Tag Archives: dinner party fave

Southern Fried Chicken Dinner

As I may have mentioned before, my mom’s desert island food is fried chicken (as is mine which would be really convenient if we ended up stranded on the same island) so in honor of her birthday today I thought I would post a menu all centered around my Fried Chicken Perfected – this has your weekend plans written all over it.

For this comforting, Southern themed meal I was inspired to use my vintage oyster cans as decoration.  I have been collecting these for several years – they are a symbol of the oyster industry that used to dominate the Chesapeake bay region.  I have them all over my house year round but they act as great vases for hydrangeas that I gathered from my front yard.  Since they were the center piece, and its almost summer, I figured just pull out all of my nautical gear and run with it.  How adorable is this row boat salt cellar??

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Paper placemats are my jam and great for a casual dinner party like this – I have several nautical themed ones (#ihaveaproblem) like this or these rope ones.  I used these rope napkin rings we got on Nantucket and the rattan chargers remind me of their famous baskets.  Seersucker napkins top off the preppy vibe.

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Curried Cashews

To start with I just wanted a couple of things to nibble on since the dinner is pretty heavy.  These curried cashews are easy to throw together and great with a beer or glass of rose.

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Broccoli Slaw 

I make this broccoli slaw from Smitten Kitchen ALL THE TIME.  It is so healthy and so addictive.  People will think you are nuts, shaving down whole heads of broccoli but they will be converts once they have tried it.  The dried cranberries give a little nod to my New England upbringing at this Southern meal and the slaw is a nice crunchy foil to the fried chicken’s tenderness.

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Fried Chicken Perfected

I can’t say better things about this fried chicken that hasn’t already been said by my friends.  Years of research and lots of mediocre fried chicken (which lets admit is still pretty good) led me to the perfect recipe that I share with you.  Eat it and be happy.

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Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

Probably the second most requested thing I make right after the fried chicken so why not pair them together?  The Southern tradition of mac and cheese with fried chicken has been around forever and for good reason.  The velvety cheese sauce some times picks up crunchy bits of the chicken skin on your plate and then you are in heaven.

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Bourbon Peaches with Ice Cream and Candied Pecans

You need a sweet treat at the end of this meal and a nice simple fruit dessert is just the ticket.  I make these bourbon peaches just like I do in my pancake bar post – sauté them with a little bit of butter, sugar and bourbon.  You can use frozen peaches or fresh ones if they are ripe enough.  Either way paired with vanilla ice cream and candied nuts (I had Southern appropriate pecans on hand) they are delicious.

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So happy birthday mommy and I hope you all celebrate this weekend with fried chicken!

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Yes 40 cloves!  This beautiful French dish was one of my favorites as a kid – partly because of the novelty of how much garlic is in it and partly because its 100% delicious.  This is a great spring dish because its hearty but not heavy so no matter what the temps are outside its appropriate.  Please don’t be scared off by the garlic – this could even be a date night dish!  Once you have cooked the garlic it becomes totally sweet and not stinky at all.  Make sure to pick up some crusty bread to serve alongside so you can spread the melting garlic cloves on the bread and sop up all the sauce.  There are a lot of different versions out there so once again I went through and tried all of the recipes I could find and then combines the best of all of them to achieve this recipe.

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Peeling the garlic can be a pain but I sort of find it therapeutic.  If you want to do it in advance and store in the fridge for a couple of days you can do that.  I use the palm of my hand to push down on the clove ever so slightly so that the skin separates from the garlic but not so much that it crushes the clove (also I won’t tell anyone if you buy already peeled garlic, just make sure its whole cloves not chopped).  I would say it takes about 7 minutes to peel so factor that into your cooking time.  This is such great comfort food – serve it with mashed potatoes or polenta (and don’t forget that bread!) along with a nice clean green salad.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  garlic galore
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 bone in skin on chicken breasts, cut in half
  • 40 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup of cream
  • 3 teaspoons chopped tarragon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Salt and pepper the chicken pieces then cook in batches just so the chicken is nicely browned, about 5 minutes per batch.

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When the chicken is browned reserve it on a plate.  Turn down the heat to medium and add the garlic.  Sauté the garlic for 5 minutes, turning down the heat if you need to so it doesn’t burn.  Add the white wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan getting up all the good brown bits.

