Saturday, July 24, 2010

Brad's Kitchen: Belgian Frites with Spicy Mayo

My wife Sasha and I are taking a trip to Europe in a week and a half and one of the places we plan to visit is Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is probably best known for its food, including
Belgian waffles, frites, beef carbonnade, mussels, chocolate and beer. We can't wait to try all of those things on our trip. Since Sasha & I both love Belgian frites with spicy mayo, we decided to try our hand in making them at home as a preview for our trip. It was actually not too difficult and the result was pretty authentic and quite satisfying.

Brad's Belgian Frites
5 medium sized potatoes
Canola Oil
1 T dijon mustard
cayenne pepper

To prepare the frites, first peel five medium sized potatoes. Then slice the potatoes into strips which are about the size of the fries that you want to prepare. I used our hot pot to deep fry the frites. I made the fries in two separate batches, filling the hot pot about half way with canola oil and placing the metal basket with the sliced potatoes into the fryer. I set the temperature to 375 degrees and fried for about 10-15 minutes until each batch was golden brown. The first batch took longer than the second one, because the oil needed time to heat up to the right temperature.

I salted the frites immediately after removing them from the fryer. Just like in Belgium, we ate our frites with spicy mayo, which we prepared by simply combining lowfat mayonnaise with a bit of dijon mustard and a healthy amount of cayenne pepper, to taste.

We served the frites as a side dish for our dinner along with some healthy chicken bratwursts that we got from Fresh Direct.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Ad Hoc's Buttermilk Fried Chicken & A Fresh Direct Promotion

As you may know by now, I am a big fan of Thomas Keller.  Even I don't have the time to explore the recipes in his French Laundry Cookbook, though. They are just too involved and complex for normal home cooking, although I am sure the result is phenomenal. But his cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home, I simply love and have really enjoyed cooking his recipes which are intended to be suited to a skilled home cook.  My husband Brad and I recently tried out his buttermilk fried chicken recipe which was simply delicious.  Ok, so fried chicken is not healthy enough to eat regularly (and it is something I rarely eat), but I did fry it in Canola Oil, and the result was an enjoyable treat.

Keller uses whole chickens in his recipe, which calls for two 2 1/2 to 3 pound chickens.  I made this recipe, but I only used one three pound chicken.  In addition, Keller gives detailed instructions for cutting the chicken into either an eight piece or ten piece cut.  While this is useful to know how to do, I used Fresh Direct and ordered one three pound chicken cut into eight pieces, which was perfect. This is what I recommend. I am writing up the full recipe below, as per Keller, but keep in mind that I cut all of the proportions in half.

Thomas Keller's Buttermilk Fried Chicken
two 2 1/2 to 3 lb chickens, cut into 8 pieces
chicken brine (cold)
6 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup onion powder
1 T plus 1 tsp paprika
1 T plus 1 tsp cayenne
1 T plus 1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 quart of buttermilk

Chicken Brine
5 lemons, halved
12 bay leaves
1 bunch parley
1 bunch thyme
1/2 cup clover honey
1 head garlic
1/4 cup black peppercorns
2 cups salt
2 gallons water

Brine the chicken as Keller recommends for 12 hours in the herb-lemon chicken brine, which seasons the meat and helps the chicken remain juicy throughout the frying process.

Prepare the flour seasoning mixture and use it to coat the pieces of chicken. Then dip in the buttermilk and re-dip in a second bowl with the other half of the flour seasoning.

To fry, I used a technique slightly different than Keller's technique but it worked beautifully. I used my hot pot/deep fryer and filled 1/3 full with canola oil.  I set the temperature to 320 degrees and fried each piece of chicken for between 10 and 15 minutes, depending on the size of the piece of chicken. When done. the chicken should be deep golden.

On the Fresh Direct promotion, use the code SUPPORTLOCAL to save 20% on Fresh Direct's local produce from local markets in the new york area, which you can read about and order on Fresh Direct. These local offerings are a great way to support local farmers and use farm-to-table produce in your kitchen. This is a limited time offer. Expires August 31, 2010. May not be combined with any other offer. All standard terms and conditions apply. Limit one use per customer/account. Residential orders only. Void where prohibited. Offer is non-transferable.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Chocolate NYC Subway Sign Cupcakes

By now, my readers know that I like doing unusual cupcake, whoopie pie and macaron recipes. I just bought some rose flower water that I plan in using in some new offbeat baking creations. But last weekend I made some very traditional (and still delicious cupcakes) with a fun twist. I'm sharing my favorite recipe for chocolate cupcakes (other than those amazing Guinness Stout Chocolate Cupcakes) - Julie Hassan's Chocolate Cupcakes from her book 125 Best Cupcakes, one of my favorite books of cupcake recipes.

Since I live in NYC, I decided to make these cupcakes NYC themed cupcakes.  And what's a better way to do that then making them look like NYC subways signs.  I did a number of trains on different lines, but was sure to put in some cupcakes for the train lines I have taken on my various commutes from the different places I have lived in both Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Julie Hassan's Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened dutch process cocoa
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
[I omitted the chocolate chips]

Sasha's Cream Cheese Frosting
1 stick of butter
8 oz cream cheese
3 cups confectioner's sugar
gel food coloring
[I used store bought food coloring tubes to put the letters on the frosted cupcakes]

To make the chocolate cupcakes, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, canola oil, egg and vanilla and whisk until smooth. There is no need to use a mixer. Alternatively whisk in the buttermilk and dry ingredients. Combine well and fill 12 cupcake liners. Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees fro 22-27 minutes. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make my icing, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth and then beat in the confectioner's sugar. Add the desired food colorings and frost with a spatula or a frosting bag.

Chocolate Cupcakes
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