This 4th of July my favorite cousins *wink* were in town with the wonderful exchange students, Marta & Liza. I took advantage of their presence to invite a whole passel of people over for an Independence Day celebration. People cooked, B sliced a watermelon, F made everyone laugh, JAF charmed our collective pants off, the dog had the run of the house and we all had a fantastic time.
J gave me the inspiration to cook Mom's fried chicken for late lunch/early dinner. Mom is an attorney, and I am assuming she approaches law the way she approaches cooking. She likes precision, not guesswork. However, this chicken recipe is a different thing altogether, a heretofore unknown part of her personality. She doesn't even have it written down. WTF? She emailed me an extremely imprecise recipe with no ingredient measurements or things of that nature. Although, she did discuss the temperature of the electric frying pan that I don't have. Who has an electric frying pan anymore? Mom. That's who.
I counted around 20 people coming to celebrate. Since there would definitely be more food, I bought 4 chickens cut into parts, rinsed them, dried them on paper towels and cut each giant breast into two smaller but still rather giant sized pieces. Above is only two of the four, I think.
In a paper bag I dumped flour (maybe a cup), some sea salt, some Italian seasonings, some cracked pepper and some paprika for color. After slightly drying, salting chickens and letting them sit for 20 minutes, I threw 3-5 peices at a time into the paper bag, shaking to thoroughly coat in the dry goods mixture. Then into my skillet with a little butter and vegetable oil they go. I would give you a temp for the skillet, but since mine is not electric, the temp is somewhat immaterial to me so I refrained from committing that to memory. I knew the skillet was hot enough when water droplets sizzled after being sprinkled into the fat. I preheated and cooked at a medium temp.
This is a time consuming process. Each side cooks about 12 minutes, trying to cook them equally on at least three sides. I kept a meat thermometer handy for the times when I was paying attention more to guests than to chicken. If the internal meat of the chicken reached 180, they were cooked through.
Above is more or less the finished product. Shots taken of huge piles of fried chicken on a platter are less mouth watering for some reason than the chicken still cooking in the pan. Naturally, it did not taste exactly like Mom's. However, it was delicious. Most people ate two or more pieces. Some people exclaimed over the deliciousness as soon as they bit into their first piece, D included. Thanks Mom, it was perfect.
The second dish I cooked was inspired by BoHo in Hollywood. They offer delectable oyster po' boy sliders. While EKD and I were tweeting about copying their recipe, I realized how easy it would be to make. Since I was already wandering down the Southern food path, I decided to throw these in for the party as well. Served at BoHo on a biscuit, I started with Pillsbury refrigerated dough. To my reader who asserts that I am all that is wrong with the culinary arts in this country for using anything instant or convenient, you are right. I suck. I did not make biscuits from scratch. The end.
I knew the amount of dough for a full sized biscuit would create too large of a bun for the sliders.
For a trial run, I made 50% sized and two 25%, cutting the dough and then reshaping into rounds.
They came out of the oven after 8 minutes perfectly round, brown and delicious.
50% size was juuuuuuuust right.
Liza & Marta sat at the bar keeping me company, cutting and shaping the dough for all the sliders. Four containers worth. Good work girls!
J holds the platter of mini biscuits in the sun for me to shoot. They tasted as lovely as they look despite the preservatives and chemicals, and left me plenty of time to work on the oysters. Using four 8 oz cans of fresh raw oysters from the seafood section at the Silver Lake Von's, I dunked each one in cornmeal, then buttermilk, then cornmeal again, frying them lightly in vegetable oil. Inside the bun, my European production line spread a pesto aoili (made from Mom & Sue's springtime pesto and mayo), and lined each bun with arugula before welcoming the hot little oysters to make pretty platters of oyster po' boy sliders.
Liza is vegetarian, so a half dozen of those suckers were made with battered and fried tofu. Reportedly delicious.
I know I loved them, and I also know the several dozen sliders did not last long on the platter. They were all eaten within about an hour. I was barely done cooking and they were all already gone. Just what every cook hopes for, happy and hearty eaters.
Definitely an inspired meal, dessert was motivated by the gobstoppingly delicious Mexico City Sundae served at the Rivera press preview for East LA Meets Napa last week. Vanilla bean ice cream with pine nuts, whipped cream, cinnamon and habanero caramel sauce.
I was totally winging it on this course. I looked up several caramel recipes on epicurious, deciding the best way to go about making the sauce was to infuse water with habanero oils by boiling and reducing, then substituting this for the plain water used in a regular caramel sauce, the way orange juice is used in an orange flavored caramel sauce.
There's really only one issue you need to keep in mind when boiling habaneros in water. Use a pan with a lid. I left mine open to the air, intending for the water to reduce somewhat. About 15 minutes later the entire population of my crowded kitchen were coughing and had watery eyes. D panicked, yelled at me in the bathroom that my food was smoking...I came running. Was it the fried chicken? The biscuits? The oysters? What had I left cooking that was already on fire? Nothing. Not a damn thing. But everyone looked like they were being poisoned. The oils and habanero essense were leaking into the air and the kitchen had filled with their spiciness. Most people went outside altogether. We opened some windows and doors, I covered the habanero water, and the toxins dissipated. It's not a party til someone is coughing up a lung.
Later, the caramel. Trial and error process, and thankfully sugar and water aren't expensive. I ruin one batch every time I cook caramel. Why do I not follow directions in a recipe? I have a mental block. I typically read the directions quickly, then cast them aside wantonly and go for it. Some recipes require more precision, correct amounts of ingredients, and appropriate tool use. Thank goodness for H, A, R & R. They stood by my side through a couple batches of caramel til we got a worthy product. Maybe next time I will do it right the first time.
Habanero caramel sauce. I also made a non-habanero batch for the fearful. Really, this was not that spicy. I could been more daring.
Drizzled over, (*gasp*, not homemade?), Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean ice cream
Whipped cream and cinnamon, with pine nuts under the whip. Thanks to R for making a beautiful whipped cream. Both sets of dessert were a wonderful way to end the meal. By this time we were all sitting around the chimenea with our shoes off, talking and listening to the fireworks. My European sous chefs long gone, an LA Galaxy match completing their world wind tour of Los Angeles while taking care of J's somewhat fragile emotional state.
It was all my pleasure to meet you, Marta & Liza. I enjoyed spending time with you and appreciated your endless support in the kitchen. Thanks for bringing my cousins to me and spending such a lovely day with my family.
Happy Birthday, United States of America.
Happy Birthday to you.