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Return the chicken to the pot, skin side up, and add the chicken stock.  Cover and place in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken and garlic to your serving platter and cover with foil.  Put the dutch oven back on the stovetop and cook down the juices over medium high for about 5 minutes until reduced a bit.  Stir in the cream and tarragon, taste for salt and pepper, then pour over the chicken and garlic.

 

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Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 bone in skin on chicken breasts, cut in half
  • 40 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup of cream
  • 3 teaspoons chopped tarragon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Salt and pepper the chicken pieces then cook in batches just so the chicken is nicely browned, about 5 minutes per batch.  When the chicken is browned reserve it on a plate.  Turn down the heat to medium and add the garlic.  Sauté the garlic for 5 minutes, turning down the heat if you need to so it doesn’t burn.  Add the white wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan getting up all the good brown bits.

Return the chicken to the pot, skin side up, and add the chicken stock.  Cover and place in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken and garlic to your serving platter and cover with foil.  Put the dutch oven back on the stovetop and cook down the juices over medium high for about 5 minutes until reduced a bit.  Stir in the cream and tarragon, taste for salt and pepper, then pour over the chicken and garlic.

Bolognese Sauce

I usually plan dinner parties weeks in advance – tinker with the menu, what wines to serve, what kind of tabletop I want to have etc until I settle on exactly the look, taste and feel I want.  However, there is something to be said for spontaneity and this sauce and the dinner party it spawned is a good reminder to me that I should trying to be less planned.  I have been working on my bolognese sauce for a couple of years, trying to meet my husband’s exacting standards.  I had been getting pretty close so when our good friend Dave was staying with us for the weekend I thought it would be a good way to try out the latest incarnation.  We were having a bunch of people over to watch the Patriots so the notoriously long cooing sauce could just sit and bubble away while the game was on.  Well smelling the sauce for a couple of hours drove my friend Baker to distraction – he offered up a deal.  Could he and his fiance Erikka stay and have dinner with us if he provided fresh pasta??  That was much too good for me to pass up and so suddenly a dinner for 3 because a party of 5 with a fresh pasta lesson to boot.  I was able to round up a nice salad to start and figured out some sort of dessert with what I had in my pantry.  Baker schooled us all on making pasta by hand (something that I am determined to conquer this year).

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It was one of the most fun nights in recent memory and the sauce was just perfect with the fresh pasta strands.  This sauce would actually be good on cardboard so if you don’t have fresh pasta just used boxed like I had planned to.  This makes a ton and freezes really well so you too can have an impromptu dinner party!

Bolognese Sauce (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  fresh pasta in the house!
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 5 ounces chicken livers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 6 ounce can of tomato paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • parmesan for serving
  • pasta (fresh or dried) for serving – its also great as pizza sauce!

Add the olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium temperature.  Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the pot and season with salt and pepper.

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Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.  Add the chicken livers and the thyme and increase the heat to medium high.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the livers no longer look raw.

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Add in the ground beef, pork and lamb and cook until no longer pink, breaking up the pieces with your utensil occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, then add the tomato paste, pepper flakes and the parmesan rind (if you have one).  Cook the tomato paste for a couple of minutes until it is totally incorporated with the rest of the sauce.  Add the red wine, stir to combine, and then stir in the cream.

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Bring to a simmer and then turn down the heat to low and cook for 2 hours at a minimum, 3 to 4 hours if you have the time.  If at any time the sauce looks a little too dry you can add in a splash of wine or cream to loosen it up.   Remove the rind before serving. This sauce keeps well in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months.

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Bolognese Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 3 to 5 hours depending
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 5 ounces chicken livers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 6 ounce can of tomato paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • parmesan for serving
  • pasta (fresh or dried) for serving – its also great as pizza sauce!

Add the olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium temperature.  Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the pot and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.  Add the chicken livers and the thyme and increase the heat to medium high.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the livers no longer look raw.  Add in the ground beef, pork and lamb and cook until no longer pink, breaking up the pieces with your utensil occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, then add the tomato paste, pepper flakes and the parmesan rind (if you have one).  Cook the tomato paste for a couple of minutes until it is totally incorporated with the rest of the sauce.  Add the red wine, stir to combine, and then stir in the cream.  Bring to a simmer and then turn down the heat to low and cook for 2 hours at a minimum, 3 to 4 hours if you have the time.  If at any time the sauce looks a little too dry you can add in a splash of wine or cream to loosen it up.   Remove the rind before serving. This sauce keeps well in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months.

