Monday, January 31, 2011

Pat and Gina's Oven-Fried Chicken

I saw this recipe for oven-fried chicken on Food Network while getting a manicure with some friends.  As fans of fried chicken, we were both hopeful and skeptical.  It looked so easy!  It looked so good!  But we've thought the same things about a countless number of oven-fried chicken recipes in the past, only to be disappointed.

Oven-Fried Chicken

I'm not here to tell you that this is the magical recipe that makes oven-baked chicken taste just like chicken deep fried in delicious fat.  Too many recipes try to claim this, only to fall far short of the goal.  But it is damn good.

One of the biggest differences between this recipe and others is that it uses panko, Japanese breadcrumbs renowned for their crunch, rather than traditional breadcrumbs, which quickly become soggy after coming into contact with the wet mixture that makes them adhere.  I don't know how or why panko is able to resist compromise, but the result is crispier chicken than I've ever had come out of the oven.  A trick that helps with that is the recipe's suggestion to spray the coated chicken with olive/canola oil.

Possibly my favorite part of eating fried chicken is not the chicken meat iself, but the crispy, crackling skin that has adhered to the batter.  Let's not think about the calories involved when discussing something so delicious.  This recipe calls for the skin to be removed before coating the chicken.  I debated whether I wanted to follow these instructions, but allowed myself to be forced into being more healthy.  After all, it's already not being fried, so why not give it a try.  And I didn't end up regretting it!  It was kind of nice to be able to bite right into the chicken, the meat coated with the crunch from the panko.  I didn't miss being able to separate the skin from the meat and eating it separately... much.

Oven-Fried Chicken

Couple of things of note: Despite the presence of both hot sauce and cayenne, I didn't think the result was spicy at all.  I can eat fairly spicy food, so you may or may not want to add more.  I used whole chicken pieces; Trix used boneless chicken tenders; both were enjoyed very much.  To try and prevent the dry mixture from getting soggy as I was coating each chicken piece, I kept half of the panko mixture in another container and applied it liberally once the piece had gotten its initial coating of wet mixture + dry mixture.  You do need to press on the panko to encourage it to stick.

I served it with Red, Hot, and Blue's potato salad.  It's not fried chicken, but you just might enjoy yourself so much you won't notice.

Pat and Gina's Oven-Fried Chicken (recipe adapted from Food Network)

  • olive or canola oil nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce
  • 3 tsp salt and 3/4 tsp ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups panko
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 8 pieces of chicken (about 3 lbs), skin removed
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a sheet tray with foil and spray with cooking spray.  If you want, you could line the tray with a wire rack instead, but make sure to spray it.
  2. In a pie plate or shallow bowl, whisk the eggs, mustard, honey, hot sauce, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper until thoroughly combined.
  3. Add the panko, 2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, paprika, cayenne, and garlic powder to another shallow plate and whisk to combine.
  4. Dredge the chicken through the wet mixture, then the dry mixture, patting the breading on so it adheres.
  5. Arrange the chicken onto the oil-sprayed tray, leaving room between each piece of chicken. Spray the chicken liberally with cooking spray, as evenly as possible. This will help brown and crisp up the coating.
  6. Place the tray on the upper rack of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is golden and crispy. The temperature should register 160-180°F on an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken.  If you don't have a thermometer, cut into a piece at the thickest part.  The juices should run clear.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Designer Apple Pie

Over the holidays, I purchased several new cookbooks, including Flour by Joanne Chang.  The first recipe I was inspired to try was the one for homemade Pop Tarts.  They turned out well, but they were better eaten than seen... I simply don't have the counter space necessary to roll out pastry dough as large as what is called for in that recipe.

Designer Apple Pie

In any case, I only used half the amount of pâte brisée required, because I decided (rightly) that I didn't need to eat eight "Pop Tarts."  What was I going to do with the extra pie dough?  Oh to have such "problems"!

I decided to make a pie that I've had my eye on ever since I saw the recipe for it, oh so long ago: Rose Levy Berenbaum's Designer Apple Pie.  I'd always been too intimidated to try it before now, but it turns out that I needn't have feared -- it was actually extremely easy!  Granted, I didn't make the leaf border (I don't have a leaf cutter, and also not enough pie dough), but the most beautiful part of this pie, to me, is the arrangement of the apples.  The leaf border does make it look extra nice, but I think it turned out well  without it anyway.

Designer Apple Pie

I think one of the keys to making the apples look nice is to slice them very thin.  This takes no time at all with a mandoline -- I used a handheld OXO one that cost less than $10.  When arranging the slices in the pie, alternate how the apples overlap from ring to ring (go clockwise for one ring, then counterclockwise the next, then clockwise, etc.) -- RLB's recipe doesn't say to do this, but that's what I did and I think it added something, visually.   The apricot preserves at the end are VERY important to give the apples color and shine.  When you take the pie out of the oven, even though it's done, the apples look pale and almost like they haven't been cooked.  The preserves really add a lot.  Finally, though the recipe calls for about 6 apples, I only used 3 1/2 medium-sized ones (Granny Smiths and Pink Ladys).  Unfortunately you won't really know how many you need until after they've been macerated, which means if you find out you need more when you're layering, you have to go through a number of steps to get additional apple slices ready.  So it might be better to err on the side of caution.  Despite using fewer apples, I still got the required amount of juice out of them, either by being lucky, or because I let them sit for an hour plus.

