Tag Archives: Carol

FRIED CHICKEN AND CREAM GRAVY

Fried chicken has always been popular in our family. Probably it is in most families. And there have been lots of family cooks who have staked their reputation on their version of the delicacy.

My mother was celebrated among her family contemporaries as the champion, and her special family dinner was always fried chicken, mashed potatoes and cream gravy. A picnic in the mountains was an anticipated treat of childhood. My mother would fry up two chickens, pack them into a big glass jar that she reserved for the occasion, and arrange the jar in the back window of our Willys Overland Americar to keep the chicken warm until we reached our destination. (Why none of us ever came down with a fatal food-borne illness I will never know.) At the picnic table we would reach into the jar and pull out a favorite piece – or the back if we were too late. There was never any chicken left.

My mother-in-law often served fried chicken when family had gathered around her table at the farm. The crispy skin and juicy meat  stimulated sibling rivalry at the table, sometimes triggereing mild rebuke from PopPop, the patriarch, who had high expectations for table manners.

Sarah, also known as Sally Hurricane, has for years made fried chicken for family meals at the restaurants where she has worked. Now she serves an off-menu treat at RT Rotisserie that is known as Sally Hurricane’s Southern Fried Chicken. I have written about it in this journal, and there is a story about it in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Susan and Carol also make some mean versions of fried chicken, but Susan has largely turned from cooking to gardening, and Carol doesn’t like to fry things. So, for a recent Sunday family dinner I decided to make fried chicken (one of Carol’s all-time favorite foods) with salt-crusted fingerling potatoes instead of the usual mashers but keeping the traditional cream gravy.

Inspired by a recent visit to RT Rotisserie, I have been thinking about fried chicken a lot lately. RT ages its chickens before roasting them on the rotisserie. The cooks arrange trussed chickens on big racks in a large cold room in order to dry them a bit and make the skin crispier. That’s similar to what is done to make the skin on Peking duck so crispy.

Also, I have become interested in slower cooking: a potato baked longer at a lower temperature seems fluffier, and a braise at a lower temperature seems more flavorful. (Think crock pot?) Usually I start frying chicken at a high temperature until it is brown and then reduce the temperature to complete the cooking. I thought that I would give “slow from the start” a chance. All in all, my experiments turned out ok. I thought the chicken was crispy and tasty. What more can one ask? One important thing I did learn was that when you fry chicken at a lower temperature be sure to get the skin as dark as you want it before you turn it. Turn each chicken piece only once; otherwise it will stick to the pan and you’ll lose the crispy skin that you have been trying so hard to achieve.

RECIPE

Fried Chicken and Cream Gravy

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons canola or peanut oil for frying
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock

Method

  1. Using a very sharp large chef’s knife, cut the chicken into serving pieces. You should wind up with 2 wings, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 or 3 pieces of breast meat depending on how you cut it up, and the back, which you can fry after cutting into 2 pieces or for some other purpose such as making chicken stock. If you prefer, you can buy ready-prepared chicken parts.
  2. Place the cut-up chicken in a large pie plate and set in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight. Turn occasionally while it rests.
  3. When you are ready to fry the chicken, combine the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and poultry seasoning in a sealable quart plastic bag. Mix well, then reserve 2 tablespoons in a separate bowl to be used later for making cream gravy.
  4. Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-low heat. Make sure it is up to heat before you add the chicken. (I used a ceramic cooktop set at 2.4 with a full range of 10)
  5. When the frying pan is heated, add one piece of chicken to the plastic bag, seal and shake. Remove the chicken from the bag, shake loose any excess flour mixture and place in the hot oil, skin side down.
  6. Repeat the process until all of the pieces of chicken have been floured and added to the frying pan. If you have one, cover with a spatter shield. Do not cover with a lid.
  7. Fry the chicken without turning for 15 minutes or until the skin has browned to your liking. Turn the chicken pieces and continue to fry, again not turning, for another 15 minutes or until the chicken is well browned and cooked through. An instant-read thermometer may be useful at this point. The internal temperature of the chicken should read 170°F.
  8. Transfer the fried chicken to a large plate and place in a warm oven until the gravy is made.
  9. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the frying oil and return the pan to the heat. In a Mason jar, combine the reserved flour mixture, milk and chicken stock, seal with a screw lid and shake until completely mixed. Add  the mixture to the heated frying oil.
  10. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a low boil and cook until it thickens, about 3 minutes. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve while still warm along with the fried chicken.