A Wine Soaked Dinner Party

Inspiration for my dinner party themes come from everywhere, including a bottle.  I was trying to think of an ingredient that I could build a whole menu around when it occurred to me that I not only like to serve wine with every course but I also love cooking with wine.  Why not use dishes that all have wine in them, and not just as a bit player but as the main event.  I tried to really stretch myself and use all kinds of wine – white, red, dessert, sparkling.  Invite your friends to bring over their favorite bottles to match the wine soaked meal and you are sure to have a great time.

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For decor I kept it pretty simple with fall colors and lighting.  Make sure to have wine glasses that match your wine (i.e. flutes for champagne, white and red wine glasses) at the ready so people don’t have to mix in their glass.

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Also try to pick wines that mirror, or are the same as those you put in the dish – I happened to have a magnum of my house white so I could use it in the Beurre Blanc dip as well as serve it on the side.  For the stew grab an extra bottle of red that you are planning on serving because a whole bottle goes into it.  The entire meal can be made in advance and then just reheated which means you will have plenty of time to hang and drink wine with your friends without having to worry about stirring or flipping anything.  Let the wine soaking begin!

MENU

Appetizer – Whipped Beurre Blanc Dip

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If you have never had beurre blanc sauce on something you haven’t really lived.  Luckily the geniuses at Food and Wine magazine came up with this incredible dip that tastes a lot like the rich buttery sauce.  It’s not easy to find an appetizer that uses 2 whole cups of wine!  By cooking it down, this dip looses the booze taste and just retains the delicious winey flavor.  Add in lots of creme fraiche and you have a rich creamy dip perfect for dipping salty potato chips.  I served the white wine that went into the dip along side as well as our favorite local sparking from Greenhill Vineyards – sparkling wine or champagne if you have it pairs nicely with the richness of the dip and the saltiness of the chips.  Also how beautiful is that dip with the shallots, lemon zest and chives on top?  A real show stopper.

Main Course – Parker’s Beef Stew

An Ina classic, this beef stew takes an entire bottle of red wine to make.  She really puts the wine to work by using it as a marinade for the beef first and then as part of the stew.

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What you end up with is incredible slow cooked flavor that also has that tart edge of wine. Make sure to use a nice bottle that you would want to serve along side the dish.  I went with a Cabernet Savuignon, Ina suggests a Bordeaux but really any medium to heavy body wine with lots of flavor will do.  Best part is that it’s a one pot wonder with meat and veggies included so you can serve it on its own for the main event or with some crusty bread to sop up the sauce.

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Dessert – Poached Pears

Last but definitely not least we come to dessert made out of what else but dessert wine.  Another whole bottle goes in (if you are counting that is now almost 2,000 ml of wine in this meal!) and poaches the pears as well as becomes the sauce.  For those of you who think you don’t like dessert wine and have a dusty bottle hanging around somewhere that was gifted to you this is the perfect dish to use it in.

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The fresh ginger and tart pears counteract the sweetness of the wine.  Best part the pears can be made way in advance – just take the ice cream out 20 minutes before you want to serve it to let it soften.  More dessert wine would pair great with this as would port or another bottle of bubbly.  I hope you guys enjoy this menu with your friends – just make sure to have a DD or Uber handy following the meal!

Fried Chicken Perfected

Fried chicken is my mom’s desert island meal.  And it’s mine.  And I am guessing most of yours.  However, good fried chicken can be really hard to find, and bad fried chicken is just sad.  When I was a little kid we would make a once a year pilgrimage to this place called chicken.gifFontaine’s.  It was a depressing sort of place with zero natural light, right off of a highway but they served hands down the best fried chicken I have ever tasted.  All the meals came with old school sides like mashed potatoes with a giant dent in the middle flowing with butter.  Best of all they used to serve hamburger buns, slathered with butter, cooked on the griddle, as their “bread service.”  Writing this out now it sounds sort of gross, but I am telling you it was amazing.  Fontaine’s had been serving fried chicken (not something that is particularly easy to find in Boston) since 1952 so generations of families, including mine, got very attached.  Fontaine’s sadly closed about 10 years ago taking with it their incredible neon sign and life altering fried chicken.