Designer Apple Pie

As for the pâte brisée, I'm a big fan.  It was easy to put together, buttery, flaky, and delicious.  Like all pastry dough, however, the trick is that you need to keep it very, very cold for the best results.

Designer Apple Pie (recipe adapted from Rose Levy Berenbaum's The Pie and Pastry Bible)

  • 1 9-in pie crust dough (RLB's cream cheese pie crust is phenomenal, or try Joanne Chang's pâte brisée, recipe below)
  • 2 1/2 lbs apples (about 6), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves
  1. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. If necessary, allow it to sit for 10 minutes or until it is soft enough to roll. On a floured pastry cloth or between 2 sheets of lightly floured plastic wrap, roll pastry to 1/8-in thick or less (about a 12-in circle).
  2. Transfer it to the pie plate. Tuck overhanging crust under, to create an edge. Cover the pastry lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for minimum of 1 hour and maximum of 24 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 425°F at least 20 minutes before baking. Line the pastry with parchment, pleating it as necessary so it fits into the pan, and fill it with pie weights such as dried beans or peas. Bake for 20 minutes. Carefully lift out the parchment and pie weights. With a fork, prick the bottom and sides and bake 5-10 minutes more, until the crust is a pale golden color. Check after 3 minutes and prick any bubbles that may have formed. Cool the crust on a rack for 3 minutes, so it is no longer piping hot, then brush the bottom and sides with the egg white.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the apples, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and salt.  Toss to mix. Allow the apples to macerate for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 3 hours at room temperature.
  5. Drain the liquid from the apples; you want to retain this. There should be at least 1/2 cup of liquid. Boil down this liquid with the butter until syrupy and lightly caramelized. Swirl the liquid but do not stir it.
  6. Meanwhile, transfer the apples to a bowl and toss with the cornstarch until all traces of it have disappeared.
  7. Pour the hot syrup over the apples, tossing gently. (If liquid hardens on contact with apples, allow them to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes or until moisture from apples dissolves it.)
  8. Arrange the apples, overlapping the slices in concentric circles in the pie shell, starting from the outside edge. Keep adding more apples, using the tip of a knife to insert them in between the other slices, until you have used all of them. Pour any remaining apple juices evenly over the apples.
  9. Brush the baked pie crust rim with egg. Cover the pie loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes before baking to chill the pastry. (This will help maintain flakiness.)
  10. Preheat the oven to 425°F at least 20 minutes before baking. Set an oven rack at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating. Place large piece of greased foil on top to catch any juices.
  11. Cut a round of foil to fit over the pie and crimp it in 3 or 4 places to create a dome. Cover the pie with the foil and cut 3 steam vents in the foil, about 3 inches long.
  12. Set the pie directly on top of the foil-topped baking sheet and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the juices bubble and the apples feel tender but not mushy when pierced with a small sharp knife.
  13. Remove the foil and bake for 5-10 minutes more, or until the top of apples is golden brown. If at this point the apples still haven't browned a bit, move the oven rack higher and bake another 5 minutes or so.
  14. Heat the apricot preserves until hot and bubbly.  For a "cleaner" look, strain it through a sieve.  Brush the glaze over the apples (and the crust edge, if you like). Cool the pie on a wire rack.
Pâte Brisée (recipe adapted from Flour, by Joanne Chang)

Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie


  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp cold milk
  1. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), mix together the flour, sugar, and salt for 10 to 15 seconds, or until combined. Scatter the butter over the top. Mix on low speed for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or just until the flour is no longer bright white and holds together when you press a bit between your fingers.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk until blended. Add to the flour mixture all at once. Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until the dough just barely comes together. It will look really shaggy and more like a mess than a dough.
  3. Dump the dough out onto an unfloured work surface, then gather it into a mound. Using your palm and starting on one side of the mound, smear the dough bit by bit, starting at the top then sliding your palm down the side and along the work surface, until most of the butter chunks are smeared into the dough and the dough comes together. Do this once or twice on each part of the dough, moving through the mound until the whole mess has been smeared into a cohesive dough with streaks of butter.
  4. Gather up the dough with a pastry cutter, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and press down to flatten into a disk about 1-inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Roll

Certain life circumstances recently have made me harken back to my early post-college years, when I lived paycheck to paycheck and my idea of good food was when someone else paid for my meal.  Thankfully things aren't that bad, but I've definitely been evaluating purchases I make with far more of a critical eye than I used to, which isn't a bad thing.


In terms of food, it can even be said to be a good thing.  Making meals at home is almost always more financially responsible than eating out, and since sometimes eating out consists of going to the most convenient places -- not necessarily good places -- it's actually great that now I think twice before giving in to laziness.  I enjoy fine dining too much to give that up entirely, but I can certainly make better choices on those nights when I just don't 'feel' like cooking and want to grab something quick.




