Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dinner party

The first dinner party post! Tonight's was rather impromptu with a small group. We were watching Barefoot Contessa and Ina Garten was making fried chicken, deep-dish apple pie, mashed potatoes, and homemade bleu cheese dressing. Totally had a craving for fried chicken. On the FN website, one of the recipe reviewers offered an awesome alternative to her buttermilk marinade. Ina's recipe says to soak the chicken pieces in buttermilk overnight. Since we didn't have overnight, this alternative worked out beautifully. The reviewer suggested adding salt to the buttermilk. The acidic buttermilk will tenderize the chicken, but the salt speeds up the process a lot more. Plus, the chicken is given a big oomph in flavor. Here's the buttermilk brine:

  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
We used three chicken breasts, cut in half, and 8 drumsticks. The breasts came out a little salty, but the marinade was perfect for dark meat. The drumsticks were cooked to perfection and the meat was moist and falling off the bone. We added Jane's Crazy Salt, cayenne, and garlic powder to the flour for dredging. After the chicken was brined, the pieces were dredged through the flour mixture and fried for a few minutes on each side. Peanut oil is good for frying and in this case, all you need is an inch of oil. The oil has to be quite hot (360 degrees F if you can measure it). Once all the pieces have been fried, they're baked for half an hour. Here's the original recipe:

Barefoot Contessa's Oven-fried Chicken

And a picture of the result:

We didn't use her apple pie or mashed potato recipe. I made a Dutch apple pie with the pie crust recipe from Bon Appetit. Learned a few new things:
  1. It's important to add the sugar/cinnamon to the apples a little before adding them to the pie crust. The sugar leeches a lot of the water out of the apples and breaks down the cell walls quite a bit, making them more mushy after they're baked.
  2. Too much water in the pie crust makes a dough that's easy to work with, but not very flaky. Minimum water and keep everything cold.
  3. For the crumble top, don't mix the sugar and butter (it's sugar, butter, and flour) too much or else it will cream together. I used a food processor to save time, so it creamed them together easily.
  4. Keep everything in the freezer until the last minute, except the apples.
Here's the result... not my best attempt, which would be the two pies I made a couple of weeks ago for work, but not bad overall:

The mashed potatoes were fabulous, the bleu cheese dressing came out really well (also a BC recipe, same episode), and there was a vegetarian option, too. There was a baked squash penne that consisted of squash slices, diced tomato, cheese, and penne. A picture of the feast:

In addition to the salad as a side dish, there was also fresh French bread. I overproofed the bread, but a re-knead worked out ok. The bread was a little chewier, but still turned out good.

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