Once I moved to DC I figured finding good fried chicken would be easy but alas the best fried chicken is usually made by people’s grandmothers and not in restaurants.  I do love the version at Central but it’s distinctly high end, not exactly Fontaine’s.  Levi’s Port Cafe (RIP) in SE used to crank out great fried chicken but it is no longer.  So I realized that meant I was just going to have to satisfy my cravings myself.  Years (seriously) of trying different methods and recipes have finally culminated in Fried Chicken Perfected.  I almost cried it was so great (and I am pretty sure Patrick and our friend Jon did too).  My research paid off as I combined many different tips from famous chefs (Thomas Keller) to my friend Kevin’s mom’s Oklahoma Ladies Club Cookbook.  First you brine – this ensures juicy chicken and is key for those who are afraid of overcooked chicken.  Even if you leave the meat in for longer than you need to it won’t dry out.  Second you give them chickies a buttermilk bath – the buttermilk helps the coating stick to the chicken but also imparts a tangy flavor and further tenderizes the meat.  Finally you keep it simple – the coating is flour and flavor and that’s it.  Here I used Old Bay Hot because it includes garlic, onion and paprika flavor with heat and well because I went to school in Maryland where Old Bay is required eating.

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If you are afraid of deep frying you are not alone – I actually sort of dread it – but this chicken makes it worth it.  It takes a lot of oil that ends up getting thrown away and can be mightily intimidating.  That’s why I am giving you a full proof recipe to totally make it worth it.  Also make a whole bunch once you are taking the time.  The leftovers are delicious cold and or reheated in the oven (you lose some crispness but it’s still delicious).  So if you know a fried chicken fan show them some love and make this.  It’s so good alongside my classic cole slaw, the over the top mashed potatoes or as I served it last with my smoked gouda mac and cheese.  Damn, now I want fried chicken…

Fried Chicken Perfected (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  Fontaine’s
Special Equipment:  a large deep pan, large stock pot, candy thermometer and meat thermometer, cookie sheet and cooling rack, skimmer (optional)

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 lemon halved
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 10 sprigs of parsley
  • 1 head of garlic, cut in half lengthwise
  • 4 ounces of kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup whole peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • several pounds of bone in skin on chicken parts – I used 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, and 4 breasts cut in half, but there is enough brine and coating to do at least 4 more pieces
  • 4 cups buttermilk
  • 4 cups of flour
  • 5 tablespoons Old Bay Hot (or regular Old Bay, or dash of cayenne and garlic powder)
  • 2 1/2 to 3 quarts vegetable oil
  • sea salt for sprinkling

In a large stock pot combine the water, lemon, bay leaves, parsley, garlic, salt, peppercorns and sugar.  Bring to a boil and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved.

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Allow to fully cool and then refrigerate for at least an hour until cold before adding the chicken (the brine can be made a day in advance).  Once the brine is cold, add the chicken pieces, cover and refrigerate overnight.  About 30 minutes before you are ready to start frying take the chicken pieces out of the brine and rinse them off (this is to get rid of any peppercorns stuck to the pieces and ensure it’s not too salty).  Put the buttermilk, along with some salt and pepper, into a large bowl and submerge the chicken pieces.  Let them hang out in the buttermilk bath for at least a half hour while you heat the oil.