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FOUR-CHEESE-STUFFED PHYLLO TORTE

Our six-months probationary period is up, and I think we now qualify as Angelinos. We drive, relatively terror-free, on the 405 and think nothing of an hour+ cross-town odyssey for a 15 minute appointment. The very best part of our transplant has been getting more involved with our children and their families. As part of that, the Sunday dinner has become a firmly entrenched tradition that we all anticipate each week.

I have written a number of times about our family dinner. The guidelines are fairly straightforward: the venue alternates between our home and Carol’s family home; whoever hosts is responsible for the main dish and sides; the other is responsible for appetizer and dessert; both bring a bottle of wine that is interesting; cleanup is sort of a joint effort except that the home team winds up finishing the dishes. These guidelines have remained intact except that the appetizer has been dropped from the menu. That is because even without it, there is a lot of food. Everyone is on a diet, and I have gained 10 pounds since moving to Los Angeles. Of course, this dish is not responsible for all of my weight gain, but it certainly helped push us to dropping the appetizer rule.

The recipe is an adaptation of one from Melissa Clark of New York Times fame by way of Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift in their cookbook, The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Weekends. If you choose to make it, I guarantee that there will be gasps of amazement when you bring the finished torte to the table. Then there will be complete quiet as folks sit around wolfing down the whole thing. At the same time, it is easier to make than you might think. I know that Carol saves it for special occasions. You might want to do that, too.

 

RECIPE

Four-Cheese-Stuffed Phyllo Torte

Ingredients

  • 2 cups feta cheese, drained, dried, and crumbled
  • 1½ cups cottage cheese, drained
  • 1½ cups Asiago cheese
  • 1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh dill fronds
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • zest from ½ lemon
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 package frozen phyllo dough, thawed according to instructions on the carton
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • honey

Method

  1. In a large bowl, prepare the filling by combining the four cheeses, onion, dill, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, and salt. Stir in the eggs, and set aside.
  2. Unfold the stack of phyllo leaves on a work surface covered with plastic wrap. Cover the stack with another layer of plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel. Keep unused sheets of dough from drying out while you work with individual sheets.
  3. Brush the inside of a 12-inch Bundt pan with some of the melted butter. Lay a sheet of phyllo across the pan, pushing it down against the sides of the pan and breaking a hole around the center tube of the pan. Repeat in a crisscross fashion with additional sheets of phyllo until the inside of the pan is completely covered with many layers of the dough.
  4. Fill the lined Bundt pan with the cheese filling, folding the free ends of the phyllo sheets over the filling and pressing it together gently. With a sharp knife, pierce the assembled torte all the way through to the bottom of the pan in many places – 2 or 3 dozen. Pour the remaining melted butter over the torte.
  5. Place on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 375°F for 75 minutes or until the torte is browned and puffy.
  6. Cool in the pan for 1 to 2 hours.
  7. When ready to serve, unmold the tart by flipping it onto an inverted plate. Remove the baking pan, garnish the torte as you please, and serve. Pass honey to be drizzled over individual slices as desired.

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POACHED PEACHES AND RASPBERRY SAUCE: PÊCHES CARDINAL

It was Carol’s turn to create the main menu for our weekly family dinner. (Soon I hope to share some of her recipes.) She always comes up with an array of interesting dishes that go well together. Did I mention she is a good cook IMHO? This past Sunday she made some delicious toasted walnuts with rosemary, sea salt, and brown sugar for the happy hour. The walnuts were impossible to resist. Then she served a salad of tomatoes, shaved fennel and green beans, all from the farmers market. The main dish was grilled shrimp wrapped in prosciutto. Corn on the cob and muffins made with zucchini from the farmers market rounded out the menu. As usual, my assignment was dessert.

This time of year it is so easy to build a meal with offerings from the farmers market, and  I followed the theme. Peaches and other stone fruit are at the height of their season along with berries of all sorts. This past Saturday we went to the Torrance Market, one of the largest in the Los Angeles area, instead of our smaller local event. The choices available were astounding. One of the biggest stalls specializes in stone fruit, so I could choose yellow peaches, white peaches, yellow nectarines, white nectarines, pluots, plums, all with several varieties of each. Remembering a classic recipe from the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I went with white peaches that, from the samples available, were much sweeter than the yellow varieties. I had to go to the berry booth to find plump and fresh raspberries.

The recipe for pêches cardinal is deceptively simple: poach the peaches in a heavy syrup; make a sauce with the raspberries; cover the peaches with the sauce; serve. Of course, you can embellish the dish with ice cream, whipped cream, toasted nuts and/or whatever appeals to you. However, the devil is in the details, as they say. The peaches should be poached in a single layer with their skins intact. The raspberries should be forced through a sieve to form a puree without the seeds. If you don’t take that somewhat tedious step, the seeds will haunt you in the finished dish, even if you use a Vitamix to make the final sauce. And all of that is worth the effort, because the sauce becomes velvety. Warn your guests that the peaches still have their pits. Even though the preparation is easy, the result is both elegant and delicious.

