Home Fried Chicken and Mashed Potatoes

Frying foods at home is one of those “beyond my comfort zone” aspects of frying.  It tends to make a mess and smells up the house.  More than a year ago I tried a cold oil method to fry French fries, and that turned out pretty well.  But I haven’t done much frying since.  Last week my attention was caught by a Cooks Illustrated recipe for fried chicken that uses less oil.

The long and the short of it is that they decided on a method that uses frying in a shallow amount of oil to help form a nice crust on the exterior, followed by oven baking to finish cooking it through. The results is supposed to be a evenly cooked chicken with nice exterior crunch without as much oil and without as much hassle from deep frying.


You start by placing the chicken pieces – I used boneless breasts – in a buttermilk and salt brine, combined with cayenne pepper and other spices for several hours.  Would you believe I cannot buy bone-in chicken breasts at the store?  I have to get a whole chicken for that.  Obviously they aren’t butchering their own chickens.


While waiting, I prepped some long bean.  These two-foot long beans look like green beans and are just a little less crispy.  Good alternative, though.  I stir-fried these with a splash of balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of salt, and some slivered almonds.


Next, prepare a coating of flour, baking powder, a little salt, and more spices.  The trick here is that you add just a bit of buttermilk and start stirring it, so you form little clumps that make the chicken’s crust more substantial.


Take the chicken out of the brine and dredge it in the flour mixture, being sure to pat on a nice thick coating.  Easier said than done!


While waiting for the oil to heat, I finished the mashed potatoes.  These keep nicely covered at a very low heat with a bit of butter on top.


Time to fry!  Temperature control is a pain.  My thermometer doesn’t reach to the bottom of the pan so when there isn’t much oil, I don’t get an accurate read.  I ended up scorching the bottoms of the chicken just a little.  D’oh…  After about five minutes in the oil (turning half way through the time) I transferred the chicken to a rack placed in a baking tray and finished for about twenty minutes in the oven.


Despite the slightly burned exterior, the end result looked pretty nice.  Tasted good, too!


Inside was nice and juice, thanks to the brining.  Yum.


Mexican Black Bean Chili with Red Cabbage and Apple Slaw

Last week our weather was a little cool.  Well, relatively speaking.  Several days were overcast and drizzly all day long, more Seattle-looking than our usually rainy season weather which owes more to Midwestern summer thunderstorms than anything else.  It seemed an appropriate time to cook some warm, hearty comfort food, so I dug up a recipe for Mexican Black Bean Chili and made it in a Monday night meal along with some buttermilk cornbread muffins and a tasty red cabbage and apple slaw.


Beans are super-healthy, incredibly inexpensive, and easy to use.  Make a large batch and freeze up the extras so you can thaw them out and make a fast and easy weeknight dinner like this one.  This chili uses chopped onions and peppers (I added some carrots, too, as I had some on hand), and plenty of cumin, lime juice, chopped cilantro, and dried chipotle pepper to add a nice kick.  One thing I add that isn’t in the recipe is a few tablespoons of cornmeal.  I add then to the aromatics as they are sauteeing in a little bit of oil.  This creates a roux that thickens the chili and adds a nice flavor, too.

To garnish, I used a little leftover homemade salsa and avocado cilantro lime cream sauce from fish tacos a few nights earlier.


The slaw is a nice alternative to the usual green cabbage slaw.  Not only does this offer more vitamins, it also has more flavor.  The recipe is based loosely on the one from Blue Smoke BBQ but I play around with it.  For starters, I leave the peel on the apples (more fiber and flavor) and slice them thin instead of chunks, which adds more visual interest to the dish.  Additionally, I play around with their dressing recipe, reducing the mayonnaise, using apple cider vinegar for their white balsamic, leaving out the chilies, and adding some nigella seed.  Sitting alongside a cornbread muffin, I think it is quite pretty.


The combination makes for a very tasty and very healthful meal.  To top it off, chili is one of those dishes that benefits from a night or two in the refrigerator, so it made even nicer leftovers later in the week!