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In a large deep pot (I use my large Calphalon dutch oven) carefully pour in the oil.  I like to buy my oil from Costco since this uses so much.  If you want to use less oil, then fry in a stock pot that isn’t as wide – only downside there is that you can only fry one or two pieces at a time.  Clip your candy thermometer to the side, turn the heat to medium high and wait until you reach 375 degrees before cooking.  While the oil heats and the chicken soaks in the buttermilk, you need to prepare the coating.  In another large bowl mix the flour with the Old Bay Hot.  Since there is a lot of salt and pepper in that seasoning there is no need to add more, if you are skipping the Old Bay (don’t!) add lots of salt and pepper.  Also set out a cookie sheet lined with a cooling rack (if you have one, paper towels if you don’t) to have a place for the chicken to land when it’s done frying.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Once the oil has reached 375 degrees it is time to start frying.  Make sure to wear an apron and be careful because once the chicken is in the pan, the oil can start spitting.  Using tongs take the chicken out of the buttermilk, let it drip off, and then put it in the flour.  Make sure each piece is totally coated in the flour and that you have shaken off all the excess (a process called dredging).  Don’t dredge your chicken early or else it will get gummy, just do it a piece at a time and once the piece is ready add it to the oil carefully.  You only want to add a couple pieces at a time, in my pan I could fit about 4, so that they have room to fry and that you don’t bring down the temperature.  Once you have the right amount in the pan, monitor the temperature, you can turn up the heat if needed.  Larger pieces can take up to about 20 minutes, smaller more like 15.  Since you have brined the chicken it,s ok to leave all of the pieces in for the longer time frame.  Using a skimmer or tongs flip the pieces in the oil occasionally to make sure they are browning on all sides.  Do not walk away from this project!  Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temp if you would like – once the pieces are done remove them to the cookie sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.

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I then put the pieces into the preheated oven to keep them warm while cooking the rest.  Depending on the size of your pan and the amount of chicken you are frying it should take about 2 to 3 batches.  Serve the chicken hot and get ready for praise and adoration.

P.S. About that oil…I cover the pan and let it cool on the stove-top overnight.  I then just CAREFULLY pour the cooled oil back into the bottle, cap it and throw it away.

Fried Chicken Perfected

Special Equipment:  a large deep pan, large stock pot, candy thermometer and meat thermometer, cookie sheet and cooling rack, skimmer (optional)

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 lemon halved
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 10 sprigs of parsley
  • 1 head of garlic, cut in half lengthwise
  • 4 ounces of kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup whole peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • several pounds of bone in skin on chicken parts – I used 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, and 4 breasts cut in half but there is enough brine and coating to do at least 4 more pieces
  • 4 cups buttermilk
  • 4 cups of flour
  • 5 tablespoons Old Bay Hot (or regular Old Bay, or dash of cayenne and garlic powder)
  • 2 1/2 to 3 quarts vegetable oil
  • sea salt for sprinkling

In a large stock pot combine the water, lemon, bay leaves, parsley, garlic, salt, peppercorns and sugar.  Bring to a boil and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Allow to fully cool and then refrigerate for at least an hour until cold before adding the chicken (the brine can be made a day in advance).  Once the brine is cold, add the chicken pieces, cover and refrigerate overnight.  About 30 minutes before you are ready to start frying take the chicken pieces out of the brine and rinse them off (this is to get rid of any peppercorns stuck to the pieces and ensure it’s not too salty).  Put the buttermilk, along with some salt and pepper, into a large bowl and submerge the chicken pieces.  Let them hang out in the buttermilk bath for at least a half hour while you heat the oil.

In a large deep pot (I use my large Calphalon dutch oven) carefully pour in the oil.  I like to buy my oil from Costco since this uses so much.  If you want to use less oil, then fry in a stock pot that isn’t as wide – only downside there is that you can only fry one or two pieces at a time.  Clip your candy thermometer to the side, turn the heat to medium high and wait until you reach 375 degrees before cooking.  While the oil heats and the chicken soaks in the buttermilk, you need to prepare the coating.  In another large bowl mix the flour with the Old Bay Hot.  Since there is a lot of salt and pepper in that seasoning there is no need to add more, if you are skipping the Old Bay (don’t!) add lots of salt and pepper.  Also set out a cookie sheet lined with a cooling rack (if you have one, paper towels if you don’t) to have a place for the chicken to land when it’s done frying.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Once the oil has reached 375 degrees it is time to start frying.  Make sure to wear an apron and be careful because once the chicken is in the pan, the oil can start spitting.  Using tongs take the chicken out of the buttermilk, let it drip off, and then put it in the flour.  Make sure each piece is totally coated in the flour and that you have shaken off all the excess (a process called dredging).  Don’t dredge your chicken early or else it will get gummy, just do it a piece at a time and once the piece is ready add it to the oil carefully.  You only want to add a couple pieces at a time, in my pan I could fit about 4, so that they have room to fry and that you don’t bring down the temperature.  Once you have the right amount in the pan, monitor the temperature, you can turn up the heat if needed.  Larger pieces can take up to about 20 minutes, smaller more like 15.  Since you have brined the chicken it,s ok to leave all of the pieces in for the longer time frame.  Using a skimmer or tongs flip the pieces in the oil occasionally to make sure they are browning on all sides.  Do not walk away from this project!  Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temp if you would like – once the pieces are done remove them to the cookie sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.