RECIPE

Poached Peaches and Raspberry Sauce: Pêches Cardinal

Ingredients

  • 6 cups water
  • 2¼ cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 6 fresh, ripe, unblemished peaches
  • 2 pints raspberries, 18 raspberries set aside for garnish
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • 6 mint sprigs for garnish
  • sweetened whipped cream for garnish
  • chopped toasted walnuts for garnish
  • vanilla ice cream (optional)

Method

  1. In a large saucepan that will hold the peaches in a single layer, combine the water, sugar and vanilla extract. Bring to a simmer, stirring to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the peaches, and return to the simmer. Turning the peaches occasionally, simmer them for 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool for 20 minutes. Drain the peaches on a rack, and peel while still warm. Arrange the peaches in a deep serving dish, and chill in the refrigerator.
  2. Force the raspberries through a sieve to remove the seeds. You should wind up with about 1 cup of raspberry puree. Combine the puree with sugar. Blend in a Vitamix or conventional blender on a high setting for 3 minutes. The mixture should thicken and turn a beautiful pink color. Chill.
  3. When both the peaches and raspberry sauce are well chilled, spoon the sauce over the peaches, and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  4. When you are ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator and garnish with the reserved raspberries, mint sprigs, whipped cream, and walnuts. Serve in bowls along with a scoop of ice cream, if desired.

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RECENT FAMILY FEASTS AND HOMEMADE ROLLS

The holidays of spring are nearly over, and I have been eyeing my bathroom scale with disbelief. My son and his family were in SoCal this past week because of a family situation that did not foster celebration. They’re back in the Bay Area with the plan to observe a family Seder last night. Carol invited us to her house for a feast on Sunday. And a feast it was! I spent several days making gravlax along with a Swedish dill-mustard sauce from a recipe of a dear, old-time friend. That, along with garlic crostini, deviled eggs (some stuffed with shrimp), and olives, made the appetizers for our Happy Hour on the patio while watching the sun go down over the ocean. Why wouldn’t you like Southern California?

But that was only a modest prelude to the meal that lay ahead. Here’s the menu:

  • roasted leg of lamb
  • stuffed mushrooms
  • rice pilaf with currents and hazelnuts
  • fresh green peas, snap peas, and watercress sprouts
  • Moroccan carrots

Susan made two contributions to the meal. First she made a batch of rolls from her mother’s recipe. Over the years we had had them at many meals on the farm when there weren’t biscuits. They were always popular – and delicious. She also made coconut cupcakes at the request of one of the young folks. Then they decorated them with frosting, shredded coconut and nerds (I lost points when that was the only candy I could find at the store, but they actually turned out to be a positive addition to the final version.)

Carol has a very large collection of cookbooks, and she is always looking for different versions of common foods along with unusual foods. Over the years she has gradually brought her whole family out of the doldrums of eating only meat and potatoes. She also always puts her own twist on the recipe.  I’m not sure of the source recipes of several of the dishes, but I know that the Moroccan carrots came from Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook (W.W. Norton and Co, New York, 2010) The dish is delicious, and Carol used a mix of various colors of carrot to create a stunning visual effect. The same thing was true with a dish of fresh green peas and snap peas. The recipe called for pea tendrils, but my son-in-law struck out looking for them in several stores, and the farmers’ market was closed for Easter. Carol, always innovative, substituted watercress sprouts. IMHO the substitution improved the dish.

Kevin had bought some special wine for the occasion, and I contributed a bottle of Klinker Brick old vine zinfandel from last year’s visit to Lodi.

Needless to say, it was a very special and memorable family evening.

Here’s the recipe for Mom Mom’s homemade rolls.

RECIPE

Mom Mom’s Homemade Rolls

Ingredients

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • ½ cup lukewarm water
  • 2 eggs
  • 6½ cups all-purpose flour

Method

  1. Place sugar, shortening, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Scald milk and pour over ingredients in bowl. Stir until mixed, and let cool.
  3. Dissolve yeast in water.
  4. Beat eggs lightly and add to yeast mixture. Then add these ingredients to the cooled milk mixture.
  5. Beat in the flour to form a smooth dough. Allow to rise until doubled (about 2 hours) or refrigerate for later use.
  6. Shape into rolls and place in greased muffin pans. Let rise again until doubled.
  7. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes or until browned to your liking

Makes 36 medium rolls

Cook’s Note: The easiest shape is to cut out circles with a biscuit cutter and place them in the pans. You can make fancier shapes by rolling balls of dough between your palms; clover leaf rolls with three small balls dipped in melted butter and placed 3 to each cup; fan-tans with 5 or 6 layers of rolled-out dough separated with melted butter and cut into squares; Parker House with flattened balls of dough with an off-set crease cut across them, topped with melted butter, folded on the crease,  and baked on a greased cookie sheet.

