Category Archives: poultry

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

It all started when my cousin here made a fairly innocuous request: to cook a meal that represents North Carolina.

Well, as we’ve previously established, I’m just a wannabe Southerner. I also have never attempted to make barbecue in either the eastern (vinegar-based) or western (tomato-based) North Carolinian fashion, which is the first meal option that sprung to mind. In the interest of leaving North Carolina barbecue to the professionals and maintaining my own sanity, I decided to broaden the scope of her request with a “Southern” meal. I also wanted to avoid the inevitable arguments that arise when you get too specific in identifying the origins of different foods. “Southern” seems like a safer distinction than “North Carolinian.”

When I found myself standing in a kitchen on Duke’s campus a few months ago, watching my food writing professor navigating her tongs over spattering oil and flour-drenched drumsticks, I established a genuine appreciation for an art form I originally associated with heat lamps and mushy biscuits. (Thanks, Bojangle’s.) Cooking fried chicken isn’t difficult, but there’s definitely a method to it.

For most of my childhood, I firmly believed that the crispy exterior of fried chicken was caused by something akin to corn flakes constituting the breading. We can attribute that belief to my mom’s attempts to make healthier fried chicken, which did, in fact, involve corn flakes and eschewed the stove in favor of the oven. The only fried food our kitchen ever saw was funnel cake. Once. We left it to the NC State Fair professionals after that.

One perfectly normal middle school day, I broke bread (er, fried chicken) with my friend Megan, and everything changed. Straight from her lunch box, the chicken was still miraculously crispy and required no accompaniment–it didn’t even need to be heated up. I think the foundation of our friendship was formed on that chicken. The first time I went to Megan’s house, her mom made me that chicken. I consumed my weight in that chicken. And then we stopped being friends (apparently even the best fried chicken cannot save a friendship, although it can extend one long past its expected expiration date), so my homemade fried chicken experiences waned once again.

When I finally learned how to make fried chicken from my professor, I watched very carefully for any sign of cornflakes (just in case) or other magical methods of crispiness-making. Instead, I saw a paste of buttermilk and flour transformed into a golden coat from which only joy and happiness can be derived. Oh, and chicken.

Last night was the first time I made fried chicken without adult supervision. Our meal also involved buttermilk biscuits, corn on the cob, salad (for good measure) and peach cobbler for dessert.

Based on the silent chewing that following the meal’s presentation, I can assume that the South was once again well-received by my German family.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken:
Serves 4 to 6
2 pounds chicken (drumsticks and wings work best)
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon paprika
salt & pepper, to taste
6 cups vegetable or rapeseed oil

1) Fill a large skillet with high sides (preferably cast iron) half full with vegetable oil. Set stove to high heat, but lower if the oil begins to smoke.
2) Fill one shallow bowl with buttermilk and the other with flour, paprika, salt and pepper. Dip chicken pieces in buttermilk, then cover with flour thoroughly (the flour will act like a blanket that seals in moisture). Set aside onto a cookie sheet.
3) Place chicken pieces in skillet until the skillet is full. Brown chicken on both sides, then reduce heat. Cover the skillet and cook chicken on low heat for about 30 minutes. Then, increase heat again and fry until crispy.
4) Place chicken pieces on a plate covered in a paper towel. Keep chicken warm in the oven while frying the rest of the chicken.

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Chicken Tacos


I’ve heard rumors that the U.S. is currently experiencing some kind of heatwave. (And, by “rumors,” I mean that I’ve heard more about the sweltering  temperatures on the east coast these past few days than I have about the debt crisis. And Amy Winehouse. Combined.)

Well, here in Germany, we have to make our own heatwave, ’cause the weather certainly isn’t doing much work for us. The past week has been rainy, cloudy, intermittently sunny, then rainy again. Oh, and around 65 degrees. Not that I really mind that last bit. This summer could be my only opportunity to wear tights between May and August. I’m seizing it.

Thus, Germany’s temperamental approach to sunshine necessitates that we eat the heat rather than beat the heat.

Works for me.

Chicken Tacos:
Serves 6
2 pounds boneless chicken thighs
1 large white onion, peeled and quartered
5 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt & pepper, to taste

1) Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and add water to just cover the chicken. Turn heat to high, bring to a boil, and skim any foam that comes to the surface.
2) Partially cover the pan and adjust heat so mixture simmers steadily. Cook until meat is very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from liquid and let cool.
3) Shred meat with fingers. Pile onto a tortilla and top with your favorite taco fixings. I opted for tomato and mango salsa, cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Chicken Pot Pie with Buttermilk Biscuits

This is Andrea. Andrea is my newest food model. (No meat dresses here, though. Sorry.)

At home, the logical next dinner following roast chicken is chicken pot pie. Mom’s orders. Who am I to question years of logical cooking? Leftover chicken practically begs to be combined with gravy and vegetables. Its lil’ carcass gets cold in the fridge, all lonely next to the unfriendly cranberry juice cocktail.