I then put the pieces into the preheated oven to keep them warm while cooking the rest.  Depending on the size of your pan and the amount of chicken you are frying it should take about 2 to 3 batches.  Serve the chicken hot and get ready for praise and adoration.

P.S. About that oil…I cover the pan and let it cool on the stove-top overnight.  I then just CAREFULLY pour the cooled oil back into the bottle, cap it and throw it away.

 

 

Portuguese Dinner Party

Patrick and I recently took an incredible class on Portuguese wine at our favorite local wine shop, DCanter.  Neither of us know a ton about wine, basically just what we like and don’t like, but wine classes are a great way to learn more about certain regions and what they are known for.  One you know you like certain varietals from a certain country it makes shopping a lot easier!  We love the classes at DCanter (what a cute name right??) and this one was no exception.  We stopped in Portugal over our honeymoon and drank some great wine while we were there so the class really helped us identify different labels that we like.  Of course we brought several bottles home that were part of the class (the Marcolino Sebo QP Colheita Seleccionada Red and the Quinta da Raza Grande Escolha Alvarinho white).  I decided that a dinner party was in order with Portuguese foods to match the wine.  I already had some great Portuguese olive oil on hand and Spanish chorizo sausage which is very close to the chorico that they serve in Lisbon.  I found these great almonds from a region called Douro (that also makes great wine) at Whole Foods so I was on my way to a menu!

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It was a lovely night out so we decided to do the first course out on the deck.  The chorizo thinly sliced served along with some Spanish cheeses (no luck on Portuguese cheese!) and those lovely Douro almonds.  I also marinated some green olives and set those out which went really nicely with the crisp white wine.

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Shrimp Mozambique

In addition to the cheese board I knew I wanted some seafood on the menu.  Portugal has gorgeous fish markets all over and the influence on their food from global trading is really evident.  These shrimp are the prefect example – they get their name and flavor profile from Mozambique which used to be a Portuguese colony.  This recipe is incredibly easy to make and actually comes from a restaurant in Fall River, Massachusetts where there is a huge Portuguese community.

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Portuguese Style Garlic Roasted Pork

Arguably the most famous person to come out of Fall River, MA is Emeril Lagasse.  Most people assume that he is from New Orleans but actually he is a proud son of Massachusetts.  Listen to his cooking shows and every once and a while you will hear his accent!  While he became famous for his Southern cooking, he has many family favorite Portuguese recipes that he has made very accessible.  This pork dish is unbelievably flavorful.  It takes forever to make but it’s really hands off and the smell of your house will be incredible.  Also the left overs made an amazing sandwich.  I served this along fluffy white rice.

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Sauteed Kale

Kale is ubiquitous in Portuguese cooking, especially their famous kale soup.  This quick side comes together at the last minute and is a good foil to the rich pork dish.

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Strawberry Marscapone Tart with Port Glaze

If you are having a Portuguese dinner party then you have to end it with port right?  We had a great time when we were in Lisbon trying out different ages and styles of port at their Solar do Vinho do Porto, an actual institute of port.  To serve with a nice glass of port this dessert also makes use of it in the sauce drizzled over the strawberries.  Absolutely delicious and the perfect way to end a tour of Portuguese wines and food.  Where to next??

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Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine

When I was a kid and got a present I would immediately use it, even if that meant wearing a parka in July or playing with my ice cream stand at Christmas.  I haven’t grown up all that much because when my brand new slow cooker arrived in the mail it was less than 24 hours before I broke that baby in.  My friend Tommy had convinced me to upgrade from my old school crock pot to one with a digital timer.  After some research I settled on the Set n’ Forget from Hamilton Beach and have been really happy with it so far.  The best thing about having the timer is that I put the lamb tagine in before I went to work and set it for 8 hours – once it hits the proscribed time the slow cooker switches to a warming mode.  I was worried that the food would be overcooked and dry but it was perfect.  I always wondered how people were cooking in their slow cooker and working a full work day but now I can be one of those people!  Browning the lamb at 7:00am wasn’t the highlight of my day but coming home to an almost complete meal was – I served this dish alongside some couscous which only requires boiling water.  Viola, a dinner party!

