Tag Archives: Cooking

Bacon + Chicken + Cream = Goodness

Tarragon ChickenMy early childhood was spent in Grenoble, France, where dinner at my parents’ friends house happened weekly. Our friend Marie-France’s specialty was Poulet a l’Estragon (Tarragon Chicken): a whole cut up chicken, braised in a mixture of bacon, crème fraiche, white wine and tarragon. It was a childhood favorite of mine. Who can resist creamy, bacon-ey chicken?

Last week, my cousin, Michelle, asked me for a new way to cook chicken thighs. I modified the original tarragon chicken recipe to be less fatty and yet retain the strong chicken flavor that you get from braising a whole bird.

If you’d like to cook a whole cut-up chicken the way Marie-France used to make it, modify the recipe below by adding 3 slices of bacon, adjusting the wine to 1 1/2 cup, changing the crème fraiche/cream to 2 cups and no chicken broth. Since there’s so much cream in the whole chicken version of the recipe, making a roux to thicken the sauce is unnecessary.

I reduce my chicken broth to about 2/3. I like my tarragon chicken with a little rice one the side and french bread. Bon appétit!

Poulet a l’Estragon/Tarragon Chicken with Bacon

3 slices thick smoked bacon (I use applewood), cut into 1/2″ pieces
6 chicken thighs
2 tsp. fresh chopped tarragon or 1 tsp. dried
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups reduced chicken broth
1/4 cup crème fraiche or heavy cream
salt and pepper
Champagne vinegar

Roux
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour

  1. In Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Transfer bacon to paper towel lined plate to absorb fat.
  2. Brown chicken (no salt and pepper, bacon will add salt to dish) in bacon fat over medium-high heat.
  3. Remove chicken from pot and discard all fat.
  4. Deglaze pan with white wine.
  5. Add cream, tarragon, chicken broth, chicken and bacon to pot, braise covered at a low simmer for 25-30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, turning chicken halfway through cooking.
  6. Remove thighs from pot and pour sauce into a heat safe dish.
  7. Melt butter in pan over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir to combine.
  8. Cook roux, stirring the entire time until it is lightly colored, 2-5 minutes.
  9. Add reserved sauce and cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat until sauce is thickened.
  10. Re-season with salt and pepper and a dash or two of Champagne vinegar as needed.
  11. Add chicken back to pot to reheat.

A Comforting Bowl of Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

stewWinter inspires stews. This dish is one that I grew up with. An Asian beef stew with lemongrass, star anise, cinnamon and even a little curry for seasoning. Every Vietnamese family I know has their own version of it. Some like the sauce almost broth-like and served over rice noodles, garnished with cilantro, Thai basil and jalapeño slices. Others like it plain, with a side of baguette. Try the combination that suits your palate best.

I prefer my sauce thicker and a little more intense. After it’s cooked, I let my stew sit overnight in the refrigerator. This allows the flavors to meld into the tender beef and veggies and for the fat to separate and harden. I discard the latter before I reheat it. I find that it the fat doesn’t really add anything and dilutes the flavor. I serve mine in a shallow bowl, with a few Thai basil leaves and french bread for dipping.

Half a dozen years ago, a craving for Bo Kho struck me and I called my mom long distance to Vietnam for instructions. It was dictated to me in our traditional family way, with ingredients being approximated—a little of this, a dash of that— and, of course, I was told to taste and re-taste. Over the years, I dialed in the ingredients and proportions and kept notes of my changes and the result is the recipe below.

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)
Serves 4-6

2 whole star anise
2 1.5” pieces of whole cinnamon
2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
3 medium shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks lemongrass, 2″ pieces, bruised
2 to 2 ½ lbs. beef chuck roast or pot roast cut into 2” cubes
2 tsp. curry powder (Vietnamese style preferable)
4 bay leaves
1-6 oz. can tomato paste
3-5 Tbsp. hoisin Sauce (according to taste)
4 medium carrots, cut into 1” pieces
2 medium turnips, cut into 1.5” pieces
Beef broth
Salt, pepper, white wine vinegar and honey to taste
Thai Basil to garnish

