced avocado
- lime juice (2 limes) + buttermilk + salt + pepper

It's got all the elements of an addictive snack food: crunchy, savory, sweet (from the carrots and corn), creamy (from the avocado). But it's made of vegetables.

Today I filled a tupperware container with it and had it for lunch and it was still awesome.

July 27, 2009


The power of suggestion is exponentially so for me when it comes to food. Sometimes it's that Sonic commercial with the chili cheese tater tots that just sound like a really good idea at 2 in the morning. For me, it's usually something I've read - the stews and breads in the accursed Wheel of Time Series, butter or candy making from Little House or the Thai food and such from every damn chapter of Time Traveler's Wife. The point to this, is that I never really cared for or really wanted to make chili until I read this:

Laura made a great chili. She used lean meat, dark kidney beans, carrots cut small, a bottle or so of dark beer, and freshly sliced hot peppers. She would let the chili cook for a while, then add red wine, lemon juice and a pinch of fresh dill, and finally, measure out and add her chili powders."
- American Gods, Neil Gaiman

It goes on, but I think that's about the limits of fair use. And it's basically a passage that is burned into my mind and my ideas of making chili all derive from that one paragraph.

So here's the gist of my chili. I'm a spice wimp, but I love the flavors of different peppers. I refuse to thicken with anything but tomato paste and ground meat. I prefer a deep and smokey but slightly sweet chili. I prefer beans, but I make them separately and add them in to my own dish since there's the GREAT CHILI DEBATE and I'm motherflippin Roger Sherman.

Both ground meat and cubed meat. I used lamb and ground beef and some leftover pot roast chuck cut into quarter inch pieces. The cubed meat is for chewing and the ground meat is to add texture and thickness. Yes, you're thickening the tomato meat stew with more meat. Brown the cubed meat first, remove it, and then cook the ground meat in the released fat. Drain ground meat and set aside with the cubed.

Peppers. I used poblanos and fresnos. I seed these and put the seeds aside for those who can eat a much spicier chili than I can.

The poblanos and one of the bell peppers get roasted at 450 degrees while the meat cooks, or about 20 minutes. They should look like this when done

Back to the meat pot. Mirepoix time!

Have you had enough pictures of mirepoix to get the point? I used two onions, three stalks of celery and two large carrots. Sweat for about 10 minutes. To this you add the seeded and diced fresnos (or whatever you want to use), the poblanos and bell peppers.

And then this.

No. This ALL goes in the chili. Don't balk, it's delicious. Chop roughly and add to the sweating mess. Salt a little here to help release moisture.

Add the meat back to the vegetable mixture. Add two 14 oz cans of tomatoes, juice and all, and a beer. I use Shiner Bock, but use any beer you like to drink. Because I add a beer and a splash and proceed to drink the rest.

Then the seasonings. Teaspoon of cumin, coriander, hot paprika, oregano, touch of dill, chipotle and red chili, salt and pepper and a little bay. Let this simmer for a bit, the peppers in the chili will start integrating and the liquids will keep releasing and it will get very meaty. Taste again after half an hour and adjust your spices accordingly.

At this point, I thicken with tomato paste. And then taste again. And again. And again. Right before serving, I add the juice of a small lemon to brighten the flavor.

As with all things, use the peppers you like the flavors of. I'm not a huge fan of jalapenos, so I tend to avoid them and my wimpy spice tolerance prevents me from using more robust peppers. Same with chili powders. I obviously trend towards the smoky and the sweet, but there's a whole wide world of tasty out there.

Ham cake recipe

Here's the recipes I used, in case you wanted to make a ham cake of your very own:

Red Velvet Cake

2.5 c. sifted cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
2 oz. red food coloring (2 Tbsp.)
1.5 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. white vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9x13 pan, two 9" rounds, or three 8" rounds.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder to form a paste without lumps; set aside (adding a small amount of white sugar helps make cocoa powder dissolve)
3. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add vanilla and red cocoa paste. Scrape bowl down to ensure even mixing. Add flour mixture in thirds, alternating with buttermilk and ending with a final addition of flour. Beat until well combined, scraping bowl with spatula.
4. Add vinegar and mix well to combine. Pour batter (or spread, it's rather thick) into pan(s) and bake for 25-30 minutes (a few minutes longer for 9x13 pan) or until cake passes the toothpick test.
5. Cool cake in its pan until it is warm enough to handle, then de-pan onto a plate or wire rack. Allow to cool completely before frosting (or better yet, put it in the fridge so it's cold)

