Archived entries for summer

Savory Summertime, Here At Last: Buttermilk Fried Chicken

I know. I know! You thought it would never happen, didn’t you? You thought that we would be mired in rain and cold and terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days forever, didn’t you. Well, check this: miracle of miracles, the sun has decided to finally make a prolonged appearance in our skies! This has had a few immediate impacts on my life. One, after a weekend spent largely outside I no longer look like a fishbelly. And two: PIC. NIC. TIME. If you know me, you know what picnic time means! Buttermilk fried chicken!

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As so many good recipes do, this one comes to us straight from everyone’s favorite culinary scientist, Alton Brown. He’s kind of like the wacky uncle of the food world, and I bet he’d be a kick in the pants to hang out with. At any rate, his fried chicken sure is! An overnight soak in buttermilk is the extra-special secret, the reason why, no joke, every single person who ate a piece last weekend said some variation on, “My god, how did you make it so tender and moist?” followed immediately by a conversation about how nobody likes the word “moist.” But tender it is, and moist it is, and when you eat it you will even be willing to overlook profligate usage of that particular word.

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The other secret is the dousing of the buttermilk-soaked chicken with a little spice rub. It’s no secret blend of herbs and spices — salt, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne — but it makes it just a little spicy, just a little salty, and a whole lot awesome.

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I also like to take the opportunity to practice my butchering skills; I generally get whole chickens and carve them into their component pieces, but feel free to give yourself a headstart with pre-portioned bits. One thing I do recommend, because it is fun and also because it makes the resulting bits way easier to eat when you’re in a park, is to remove the bone from the thigh, if applicable.

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When you’re frying, you should be able to fit two of each (breasts, thighs, drumsticks) into the pan at the same time. Don’t be afraid to rotate them around a little as you near the end of the frying time — because they’re essentially folded in half, I find it particularly helpful to prop the thighs up on the open side to help seal them shut into delicious little packages of fried chickeny goodness. Ideally when you serve this, all of your friends will have also brought something to share so you shouldn’t have to worry about sides and all that. Just sit back, and enjoy the accolades. And the chicken. Enjoy that, too.

Do you have a favorite picnic recipe? Let us know in the comments!
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Do I Dare Disturb the Universe? I shall eat a peach pie.

I don’t think I can put it off any longer: I apparently need to enroll in Remedial Pie Crust 101. Try as I might, I just can’t seem to achieve the requisite amount of flaky tenderness that a truly magnificent pie deserves. Are my crusts delicious? Absolutely. But are they the apotheosis of pie? No. Not hardly. And it’s not for lack of trying–I’ve spun around the list of variables in all kinds of directions (pastry flour! No pastry flour! Whole Wheat Flour! High-fat Butter! Shortening! Vodka! Water! Ground nuts! Small children!), but I cannot seem to bend it to my will. Which is a tragedy–especially when dealing with the kind of filling I was mucking about with yesterday.

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You may have caught a word or two on my twitter feed the other day about the seductive capabilities of the peach; I am not ashamed to say I recently fell prey to it. I was headed over to Lady A’s apartment to hang out with her awesome kittens when I passed the 5th ave farmer’s market, and out of nowhere was caressed in a nearly inappropriate fashion by the luscious scent of peaches. I kid you not–the smell was so delightful, it skated dangerously close to the obscene. Before I could gather my wits, 9 perfect yellow peaches had smooth-talked their way into my bag; I was powerless to resist.

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After much deliberation, I decided that the finest tribute I could pay these peaches was to put them in a pie, and so I set about it. I ended up making a filling with a bit of sugar, warmed by the addition of some cinnamon and cardamom. So simple, and yet any further adornment would have been a slight upon the fruit; as it stood, the spices were an excellent pairing with the sweet, bright flesh. Together, they were delicious enough to stand up to the travesty of a crust I spent far too long clubbing into submission; imagine how lovely it will be when it is no longer a case of crust vs. filling!  Dare to dream, I say–and to ask the audience: anyone have any tips?

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Calico Jack’s Anti-Scurvy Kit: Coconut Citrus Chicken

**UPDATE: We have just been informed that the Sexcamaids won the Judges’ Choice award at the 2010 Coney Island Mermaid Parade. And this here little bribe got a special shout-out on the boards! Go team!**

Before we progress any further, it has come to my attention that I should probably explain a little more about our judges’ bribe. On the surface, it sounds pretty simple–we basically packed them the most righteous picnic a sun-soaked judge could ever hope to receive. But were we content to merely shower them with delicious foodstuffs? No. Heavens, no. You’re talking to a graphic designer; it’s not a project until I’ve wrapped it up in customized, hand designed packaging and involved at least three artists.

