Epicuriosity 101 April 22, 2015
Every fourth column, we will answer readers’ questions about cooking, baking, growing foods and everything culinary. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here are our first questions and answers!
I always read (the Food Page), and again in today’s SJ-R food section, it says to pick through and discard moldy beans and stones. What is the easiest way to find stones? If you put the beans in water first to wash them, everything sinks to the bottom.
Thank you and I’m looking forward to reading your column.
In case you are wondering why anyone would cook with dried beans instead of canned beans, keep in mind that dried beans last close to forever when kept in a cool, dry place. They’re less expensive than canned, and you’ll probably find that they taste better. Plus, you get to control the amount of sodium in them and ultimately in the finished recipe, making for a healthier meal.
If you find yourself working with beans or other dried legumes, the recipe may suggest “picking over” the beans. You’re looking for stones or anything unwanted that might have made its way into the beans. Since dried beans are about the size and color of some pebbles, it’s not completely unheard of to find little rocks, clumps of dirt or other natural bits and pieces occasionally tucked into the bags. You might also find discolored or moldy beans in the mix. The best way to pick through the beans is by spreading them out in a large sheet pan, bowl or colander and combing your fingers through them. This can be a relaxing, therapeutic activity. It is helpful to comb through the beans twice – once before you soak them and then again after you soak them. This is a great activity for kids with clean hands to engage them in the cooking process, and start instilling the idea that cooking can be fun. Grab a friend to cook with and pick through the beans together like we do at LLCC!
I would like to know how to make fried chicken that has (a) breading that doesn’t come off, (b) breading that is crunchy and isn’t burned, and (c) delicious flavor and juiciness. In addition, I would like to know how to prepare fried chicken for a crowd without being a slave to the stove and serving batches in shifts.
If you can help me make fried chicken that makes friends and family rave, I’ll be a happy camper.
Great question! The fried chicken you want to make – crunchy, flavorful outside and juicy, tasty inside – is what all good cooks want to make. It certainly is frustrating to go through the time and effort of making fried chicken if you are not happy with the results! So, with that in mind, I’m outlining a few pointers that I think it will help you make fried chicken you are proud of!
- Brine your chicken in advance. Using a brine – a solution of liquid, salt and sometimes other flavorings – helps seal in moisture to the meat which results in juicer fried chicken. Allow the chicken to sit in the brine for anywhere from four – 12 hours.
- After brining, lightly rinse the meat. Chicken that is brined properly should cause it to be juicy, not salty. Once rinsed and drained in a colander, allow chicken to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. By allowing the chicken to come to room temperature, it causes the oil to more easily maintain a proper temperature when frying. If you put cold chicken straight from the refrigerator into the oil, it will cause the temperature of the oil to drop drastically, which will negatively affect the final product.
- When breading your chicken, use a three-step process of dry-to-liquid-to-dry. Set up a line with your ingredients: first, the uncoated chicken, then a bowl of seasoned flour, a bowl of the liquid, another bowl of seasoned flour, and a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Place the chicken into seasoned flour and lightly coat. Then, dip the chicken into the liquid, which can be either buttermilk or a mixture of buttermilk and egg. From there, coat the chicken in the second seasoned flour bowl and place on the cookie sheet. Do not shake off extra breading from chicken. For the final bowl of seasoned flour, you can use a mixture of flour and cornmeal if you prefer an even crunchier breading.
- Fry the chicken in a cast iron pot or a heavy Dutch oven. Use a neutral oil with a high smoke point such as canola, vegetable or peanut. Do not let the oil temperature go above 325 degrees. With this, a deep-fry thermometer is a good investment. When putting the chicken into the pan, be sure to not overcrowd the pan. Overcrowding will cause the temperature of the oil to drop – as will cold chicken as mentioned earlier. The oil temperature needs to be hot as that gives the chicken a proper crispy exterior. Cold oil will result in soggy fried chicken.
- Cook the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. This will take about 14 – 18 minutes, with dark meat on the longer end of that range. Turn chicken about halfway through cooking to ensure even coloring and cooking. If chicken becomes too dark before it is done, decrease the temperature a few degrees. Once the chicken is done, transfer it to a wire rack set on a cookie sheet. Do not use paper towels as this will cause chicken to sit in any grease that drains off and this creates a soggy crust. Allow the chicken to rest on the wire rack about 10 minutes as this will cause the crust to “set.” If you need to hold the chicken before serving, place the chicken on the wire rack in a 200 degree oven.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Makes 8 pieces fried chicken
- 1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces, brined (see brine recipes below), at room temperature
- 3 cups flour
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- ½ tablespoon cayenne
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 1 cup cornmeal
- Vegetable, canola, or peanut oil, enough to fill your pot 1/3 of the way up
Whisk together flour, salt, paprika, garlic, and cayenne. Divide in half between two bowls. In one bowl, add the cornmeal.
Whisk together buttermilk and egg.
Set up breading station in a line: uncoated chicken, seasoned flour, buttermilk-egg mixture, seasoned flour and cornmeal, cookie sheet lined with parchment. In the meantime, fill a cast iron pot or heavy Dutch oven 1/3 full with oil and set on medium high heat on the stove.
To bread chicken, keep one hand as your “dry” hand and one hand as your “wet” hand. This helps you bread just the chicken and not your hand! Using your wet hand, place chicken in flour. Using your dry hand, toss chicken in flour and then set into buttermilk mixture. Then, using your wet hand, dip chicken into liquid, shake off excess liquid and then place in flour-cornmeal bowl. Finally, using dry hand, toss chicken in flour-cornmeal mixture and then set on sheet pan.
Check to make sure oil is at proper temperature of 325 degrees. Working in batches in order to not overcrowd pan, cook chicken 14-18 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, until golden brown and cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Place cooked chicken on a wire rack set on a cookie sheet and allow to rest for 10 minutes. If not serving right away, hold in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.
- 2 quarts cold water plus 1 cup water
- ½ cup salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 lemons, halved
- 1 bay leaf
In a sauce pot, combine 1 cup of water with salt and sugar. Heat over medium high heat until sugar and salt dissolved. Pour into a container large enough to hold brine and chicken that can fit into the refrigerator. Add the remaining two quarts water, lemons, and bay leaf. Add chicken, cover, place in refrigerator and brine for 4-12 hours.
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup ice cubes
- ¼ cup salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons sriracha
- 3 cups buttermilk
In a sauce pot, combine 1 cup of water with salt and sugar. Heat over medium high heat until sugar and salt dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in ice cubes. Add salt water mixture plus sriracha and buttermilk to a container large enough to hold chicken and brine that will fit in a refrigerator. Brine chicken for 4 – 12 hours.
SIDE BOX: Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. For more information, visit the Lincoln Land homepage.
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