Guilty PleasuresThursday, March 14
With my jobs come some great perks, but it also comes with its share of challenges.
One such challenge is being constantly in front of food. Being a chef you would think that wouldn’t pose a challenge, but it can. There’s an old saying that says to never trust a skinny chef. The logic behind it is that a chef is always tasting and sampling his creations. In doing so, it becomes difficult for a guy like me, who has never been skin and bones, to try to stay in shape. I go to the gym, I run when I can, but it’s a constant uphill battle to try to maintain any degree of shape.
Rather than depriving myself of the things I enjoy, which include butter, cream, chocolate, bacon, duck, and pretty much anything with carbs in it, I have tried to change my approach and allow myself to enjoy them, but in moderation.
Every once in a while though, I throw it all out the window for indulging in something completely divine without giving my health a second thought.
When I do though, I try to avoid just caving in and eating at a fast food chain. I would rather take the few minutes required to prepare the tempting creation myself. It leaves me feeling a little better about how the food was prepared, what type of quality the ingredients are, and most importantly, what non-food ingredients are packed into the pre-made meals at most of the big box restaurants.
Between the meat packed with growth hormones and antibiotics and the buns packed with so many preservatives they could stay fresh through a nuclear winter, I’d rather take my chances on fresh ingredients that I have chosen myself.
Just the other day a few of us were talking about that occasional craving we get for a certain bucket of chicken restaurant with 11 herbs and spices. For myself personally, its not something I crave all that often, but about once a year it hits me and nothing can hold me back from diving head first into a bucket.
I don’t know if one of the secret spices is tryptophan, but it never fails that within 15 minutes of ingesting the deep-fried birds I fall deep into a food coma. That feeling is usually followed very closely by depression and guilt, and the day is rounded out by nausea. Somehow, after enough time though, usually about a year, I forget about the agony and only remember the sweet taste of that crispy skin hitting my lips. So when the conversation was brought up last week it was all I could do not to head straight for the drive-thru. Not this year though. This year I wasn’t going to succumb to temptation so easily. Well maybe I was, but at least I was going to set about making my own bucket of chicken, so at least I could know what I was consuming.
Here’s what I came up with.
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Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Special Tools: Deep fryer
2 whole chickens OR 16 piece chicken
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tsp. paprika
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. thyme
2 litres canola or peanut oil for frying
2 tbsp. honey (optional)
2 tbsp. sriracha (optional)
* To make this fried chicken a little extra special I made a trip to the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market to pick up some premium ingredients. After all, I was throwing away the discipline for a day to indulge in some “junk” food, but it didn’t mean the food I ate had to be junk.
* I started by grabbing myself a couple of beautiful whole chickens from the great folks at Four Whistle Farm. Their chickens are free range and hormone and antibiotic free, leaving me assured that I am working with some of the best.
* If you have any butchery skills at all I recommend buying your chicken whole. You can break down the chicken into eight pieces for frying, remove the wings and drumsticks for a tasty snack and use the carcass to prepare a chicken stock if you like. It only takes 10 to 15 minutes tops to do so, and it can save you a little money. If you aren’t that comfortable with your knife skills don’t sweat it, you can still buy good quality chicken that is already cut for you. Just try to ensure you are buying pieces with the bone in. I find it ends in a moister and more flavourful fried chicken when all is said and done.
* While at the market I decided to grab a bag of flour from Gold Forest Grains. I figured if I wanted to try to use the best ingredients I might as well try to keep the trend going. Their grains are of heritage varieties, grown on organic land, giving the piece of mind to know that they are free of pesticides and are not GMOs.
* With my key ingredients in tow it was time to put the fried
Prep time: 20 minutes Soaking time: minumum 4 hours Cooking time: 20-25 minutes Feeds: 4-6 people chicken together. Here is how I did it.
* Break down the chickens into eight pieces, removing the legs from the carcass, then cutting in half at the joint, then removing the breasts from the carcass, and then cutting the breast in half. I like to cut the wings and drummettes off to use for an appetizer or snack at some other point, but there is nothing wrong with leaving them on. Keep the remaining carcass to prepare a stock or soup if you wish.
* Once you have the chicken broken down place it in a deep pan or bowl and cover with the buttermilk. Work the chicken around in the buttermilk, coating all sides.
* Cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours, but overnight is preferable.
* With a little time to spare you might want to prepare something to serve with your fried chicken. Coleslaw is always nice, but I really love the southern classic of serving cornbread with it. Head to my website www.chefpaulshufelt. com and look under recipes for a delicious cornbread recipe. It’s easy to make and will taste delicious.
* Once the chicken has soaked turn on the deep fryer to about 300F. You want it hot enough to fry the chicken, but not so hot that it burns the skin before it cooks the chicken, through.
* Using a very large Ziploc bag, combine the flour and spices.
* Drain the
buttermilk from the chicken, then place some chicken in the bag and seal, three-four pieces at a time. I recommend starting with the breast pieces that are thicker and take a little longer to cook.
* Shake it like no one is looking!
* Knock off excess flour and carefully place the chicken in the fryer.
* Cook the chicken on one side until deep brown and crispy, 10-12 minutes, then flip and repeat for 6-8 minutes
* Repeat with the remaining chicken.
* Once the chicken is cooked through, remove from the fat, drain off excess and season with salt and pepper.
* If you would like to spice it up, drizzle it with honey and sriracha to take your fried chicken to a whole other level.