  1. Toast cinnamon and star anise. I do it directly on my flat top electric on high heat, very carefully, until darkened. It takes less than 2 minutes. You can also use a hot pan over high heat. Set aside when done.
  2. In large pot (I use a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat, add oil, shallots, garlic and lemongrass, cook for 1-2 minutes until shallots are transparent.
  3. Reserve one piece of lemongrass, you’ll use at the very end to freshen up the lemony flavor of the stew.
  4. Add beef to pot, season with salt, pepper and half of curry powder. Cook, stirring intermittently, until beef is browned.
  5. Add just enough broth to cover beef. Stir in ¾ of tomato paste and 3 Tbsp. of hoisin sauce. Add bay leaves, 1 star anise and 1 cinnamon stick (you’ll add the remaining anise and cinnamon at the end to give the flavor a pop).
  6. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and let simmer for 1 ½ hours.
  7. You can check flavor and re-season according to taste after the first 30 minutes. Sparingly add salt, pepper, hoisin sauce, honey (1 tsp at a time), vinegar (a dash at a time for acidity) tomato paste and curry powder as needed. If you’re re-seasoning throughout the simmering process, let flavors develop for 15 minutes before re-tasting.
  8. Check beef for tenderness. Beef should be close to desired tenderness before vegetables are added. If beef is not as tender as wanted, cover and simmer for an additional 15-30 minutes.
  9. Add carrots, turnips and additional broth if liquid does not cover veggies. Cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes or until vegetables tender.
  10. Let stew cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight.
  11. About half an hour before serving, remove as much coagulate fat from the top of the stew as you can (or leave it – up to you).
  12. Add reserve cinnamon, star anise and lemongrass and bring to a low simmer over medium heat. Let simmer for at between 15-30 minutes to warm through and to steep the newly added spices. Remove the cinnamon and anise after a few minutes if you feel the flavors are getting too intense for your taste.
  13. Serve topped with basil and with fresh baguette slices.

Rhubarb & Co. Galette

Rhubard and Co. GaletteI’ve been trying to get in the habit of using up fresh foods in my kitchen before they go bad. A self-inflicted Iron Chef challenge. “Allez cuisine!” I found that it’s been a great way to challenge and expand my culinary skills. Today, my ‘secret’ ingredients were one ripe peach and a stalk of rhubarb. Really not enough fruit to make much of anything. But, luckily, I had a partial bag of frozen organic blueberries leftover from our Saturday morning pancakes too.

Taking inspiration from my friend, new mother and pastry chef, Sarah and a couple of blogs about galettes, I came up with the recipe below. Sarah was sweet enough to give me some pointers (that I noted in my recipe) after I tasted and became enamored with her ginger peach galette. Her pastry was a perfectly flaky, tender crust filled with slightly sweetened, spiced slices of peach with subtle bits of candied ginger interspersed throughout. The ginger and pepper elements in the recipe below are a take on her version as is finishing with the tart with turbinado sugar (aka sugar in the raw) to give it a little spark.

Lining the bottom of the galette with the almond meal mixture was influenced by the Rhubarb Galette recipe at Tasting Table. I liked the idea of bringing a nutty flavor in and keeping the bottom of the galette from getting soggy. I chose to incorporate the ginger in this layer of the pie as well. It’s less sticky to chop candied ginger into a flour/almond meal mixture than by itself.

The crust/pate brisée is an adaptation of several recipes and their techniques. I’ve struggled with making the perfect pie/tart crust for years and am finally coming close to mastering it. The Cook’s Illustrated recipe in the The Science of Good Cooking, The Food Lab’s post about the Science of Pie Dough and having Sarah video Skype with me while I was making this challenging dough, (Sarah directing, “No, not wet enough!”) has helped me come a long way. I doubt that Sarah is available for the masses via video chat, but, I’d highly suggest you check out the other sources. And I’ve convinced Sarah to let me video her techniques soon. I will share her wisdom!

Thankfully, this impromptu galette turned out delicious. Otherwise, this post would’ve been about the galette that might have been. The tart rhubarb was a compliment to the mellow berry flavor of the blueberry and peach. The ginger added a nice spice and the almond meal a subtle nuttiness. I’ll be making it this new recipe again soon. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.