Le Souk Ceramique Citronique Design Cookable Tagine - 30 (Tunisia)

A tagine is actually an earthenware cooking vessel from Northern Africa (and the name of dishes made in it).  Its conical shape helps seal in moisture to braise chicken or lamb dishes just like its more modern slow cooker friend.  I would love to have this hand-painted one from Tunisia, maybe not to cook in but to use as a serving dish, but tagines are pretty large for a single use item!  So the slow cooker it is, just make sure to serve it up in a pretty dish before devouring it.  I included some traditional Northern African flavors like the olives and preserved lemons to give this dish a lot of contrasting flavors.  If you have never cooked with preserved lemons before this is a great way to start – you can buy them in a jar or make them yourself (I did once and went back to buying them as I couldn’t tell the difference).  Because they are processed in salt the lemon rind becomes edible and has a lovely smooth flavor unlike the sharp citrus bite of fresh lemons.  They last forever in the fridge and really punch up the slow cooked lamb.  I like the Les Moulins Mahjoub brand but any will do.  This dish also freezes really nice so make up a big batch this weekend and squirrel some away for a rainy day.

Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  my new slow cooker!
Special Equipment:  slow cooker

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds of lamb leg, trimmed and cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces on a diagonal
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cardamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup port (or red wine)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 of a preserved lemon, rinsed, seeded and chopped finely
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup green pitted olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat.  Put the flour in a bowl and season it with salt and pepper.  Working in batches (should take 2 to 3 max) dredge (i.e. toss the meat in the flour and then shake off the excess) the lamb cubes adding them to the hot oil.  Only do enough that can fit in the pan.  Brown the pieces all over, cooking a couple of minutes on each side, before adding them to the slow cooker.

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Add more oil if necessary to brown all the batches of lamb.  Then add the onion, carrot and garlic to the skillet, lowering the heat to medium if necessary to keep from burning.  Cook for 5 minutes or so until the onion begins to soften, then add all of the spices along with salt and pepper.  Cook for another minute or so, stirring until all the veggies are combined with the spices.

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Pour in the port and use it to deglaze the pan (i.e. get all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan).  Dump everything in the skillet in to the slow cooker on top of the lamb.  Add a 1/2 cup of water and stir everything together.

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Set for 8 hours on low or 5 hours on high.  Once it has finished cooking you can refrigerate for several days or freeze for several months.  Right before serving (or while you are reheating it) stir in the chopped preserved lemon, raisins and olives, stirring to combine.  Let those ingredients heat through and then serve with the parsley sprinkled on top.

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Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 5 to 8 hours
  • Print

Special Equipment:  slow cooker

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds of lamb leg, trimmed and cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces on a diagonal
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cardamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup port (or red wine)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 of a preserved lemon, rinsed, seeded and chopped finely
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup green pitted olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat.  Put the flour in a bowl and season it with salt and pepper.  Working in batches (should take 2 to 3 max) dredge (i.e. toss the meat in the flour and then shake off the excess) the lamb cubes adding them to the hot oil.  Only do enough that can fit in the pan.  Brown the pieces all over, cooking a couple of minutes on each side, before adding them to the slow cooker.  Add more oil if necessary to brown all the batches of lamb.  Then add the onion, carrot and garlic to the skillet, lowering the heat to medium if necessary to keep from burning.  Cook for 5 minutes or so until the onion begins to soften, then add all of the spices along with salt and pepper.  Cook for another minute or so, stirring until all the veggies are combined with the spices.  Pour in the port and use it to deglaze the pan (i.e. get all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan).  Dump everything in the skillet in to the slow cooker on top of the lamb.  Add a 1/2 cup of water and stir everything together.  Set for 8 hours on low or 5 hours on high.  Once it has finished cooking you can refrigerate for several days or freeze for several months.  Right before serving (or while you are reheating it) stir in the chopped preserved lemon, raisins and olives, stirring to combine.  Let those ingredients heat through and then serve with the parsley sprinkled on top.

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