Also, roommate and I are collectively experiencing a cold that is single-handedly (virally?) keeping tissue and decongestant companies in business. So chicken pot pie is also the logical antidote, the ultimate in feel-good meals. (Aside from chicken noodle soup, which I’ll post about Tuesday.)

And, as I always enjoy a good food personification opportunity, sometimes it’s comforting to pretend that I am one of those buttermilk biscuits, steaming away in a bubbling mixture of Delicious Things. I’m quite certain that my recovery would be drastically expedited if I had a chicken pot pie hot tub. My birthday’s in a few weeks, FYI.

Chicken Pot Pie:
2 carrots
2 celery stalks, diced
2 C. peas
1 onion, diced
2 TB butter
2 TB flour
1 C. milk
2 C. chicken stock
2 C. cooked, cubed chicken
1 tsp parsley
salt & pepper

1) Heat chicken stock in medium sized pot. Add carrots, cook until a bit soft. Meanwhile, cook celery and onion with butter until softened. Sprinkle in flour.
2) Add celery and onion to pot. Stir in peas, add salt, pepper and parsley. Remove pot from heat.
3) Once the mixture has cooled slightly, stir in chicken and milk.
4) Pour into a deep-dish pie pan, making sure to leave room for biscuits to expand as they bake. Drop in biscuits (see recipe below) or top with pastry dough. Place pie pan on top of a cookie sheet, in case your pie pan runneth over. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Buttermilk Biscuits:
2 1/2 C. flour
1 1/2 TB sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
6 TB butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1 C. & 2 TB buttermilk

1) Combine flour, sugar, baking power, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Rub in butter cubes with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
2) Add the buttermilk until a soft dough forms.
3) Place the dough on a floured work surface. Knead slightly and flatten until 1-inch thick. Cut out biscuits with round cookie cutter or with the opening of a jar. Combine remaining dough and cut additional biscuits.
4) Place biscuits on an ungreased round cake pan so they all touch slightly, or, if adding to pot pie, gently place biscuits on top of pot pie mixture. Follow directions above for baking.
5) Bake any solo biscuits at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Roasted Chicken and Bread Salad


I’d never roasted a chicken by myself until tonight. Sure, I’d seen my mom do it plenty of times, but only with the interest of someone who was ravenously hungry and in her formative teenage years, where food was helping ensure that she’d grow to 5’10, as planned. (A typical, completely self-serving interest possessed by practically every American teenager.)

Tonight, an older, wiser, more appreciative Meghan actually made a chicken for her friends to enjoy. (Although I was still involved in the consumption process, too.)

As the chicken cooked this evening, my roommate commented that roasted chicken always smells like home; I could not agree more. The sizzle of fat drippings, the bite of garlic, the earthiness of rosemary filled the apartment with an overpowering feeling of home. And that’s ultimately what we try to create with food, isn’t it? A sense of place. Roasted chicken to reminisce about our childhoods, curry to transport our taste buds, chocolate cake to deliver us to utopia. My hope in cooking all these meals is that those places, those memories, those flavors will permeate the walls of this apartment, combining to christen this place, my new place.

Then, years from now, I can cook these same meals and remember. Remember what it felt like to embrace my family at the airport after five months abroad. Remember the mingled excitement and fear as I entered my senior year of college. Even remember that dreadful day I learned about the death of a friend. (And remember how it felt to be surrounded by so many people who love me.)

These memories, for better or worse, are inextricably linked to food. It’s my escape, my recollection, my self-expression, my outward expression of love.

What I mean to say is that I encourage everyone reading this post to cook. Anything. Just try it. Then try it again. Meals, like the one I shared tonight with a few close friends, possess the powerful effect of bringing people together. And when you make them yourself? They incite a unique form of pride–simultaneously sustaining and entertaining.

But let’s get to the good stuff. This chicken. I made the Zuni chicken recipe from Smitten Kitchen, along with her version of the restaurant‘s bread salad. (Glorified stuffing, but significantly better.) The recipe is quite long (but still relatively easy, I promise!), so I’m just going to link to it. No point in repeating someone else’s fine work.

One thing I would like to add about raw, whole chicken–it’s disgusting. It reminds me of what Benjamin Button would’ve looked like when he was born if he’d been born without a head–goose-pimpled and pale, with saggy skin. Don’t let that deter you. Any food with that kind of dismal first impression surely cannot end worse than it began, right?

I followed the recipe pretty consistently, with a few notable exceptions.

1) I also tucked smashed garlic cloves, along with rosemary, under the chicken skin before wrapping and refrigerating it.
2) Right before cooking the chicken, I rubbed it with butter. And then I placed a few small pats of butter beneath the skin, as well. Somewhere above, Julia Child is beaming.
3) I didn’t put greens in the bread salad ’cause I was serving a salad on the side. More greens seemed superfluous and overly, well, green.

Anyway, I’ve waxed poetic long enough. I would, however, like to know: What’s your favorite food memory?