Plus, I am tremendously spoilt in having some wonderful talents in my network, so when I got this ridiculous bee in my bonnet, I was able to put out the feelers and make this crazy thing match the picture in my head. Which is how we ended up with the pirate feast, a picnic presented in a treasure chest (courtesy of Bench), with the foodstuffs packaged in bespoke, branded tins, all named after famous pirates. The effect we were going for was “hey, I went shopping at the pirate supermarket!” We had branded hard tack! Swill! Ship’s biscuits! And my personal favorite, Calico Jack’s Anti-Scurvy Kit.

The anti-scurvy kit was my favorite for two reasons, the first being the absolutely boss design work that Lady G did for it. Check it:

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The second reason is that it was the biggest challenge for me–you would not believe what I went through trying to figure out what would actually go IN the anti-scurvy kit. It had to be a savory, it had to be able to stand up to an undisclosed number of hours in a cooler (on an extremely hot day), and it had to have some sort of citrus element. It was a more difficult decision than I’d anticipated, but one that I’m extremely happy with–the coconut milk imbued the chicken with a creamy tenderness, while the mixed citrus zest kept things interesting; the lime-basil dipping glaze woke up all the flavors and really brought everything together. It kept beautifully in the cooler.

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But best of all? It was super easy, incredibly delicious, and tasted AMAZING when grilled over open coals. Highly recommended for a picnic in a park or on the high seas.

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So good, she used it twice: Warm black rice salad

Ahoy, mateys! I’m back from a week stay-cay, and raring for action! It was a week that was simultaneously lazy and action-packed–for every languorous chardonnay and chinchilla afternoon, there was an exhausting, exhilarating mermaid practice; every picnic was bought with a handful of long-overdue (but absolutely necessary) errands. So while it wasn’t exactly relaxing in Tahiti with a pina colada, it was just the slowdown I needed in order to reset after the absolute insanity of the last month. It was also the first chance I’ve gotten in some time to just get in the kitchen and tinker. And just in time, too–barbecue season is rapidly upon us, and as woman cannot live by meat alone (or so I’m told), I’ve taken it upon myself to come up with some smashing side-dish action. Last summer, I was all about anything and everything involving chickpeas and raw garlic (I was a both a joy and a pleasure to behold, let me tell you); this year, I seem to be drifting in a more easterly direction, as manifested by the warm black rice salad I threw together the other day.

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Confession: this was another one of my fleeting, random, magic kismet dishes, born of the random bits and pieces lurking around my kitchen rather than any grand and/or nefarious design. I had plans to lunch outside with a friend, but wanted to pony up more than a leftover pulled pork sandwich (or rather, my arteries begged me to). So, to the cupboards I went, discovering that I had some scallions, a whole bunch of black rice, and a handful of frozen edamame–and a whole bunch of homemade duck stock in the freezer, just begging to be used as the cooking liquid for the rice. Once that connection had been made, the warm salad came together in a flash–light, aromatic, refreshing, and perfect for a picnic. In fact, it was such a success that I recycled the leftovers for dinner the following night, padding it out with some flash-sauteed green beans and some sea scallops.

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taste of texas

I was fortunate enough this August to get shipped off to Houston, Texas for a location shoot; though only scheduled to be down there for a day or so, I managed to convince The Powers That Be to let me squeeze in a few vacation days, so I could head out to Austin and catch up with some of my favorite people in the whole wide world. While I was there, we paid a visit to the Austin farmer’s market, a scene of sights, smells, and sounds unparalleled in my experience. once I got past the terrifying gypsy fiddling of a 9-year-old girl (for atmosphere, one would assume), the experience took my breath away.

Though I am no stranger to farmer’s markets, I was unprepared for the sights–thousands of peppers, piled lushly and exuding that nearly radioactive glow that only chilis have; baskets upon baskets of fresh hazelnuts; bundles of garlic and fresh tomatoes that practically screamed to be eaten. Most remarkable to my eye, however, was the color that permeated the scene: everywhere I looked, the market was suffused with a brilliant shade of red that i rather suspect can only exist under a Texas sky. It was practically in the air; you could almost taste it.

photos don’t do it justice, but I had to try.



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