Boiled Milk Frosting

1 cup whole milk
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
1 c. unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Whisk flour into milk and place over medium in a small saucepan. Cook mixture until thickened (when it barely comes to a simmer); remove from heat and add salt, then set aside to cool slightly.
2. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla.
3. Add still-warm milk mixture a spoonful at a time to the creamed butter mixture while the stand mixer is running at medium speed (I switched from the leaf paddle to a whisk attachment at this point, to incorporate more air). An emulsion will slowly form. Be sure to scrape the bowl down for even mixing!
4. You should wind up with an extremely fluffy, light, and buttery frosting when completed.
Hello, I am alive too. Long story, computer stolen, finally replaced, more photos to be uploaded and a backlog to go through.

I can't remember if I posted camping chili or not.

July 26, 2009


So. Friend Lauren dislikes ham due to having an overabundance of it in her childhood. Upon hearing this, I immediately decided to be an ass about it and told her that I would make her a cake shaped like a ham for her birthday.

I am a man of my word. A figurative man.

Months went by and I didn't think much about how to make ham cake a reality. Then I drew up a schematic two weeks before the birthday and then didn't use the schematic at all. Just as Michelangelo saw an angel in the block of marble and used his chisel to free it, I saw a ham in the pile of cake and used a bread knife. Yeah what, I just compared myself to Renaissance master, whatcha gonna do?

The cake itself was red velvet cake, which I baked the night before assembling (so the cake would be cold and easier to work with).
Red velvet cake is a buttermilk cake that has a little cocoa powder and a ton of red food coloring in it. I used up all of Emily's red food coloring which she had bought for making fake blood for zombie movies a few years ago. We do not anticipate needing a lot of fake blood for zombie movies anytime soon.

I had originally planned on making a full-size ham cake, but then I realized that is a shit ton of cake and we don't have enough people to eat it all. So instead I made a half-size one using a half-sheet of cake (one 9x13 pan's worth).

First, I cut the rectangle of cake in half, then split the layers.

Never done that before. I like the way split-layer cakes look when cut, though, because the insides are that much more intricate.

Protip: Whenever you frost a cake, always lay down strips of wax paper or foil around the perimeter of the plate, then stack the cake on top of it. The foil will catch all that frosting you smear around and after you're done, you pull the strips out from under the cake and get a pristine presentation plate.

Boiled milk frosting(aka butter roux frosting):

The internet told me this is the traditional frosting for a red velvet cake. The process intrigued me so I gave it a shot, and now I am in love with this frosting. It's very light, silky smooth like a buttercream but not as oily, and easier to make.

I proceeded to cut the split half-rectangles into rough triangles, and stacked up a roughly triangular shape that got smaller higher up.

Then I took my really big bread knife and roughed out a ham shape.

It looks very pointy from the back.

Then came time for the crumb coat. Doing a crumb coat greatly improves the appearance of a frosted cake. Prior to doing your final coat of frosting, you smear on a thin layer that covers every square inch and seals in all the cake crumbs that would otherwise mar the outer surface if you tried frosting it in one go. You put the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes so the crumb coat sets up, then you do the real decorating.

At this point I had to go to Emily's to get my gel icing colors and run back and color the frosting. By then the crumb coat had set up, and I was ready to frost the outside for reals. I probably should have colored the frosting initially and had the whole crumb coat be colored too, because white frosting started peeking out when I spread the colored stuff too thin.

I don't have pictures of the rough job, but I do have pics of the cake after hot-knifing.

Hot knifing is when you take a metal spatula (or butter knife), dip it in hot/boiling water, wipe it on a clean towel and then use the hot knife to smooth out frosting. It gets rid of all the spatula marks that usually come from frosting a cake, and makes an uncanny smooth fondant-like finish.

Like this.

It's lucky that I used some cocoa powder to deepen the frosting color, because I'm pretty sure that's why there's so much depth to the color after hot-knifing. It really resembled the browning patterns you get from roasted meat.

