Let the week of merriment begin! And we’ll kick it off with a bang: that’s right, there’s some Thomas Keller shit going on in the hizzy tonight.
Say hello to your gracious stand-in du jour, Leena of Leena Eats This Blog, who has the guts to take on Keller and would never use a word like “hizzy.”
Leena here from Leena Eats This Blog. At first, I worried about choosing the buttermilk fried chicken recipe from Thomas Keller’s latest cookbook, Ad Hoc, for this smackdown. I’ve read about Michelle tackling some incredibly complicated recipes on here, and perhaps “fried chicken” wouldn’t be “Smackdown”-worthy enough.
I mean, if the kind folks at Church’s Chicken can handle frying chicken, how complicated could it be? Surely a culinary-schooled trained, former chef like myself could rock that shit out in no time, right?
But seeing as how I had already purchased the ingredients, and I had used up my last “Honey, will you?” on a bag of Funyons I just HAD to have around midnight the night before (and bc I am both lazy AND cheap) a new recipe was not in the cards.
Plus, it was a great excuse to discuss Keller’s latest promotion for his cookbook through Williams-Sonoma:
Fried Chicken in a bag, which came free with my cookbook from Williams-Sonoma.
Now, don’t get me wrong–Thomas Keller is one bad-ass chef, and if I ever have the chance to meet him, I would do so many “I’m not worthy” bows, my knees would give out, I shit you not.
But fried chicken in a bag? Premixed flour with seasonings, and premixed chicken brine mix when your cookbook promotes cooking fresh with quality ingredients? Makes about as much sense as letting Rocco Dispirito serve frozen Bertolli raviolis to a million food bloggers armed with plenty of blunt objects. And just because you put little white lables that say Ad Hoc doesn’t ensure to me that these were high-quality ingredients packed by Thomas Keller’s staff and not Aldi’s quality ingredient packed by an Ecuadorian immigrant with swine flu that listens to John Tesh?
(Maybe it’s not important to you, but I’ve tasted flour exposed to such an environment, and let me tell you–it just ain’t right. Not in my house, Tesh!)
Although, I do partly blame this on Williams-Sonoma, which is known for hawking tools completely essential to the average home cook’s kitchen, like a powdered sugar shaker.
And no, this rant was not fueled by the fact that I had already begun making the brine from scratch before I peeked into my fried chicken in a bag and discovered not one, but TWO packets TK’s brine mix. Nope. I’m not bitter at all. Or cheap.
Keller suggests brining the chicken for 12 hours, but I only brined mine for 6 because I used around 1/4 of the recipe. Honestly, I’m not sure what homecook would need to do an ENTIRE recipe (2- 3lb chickens), but the full recipe could easily feed the homeless population in my local park (currently set at 16).
I set up my breading station as such: one bowl of seasoned flour, one bowl of buttermilk, and another bowl of seasoned flour, for a flour-buttermilk-flour dip.
In culinary school, we were taught to use two different hands when breading meat–one that handles the dry ingredients and one that handles the wet, so you avoid creating what is commonly known in the business as the dough claw.
Remember, I am a trained professional.
Yup. I am definitely too talented for this recipe.
The only change I made to the recipe was the cooking vessel–TK suggests a nice and deep pot so the oil doesn’t splatter out, but I like rocking out on my Grandma’s old cast iron skillet. She used to make KILLER fried chicken on it, so I felt it was only appropriate.
I let the pan get nice and hot, and poured over the recipe to see if TK gave any suggestions on regulating oil temp once you place the meat inside the oil. There was nothing outside of “move the chicken so it doesn’t burn and monitor oil”.
Awesome. Vague recipes rock.
And of course, as soon as the chicken hit the pan, the temperature spiked twenty degrees, so I lowered the temp, only to have the oil get too cold, then I had to crank it up and get it hot enough so the chicken would cook all the way through.
Hence my slightly-darker-than-TK’s-but-just-as-tasty-and-probably-a-better-dancer-chicken.
Some of the chicken looked darker than others, but I just called them “cajun” and noone seemed to notice. No one being my husband who will eat anything and my cat. Very important people.
This, despite my complete inability to fry large items in oil without burning myself or setting the oil on fire, was some damn good chicken. The meat was super juicy and the crust was crisp and flavorful, like a southern fried party in my mouth.
So what if the flour and brine was packed around swine flu? So what if my chicken wasn’t as perfectly browned as TK’s? WHO CARES if I started a small house fire because I forgot to take the oil off the heat after I finished cooking and now my cat needs to called Patches because of the missing fur from her rear end?
I came, I saw, I Ad Hoc-ed. And maybe ate my weight in fried chicken skin like Cartman. Maybe.
SO glad I am not the only one who starts kitchen fires…regularly…with oil…one of the many reasons I don’t make fried chicken. Your pictures, though, may make me rethink that…thanks!
Have never started one stove top, but did start one in the oven trying to use my broiler for the first time last night. My smoke alarm actually says “FIRE” when it goes off, who knew?
I just got the ad hoc cookbook and this one is at the top of my list to try. It looks delicious, plus darker just means more crunchy goodness to love. If you hear about a raging house fire in JC you’ll know I gave it a shot.
I like my powdered sugar shaker. It’s awesome if you have kids who like cinnamon and sugar on their toast. Okay, so it’s a unitasker. Who am I? Alton Brown? I say, nay.
Neither am I TK. But that chicken looks rockin’. And I agree with Mike–more crunchy goodness. Oil fires, here I come!
Darker is good. Just ask the suntan worshippers in the summer (of which I am one), because, as the swimsuit ads tell us, “fat looks better tan.” Well, chicken looks better dark. Tastes better, too.
Yeah. So WHAT to all that. The chicken looks awesome anyhoo, and if you say it tasted as good as it looks, then that’s all that counts, right? (As well as your cat’s opinion which may, understandably, be a little compromised right now.)
Jen~ Fires are not awesome. But if fried chicken is outcome…fires become slightly more awesome.
Kimness~ Broiler fires take a special kind of genius. Hats off to you and your smarty pants fire alarm!
Mike~Do it. DOOOOOOO ITTTTTTTTTT! Also, I highly reccomend the leek break pudding with roasted tomatoes from ad hoc. So good, you forget there is no meat in it!
Allison~I knew I liked you.
Dee~ I have never actually known a live human that has purchased said powdered sugar shaker. It was very brave of you to admit that.
Kay~ “Fat looks better tan”. Amen to that!
aforkfulofspaghetti~Damn straight. And yes, the poor cat is a bit compromised. Hot oil will do that to a mammal, but then again, my cat is smarter than me. It took me twice making bacon (semi) naked before I realized the error of my ways.
That chicken looks amazing. You should get TK to give you a cut of the royalties because I’m going to buy “Ad Hoc” soon because of your blog entry! And don’t feel too bad; I once set fire to an industrial pressure fryer! (Well, the gas hookup was the thing that failed, and it was older than my pre-teen son). Thank God I know how to use a fire extinguisher and a gas shutoff valve. Rock on! Picture of the cat?
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