And that is almost as awesome as this 'ghetto churro' recipe.  Trix is the one who introduced me to it.  One of the things I've given up is grocery-store-bought pastries, but sometimes I need my sugar fix and a piece of fruit just isn't going to cut it.  This is a super simple little dessert/snack to make, and it makes one serving at a time, which is great when I don't feel like baking a cake or a batch of cookies.

The ingredients are few: a flour tortilla, butter, cinnamon, and sugar.  Since starting to make this, I keep a pre-made cinnamon-sugar mixture in an old jam jar for easy access.  The basic idea is to heat up the tortilla in some butter (not a lot), sprinkle on some cinnamon and sugar, then roll it up and cook until it's crispy on the outside and chewy, warm, and loaded with cinnamon-sugar goodness on the inside.  It's absolutely wonderful eaten hot (though watch out, the sugar turns syrupy and can be REALLY hot) and fresh.


Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Roll

  • 1 flour tortilla
  • a thin pat of butter
  • cinnamon, to taste
  • sugar, to taste
  1. Heat a frying pan large enough to fit your flour tortilla.  Melt the butter and distribute it over the pan evenly.
  2. Place the tortilla into the pan and cook for a few seconds.  Then using tongs or a spatula, flip it over.
  3. Some of the melted butter will have adhered onto the surface of the tortilla.  Sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar to taste.  Don't be afraid to be fairly generous with the sugar.
  4. After a minute or two, when the tortilla is still soft and malleable but just beginning to crisp up, begin to fold it over starting with one edge (as shown in photos above), about an inch or two at a time, until the tortilla resembles a thin burrito.
  5. Cook the roll on both sides until perfectly crisp and golden.  Serve hot and enjoy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chicken in Guinness Red Sauce

I once found myself sitting in the Guinness factory in Dublin, Ireland, after taking the tour.  I don't know about these days, but more than a decade ago, you could sit in their little factory pub after the tour and drink pint after pint of Guinness for free.  For my friends, this made the price of admission well worth it.  As for me ... well, I nursed my one pint of Guinness for a long, long time.  By the time we left, I'd probably drunk about a quarter of it.

Chicken in Guinness Red Sauce

I don't think I've made any secret of the fact that I'm not a fan of alcohol.  It's not a judgmental thing; it's a I'm-pretty-sure-I'm-allergic thing.  Once, in college (of course), having drunk what to another person would be a moderate amount of alcohol (two shots and two beers), I broke out in splotchy redness all over.  Not to mention beet-red flushing after just a few swallows of wine.  Or the fact that after a few sips, any alcohol simply tastes like poison.  So while I often regret the fact that I can't drink socially, sticking out like a sore thumb, I know my limits.

Luckily, alcohol in food doesn't bother me.  In fact, I'm a huge fan of using it in cooking.  If you saw my full liquor cabinet you'd never think that I any kind of issue.  You might even think me a bit alcohol obsessed.  Of course, what I know is that it's all used for my big passion -- food!

Chicken in Guinness Red Sauce

This chicken in Guinness red sauce recipe is probably my favorite Crock Pot recipe of all time.  It's not just that it's simple (which it is, ridiculously so).  It's not just that it's delicious.  It's also that it doesn't look or taste like it came out of a slow cooker.  You know how some dishes, by either a certain kind of flavor or a certain kind of look, just has that Crock Pot feel?  This isn't one of them.  In my opinion, at least.

I use bone-in chicken thighs.  Thighs are my favorite part of the chicken -- they're tender and flavorful.  I like using bone-in pieces because, just like making stock, when you cook it for that long, it adds an extra dimension of flavor.  I also keep the skin on, then remove them and skim off the fat from the surface after the dish is done cooking.  But I think this recipe would be good no matter what you use.  If you want to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, more power to you.  After cooking, the meat will be tender and falling off the bone at the slightest provocation.

Chicken in Guinness Red Sauce

The sauce is simply tomato paste, Guinness, and the juice from some green olives.  It's incredible how, after hours of cooking and simmering with the juices from the chicken, this turns into a sauce that's complex and delicious.  The olives don't turn to mush, but are soft while still maintaining their olivey-ness.  Their sharpness and tang, however, definitely mellows into the sauce.

I like to serve this chicken on top of a long pasta like spaghetti, but other starches such as rice or potatoes would probably work as well.  I've often doubled the recipe with great success.

Chicken in Guinness Red Sauce

  • 4-6 chicken pieces (I like bone-in thighs)
  • 1 6oz can tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup Guinness (or other dark beer)
  • 4oz green olives along with juice (about 24 olives + juice)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. If you like, wash and pat dry the chicken.  I don't unless they're really bloody or dirty for some reason.  Season the chicken with salt, pepper, or any other preferred spices -- paprika, garlic salt, etc.  Err on the side of underseasoning; if it needs more after it's cooked, you can add it then.  Place the chicken pieces in the slow cooker as evenly as possible.
  2. Mix the tomato paste with the Guinness and pour on top of the chicken.
  3. Add the olives and their juice on top.
  4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours (I've gone as long as 12 and it was fine, but not as ideal), or high for 3-4 hours.
  5. Taste and adjust for seasoning, then serve hot on top of pasta or rice.