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SMOKED SALMON NIÇOISE

Carol invited us to dinner last night. She was having salmon. She likes it, but her husband does not. He had to work late, so it was the perfect opportunity for her to have a dinner of salmon. It turned out to be relatively easy and absolutely delicious.

The thing that made the dish especially good was that Carol smoked the salmon in her Camerons stove-top smoker. That is definitely a kitchen gadget to have, even if you don’t use it very often. The standard model is a stainless steel pan with collapsible handles and an air-tight lid designed to keep smoke inside the pan and not in the kitchen (It really works.) Inside are a flat tray and a rack. You put a pile of very small wood chips (purchased from Camerons, of course.) in the bottom of the pan, cover with the tray, and arrange the food to be smoked on the rack. Slide the cover nearly but not-quite closed and put the whole contraption over two burners on your range. The heat from the burners should be low to medium–low – enough to get the wood chips smoking but not so hot that the food burns. When the first wisps of smoke begin to come out, push the lid completely closed. There should be no leaks. Then smoke the food for the desired time. In the case of salmon, about 20 minutes should do. Remove from the heat for a few minutes and then remove the lid. You will smell the smoke, but it should not invade the kitchen. Check to make sure the food is cooked to your liking. If not, you can close the lid again and heat for another few minutes.

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If you don’t have a smoker, you can accomplish the same thing by basting the salmon with a mixture of ½ teaspoon liquid smoke and 2 teaspoons soy sauce before broiling in the oven.

RECIPE

Smoked Salmon Niçoise

Ingredients

  • 1 pound salmon filet, bones removed
  • 4 cups lettuce cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced (see post on how to peel a hard-boiled egg)
  • 8 small new potatoes, boiled, chilled, and cut into 1½ inch chunks
  • 2 cups green beans, cut in 2 inch lengths, blanched, cooked, and chilled
  • 20 pitted black olives
  • 4 teaspoons drained capers
  • 10 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • homemade vinaigrette or your favorite bottled salad dressing

Method

  1. Pat the salmon dry and place in the smoker. Smoke according to instructions with the smoker.
  2. In the meantime, arrange the lettuce in the middle of each of 4 plates.
  3. Arrange the sliced eggs, potatoes, beans, olives, capers, and tomatoes equally among the plates.
  4. Remove the salmon from the smoker, cut into 4 equal slices and arrange on the plates.
  5. Season as needed with salt and pepper
  6. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve immediately.

 

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CHOPPED CHICKEN LIVER

We found a container of frozen chicken livers in our chest freezer. Susan thought that was an invitation to make chopped chicken liver to spread on toast for a light dinner during our current heat wave. That sounded like a good idea. We have several recipes, but I wanted to try something that was possibly more “authentic.”

I turned to Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook, which is an up-to-date, authoritative cookbook that has become a consistent go-to. She had a recipe for chopped chicken livers from Russ and Daughters on East Houston Street on the Lower Eastside. What could be more authentic than that?

Between them, our two girls lived in New York City for a number of years. Actually, for much of the time  they lived close to Manhattan. Carol lived in Hoboken while it was “cheap”. Now the hipsters have moved in, and it is no longer cheap. Every day she rode the bus through the Lincoln Tunnel to the Port Authority close to her job at the McGraw-Hill building.

Sarah lived in Hoboken for a time, too. She took the PATH to the World Trade Center. Then she moved to a couple of places in Queens, including a walk-up in Long Island City. The apartment was directly over an auto body shop, but it had a definite advantage. If you crawled out of the kitchen window you could enjoy a “terrace” that was actually the roof of the auto shop. There were no guard rails, so there was danger of falling into the salvage yard behind the garage, protected by two snarling, leaping, unchained German shepherds (They’re called “junk yard dogs”). When you were out on the terrace, but only if you balanced on a chair, you could see the tallest spires of a bit of the Manhattan skyline. I think New York realtors call that a peek-a-boo view. I don’t think the neighborhood is in danger of gentrification.

Years later, I saw the movie, Julie and Julia. I am convinced that they used Sarah’s apartment for one of the sets for that movie.