I used dental floss to make the crosshatch pattern, then piped on tiny cloves with a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off.

Emily had the brilliant idea of styling the cake with some broccoli:

The inside:

Lauren almost didn't want to cut into the cake, it looked so good. But it was made of cake and it was meant to be eaten.

July 5, 2009

Discovering ice cream

Ed.--I wrote this post right after the July 4th weekend but we just got around to uploading photos today, so here you go.

Danimo brought his ice cream maker (rock salt + ice with electric churning blade) to the huge party so we tried our hand at making ice cream.
Guys. Ice cream is ridiculously easy to make. I am so going to buy myself/ask for a KitchenAid ice cream attachment the next time there are gift-giving holidays.

Creative solutions.

This is how we made nectarine-strawberry frozen yogurt ice cream. There's yogurt in it because we didn't have milk. Heavily mangled and adapted from David Leibovitz's vanilla ice cream recipe, and filtered through a highly subjective memory.

2 c. heavy cream
1.5 c. plain yogurt (lowfat if anyone cares)
1 tsp. salt
4 egg yolks
1 c. sugar + more to taste
2 nectarines, pureed
1.5 c. strawberries, pureed
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat cream on medium heat in a saucepan. Beat egg yolks and salt with sugar and add to warm cream, then continue heating until mixture thickens slightly (should coat back of a spoon)
Stickblend remaining ingredients into custard mixture, then chill in fridge until cold. Dump into ice cream maker and make ice cream.

Oh man it is so tasty.

Anyways once the strawberry-nectarine mix was done churning and we scooped out this delicious concoction and realized how easy ice cream is to make, we looked at each other, said "Holy shit this is amazing" and quite literally scrambled to make another batch of ice cream before our ice-salt mixture melted. The next batch was an eggless cream & milk base with cinnamon, and we threw it together so fast I don't recall what the proportions were.

Pulled pork

Ed.--I wrote this post right after the July 4th weekend but we just got around to uploading photos today, so here you go.

Pulled pork recipe is lost to the madness that is the kitchen counter. I wrote it on the back of some piece of paper and now I can't find it amongst the chip bags and empty beer cans.

Two pork shoulders

But off the top of my head, here are the things that went into 15 lbs. of pork shoulder this weekend:

Dry rub
brown sugar
black pepper
garlic powder
ground thyme
ground bay leaf
ground ginger
ground mustard

Dry rub

Dry rub after overnight rest

The meat got rubbed down, sat in the fridge overnight, then was put into roasting pans with 1" of apple cider/juice, sealed tightly with foil, and put in a 225F oven the next morning. 8 hours later, deliciousness happened.


Pulling pork.

We pulled the meat out to cool, drained off all the juices and shredded the meat (awesome stress-relief exercise, that).

More pulling.

And then we made the sauce.

Skim most of the fat off and reduce the meat juices in a wide-mouthed saucepan until it's about half the original volume or so (estimated around 3 cups final for 15 lbs. meat). Dump in 1 small can of tomato paste, mix/stickblend well and then add the following to taste (more important ingredients first, random-ass crap from the pantry further down the list)

Brown sugar
cider vinegar
garlic powder
ground ginger
black pepper
brown mustard
apple cider
smoked salt
Shiner smokehouse
random herbs and shit

Blend well, taste, add more stuff, taste again, pour over shredded pork and let the ravenous hordes loose upon it.



I guess I should tell you the potato salad in the above photo was also delicious. Here's how you make it: Take a bunch of fingerling potatoes, boil them in heavily salted water, drain but do not rinse off the salt. Refrigerate overnight. This allows the salt to get absorbed into the potatoes through the skin and make everything tastier.

Dice potatoes the next day and mix with the following:

quick-pickled red onion - fine dice, put in bowl with balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, salt and leave 20+ minutes to get rid of the burning effect from raw onion.
salted radish - get a bunch of radishes, slice them into thin rounds and lightly salt them in a bowl. Let sit about 5-10 minutes to release water, then rinse well and drain.
sour cream
a bunch of dill
minced scallions
dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste.

If you have time, let it sit a few hours in the fridge for the flavors to meld. It's way better that way.