Crust
8 oz. (1 1/2 cups) flour
4 oz. (8 Tbsp./1 stick) butter
2 Tbsp. vegetable shortening
½ tsp. salt
Equal parts cold water/vodka
1 beaten egg for brushing
Turbinado/Raw sugar

Almond layer
3 Tbsp. almond flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. candied ginger

Filling
1 cup rhubarb, sliced
1 cup peach, cubed
2 cups blueberry, frozen
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. corn starch
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cinnamon
A couple cracks of fresh pepper
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. Chambord or other raspberry liquor
1 tsp. lemon juice

Preparing the crust
Plan this part ahead as the dough will at minimum need to rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Preferably 2 or more for a tender crust. Sarah rests hers overnight for optimal tenderness. Also, all your fats and liquids should be ice cold. Freeze you butter and shortening as well your vodka. Though the vodka sounds like an odd choice. It’s tasteless and will cook off, but it will not encourage gluten development (like water), so it’s a great way to make the dough more pliable while avoiding the peril of a leathery shell. And the word on the street is work your dough as little as possible for a tender, flaky crust.

  1. In your food processor, pulse ½ (4 oz./1 cup) of flour and salt together.
  2. Add cold shortening, cubed butter and pulse for a few seconds until only lentil size pieces of fat remain.
  3. Add the rest of flour and pulse a couple of times to incorporate.
  4. Turn dough over into a large bowl.
  5. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp. of ice-cold water and 2 Tbsp. of cold vodka over mixture and fold in with a spatula. If dough is still dry and crumbly, alternately add water and vodka, 1 Tbsp. at a time, gently folding until dough has just come together. Dough should form into a ball easily, but, not be sticky.
  6. Shape dough into a round disc, about 1” thick and let rest in fridge for 1-2 hour or overnight.
  7. Flour your counter generously and turn out cold dough.
  8. A tip from Sarah for unfrayed edges: with the palm of your hand pound the edges of your dough disc. Forcefully pound then turn dough to a new section and work your way 2 to 3 times around.
  9. Another Sarah bit of wisdom regarding rolling the dough: roll only in one direction. Going back and forth will overwork your pastry.  It’s best to roll gently, turn the dough 1/8 to ¼ turn and repeat until desired thickness and size is achieved. The goal is to gently but quickly roll out dough without too much pressure. This should keep your dough flaky and tender and ensure a rounder shape.
  10. When dough is approximately a 13” plus round, trim excess to make a nice circle. I used a 13” pizza pan over my dough and trace around it with a knife.
  11. Check and repair any holes or broken edges so that filling doesn’t leak.
  12. Place your dough round on a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Let rest in fridge while you’re putting together the filling.

Assembling the galette

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degree with one rack on the bottom and one in the middle. If using a Breville Smart Oven, which I did, use bottom rack and bake on the parchment-lined pizza pan provided with oven.
  2. On a large cutting board, combine all the ingredients for the almond layer (almond flour, sugar, flour and candied ginger). With a large kitchen knife, chop ginger finely into mixture. Set aside.
  3. Place blueberries, peach and rhubarb in a large bowl.
  4. Sprinkle the rest of the filing ingredients (sugar, corn starch, salt, cinnamon, fresh pepper, vanilla extract, Chambord and lemon juice) over the fruit and with a spatula gently fold in, so that mixture is evenly incorporated, being careful not to bruise blueberries.
  5. Remove crust from fridge. Sprinkle almond mixture evenly on the bottom center of the shell, leaving a 3” edge.
  6. Top almond layer with fruit mixture, spreading evenly.
  7. To fold in edges of crust: fold, turn 1/8 of the way, and repeat until a nice pleat is achieved or roughly gather edges in for a more rustic look.
  8. Generously brush edges with beaten egg, getting wash into folded creases (this will help folds to stay put).
  9. Sprinkle exposed galette crust with raw sugar.
  10. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes on the lower shelf of your oven to ensure a crispy bottom.
  11. Turn oven down to 350, move galette to center rack and bake for an additional 30-45 minutes until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly.
  12. If fruit looks dry on top, use a pastry brush to spread liquid part of filling.
  13. Let galette rest for an hour on baking sheet or gently slide pastry over onto to a cooling rack and cool for a crisper bottom.
  14. Serve by itself, with fresh whipped cream or ice cream.