Eventually, Sarah and Evan moved to the Red Square Apartments on East Houston on the Lower Eastside. To this day you can recognize the building by the clock with random numbers and the 18 foot statue of Lenin with his arms outstretched in the direction of Wall Street. This neighborhood has undergone gentrification. Sarah and Evan probably couldn’t afford to live there anymore. There are multiple high-rise condominium buildings along with a fancy new grocery store AND a giant Whole Foods.

This is a long-winded introduction to tell you about the culinary delights of East Houston. There is more than one Punjabi takeout for the taxi drivers. There are several tiny but well known restaurants with long lines for Sunday brunch. But the jewels of eating are on the south side of Houston. The most famous is undoubtedly Katz’s Delicatessen, saved from threatened destruction during the gentrification process. The place is not to be missed. Just remember to follow precisely the instructions for diners before you start the process, especially in keeping track of your bill. You will be rewarded by one of the largest, most delicious pastrami (or whatever meat you choose) sandwiches you have ever had.

Then there’s Yonah Schimmel for knishes. The place goes back more than a hundred years, and I think it has not been renovated in a hundred years. Honestly, I am not a big fan of knishes, but this is the real thing, and just like an IHOP pancake it will stick to your ribs all day long.

My favorite food stop, though, is Russ and Daughters, specializing in smoked fish, caviar, herring, and related delicacies. It, too, dates back to more than a hundred years ago. It looks like it was updated in the 1930s, with art deco signs and lettering, straight out of a black and white movie with Nick and Nora Charles. The phalanx of servers is intimidating and definitely no-nonsense, but they turn out to be friendly (as much as you can expect), fast, and efficient. Besides their lox, they are famous for their chopped chicken livers. Here’s an interpretation of their recipe:

Chopped Chicken Liver

I thawed one container of frozen chicken livers, about one pound. I rinsed them and blotted them dry. Then I fried them in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, about 3 minutes on each side, and set them aside on a plate. Using a sharp chef’s knife, I chopped them coarsely. (You can use a food processor, but then the delicate livers will turn to mush.)

I hard-boiled three eggs, chilled them, and peeled them. Using a fork, I mashed them coarsely.

I diced two large yellow onions. Then I caramelized them in a sauté pan in 2 tablespoons of vegetable shortening, about 40 minutes.

Finally, I combined the sautéed chicken livers, mashed eggs, and caramelized onions. I adjusted seasoning with salt and pepper, and chilled in the refrigerator for an hour before serving with rye flat breads.

I’m not sure my recipe is authentic, but it turned out to be very tasty.

 

 

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FIVE YEARS AND COUNTING

On July 16, 2011 I published my first post on From the Family Table. It was about a fresh green pea soup made with pea pod stock. So, this is the fifth anniversary of my blog. During that time I have published 353 posts and nearly as many recipes. Looking back on that first effort I am struck by the amateurish image and the clumsy narrative. I think – at least I hope – that things have gotten better.

Five years ago my two daughters were at low points in their careers, and so I thought that working together on a cookbook might give them a break that they needed. We agreed on cooking with corn as a theme as there didn’t seem to be any books quite like that. (I soon discovered that the premise was wrong.) I started reading about the history of corn and collecting recipes from wherever I could find them, including the original editions of the Boston Cooking School Cookbook (by Fannie Farmer) and the Joy of Cooking. I learned a great deal. Cornbread alone provides enough material for a thick cookbook. In fact, it already has – several times.

In the meantime, the careers of both girls took off. Sarah became caught up in opening a new restaurant, and now she’s working on her own cookbook. Carol took on added responsibilities in her office, and now she is busy and happy with family and professional activities. Needless to say, their interest in the cookbook project faded. At the same time I was buying and reading books on food styling, food photography, and book publishing. One of the books made a strong recommendation that in this modern world a blog was required for recognition. Recognition, of course, was needed to provide credibility with editors and publishers. I had visions of book contracts, photo shoots,  and maybe even a TV spot or two.

Five years have passed, and to date nothing has happened with the corn cookbook,  I don’t have any book contracts, nor have I gotten any solicitations from the Food Network. What I have gotten is a lot of satisfaction in writing and imaging  the food that I make or enjoy in a restaurant. More importantly, I have made friends all over the world. And even though I have never met most them, I have gotten to learn about their families and their adventures, marvel at their cooking skills, and share in some of the joys – and disappointments – that go with living life. I’d like to thank all of them – I wish I could do it personally – for their readership, their gracious comments, and their generosity.

I’m not sure how much longer I can think of new things to write about. It gets harder the longer I write and the older I get. But I’ll keep doing it as long as I continue to enjoy it. Thanks again to all of my internet friends. I plan to celebrate the day with cake and candles. Oh, and maybe a glass of nice wine while I sit in my back yard and enjoy the sunset.

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