THE toaster oven…

Breville-Artwork

I had a cheap Oster toaster oven forever!!! It was a remnant of my starving student days. To say that it toasted or was an oven was a gross exaggeration. On the toast feature, it burnt one side of my bread and lightly warmed the other. And I’m not sure that you can consider something an oven if it never accurately keeps temperature. The Thing made me sad every time I used it. Being frugal, I couldn’t bring myself to throw away something that was still ‘functional.’ But, the Thing would NOT die. And I willed it. I didn’t clean it for years. I let crumbs, grime and crud build up hoping to somehow make it suicidal. Yet, it lived on.

A couple of years ago, after close to 10 years of unhappy ownership, I finally gave the Thing away. A friend who is in grad school now utilizes it. She cleaned it up. After she raised an eyebrow, it was explained that the yuck was a result of my murderous plans. It still works to this day… Well, kind of.

So, I ponied up the money for a new toaster oven. This time around, I had the means to buy something of quality. I researched and shopped around. Finally, I tentatively handed my 20% off coupon and my money to the Bed Bath and Beyond cashier. And ka-shing! I bought a toaster oven that cost five times what I originally paid for the Thing. The Breville Smart Oven (1800 watts convection) was going home with me!

So. Much. Money. Is it worth it? YES! Absolutely!

It is beautifully designed. The oven body is stainless with knobs that click just so when you are setting it. The backlit blue information screen is clear and easy to understand. And a sweet little ding tells you when it’s ready or done. I would say that it is a compact oven with a toaster feature. Not the other way around.

Being a household of two, we use it almost daily. It’s much more practical than heating up our full-size conventional oven and keeps the house much cooler. This mini oven is big enough to cook food for four, maybe more. It’s dependable and heats up very evenly and I trust it with any task that I would use my regular oven for. We use it to broil tandoori fish (four fillets at a time), make delicious whole roasted chicken, to bake pies and quiches and the list goes on.

The Smart Oven comes equipped with a pizza pan and broiler tray/cookie sheet. Truthfully, I haven’t used any of these items for what they are intended for. I prefer to bake my pizza on a preheated stone or cast iron pan. The quality of the pans provided are better than average. But, I personally like the non-stick cookie sheets from Williams-Sonoma. I had bought some for my regular oven and liked the quality, so I bought the small ones for the Breville. They are great for roasting vegetables and clean up very easily. You can also buy a small Silpat that’s perfectly sized for this sheet. It works out great for baking small batches of cookies. We have gotten in the habit of freezing pre-measured cookie dough and baking 2 at a time for a snack.

But, don’t throw those pans away. I recently used the round pizza pan to bake a large galette in the Breville!

Last, but, not least. It’s great for warming and crisping back up day-old fried chicken!

About-art-2

I have a great love for food. But, fried chicken and me? That’s a whole other thing. I eat it with joy. If it’s on a menu? I’ll likely order it with conviction, ignoring all other options. It’s a done deal! Southern fried, nuggets, wings? I love fried chicken in all its forms. That being said, not all fried chicken is created equal. But, that debate is for another day…

Fried Chicken Anonymous was my fiancé, Billy’s idea. I had been looking for a name for my yet-to-be-created blog. And the a-ha moment came about as he was watching me eat re-heated (oven, not microwave! I’m not a savage!), day-old Thomas Keller fried chicken. I was so happy, I was knocking my knees together gleefully. It was clear at that moment that I had a problem. Though I won’t be giving up fried chicken, the name is amusing and stuck.

I love my fried chicken, but, I am passionate about other foods as well. I’ll be writing about cooking, eating (where to), cooking gear, cook books and the occasional fried chicken. And maybe I’ll write about something else now and then if inspiration strikes.

Note that I’ll be writing about books and gear that I use and love. I don’t get paid to do so. Just my own personal recommendation based on experience.

Feel free to contact me if you should have any questions or comments.
Sincerely,

F. C. Anonymous