Friday, March 2, 2012

Whole Foods Friday: Fried chicken and a light drink

How about some fried chicken? This is a shallow-fried chicken, so you won't be left with a vat of oil. The chicken ends up very moist, with a nice crust.

And there's a secret in this recipe that might rock your world. The first dredge is not in the usual flour. Oh no, this one starts of with cornstarch. Have you ever fried chicken (or fish) and had the crust fall right off? The cornstarch helps to prevent that.

Shhhh ... don't tell anyone I told you.

A lot of fried chicken recipes start with a soak in buttermilk, but this one spends time in yogurt, instead. It has the same result, but these days yogurt is a lot more common at grocery stores - and you can buy small quantities instead of a whole quart of buttermilk.

Seasoning goes into the buttermilk and the flour for a double-dose of flavor. You can go crazy with herbs and spices, but this time I wanted the chicken to be the star. Just a little seasoning, and whole lot of chicken flavor.

Fried Chicken

1 chicken, cut up (or equivalent in pieces)
1 cup yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 egg
1 cup all purpose flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
Oil, for frying

Put the chicken in a zip-top bag and add the yogurt, salt, and paprika. Massage the chicken in the bag so the yogurt and spices are evenly coating the chicken pieces.

Refrigerate for at least an hour or up to about eight.

Have your breading station ready before you start cooking. Flat bowls or lipped plates work well. Have the cornstarch in one; the egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water in the second; and the flour seasoned to taste with salt, pepper (and, if you want it, a pinch of cayenne) in the last bowl.

Remove the chicken from the bag and pat (mostly) dry. You don't need to be fanatic about it, but remove the majority of the yogurt.

Heat about 1/2 inch of oil on medium-high heat in a heavy pan with a lid.

Dip the chicken into the cornstarch first. Shake off any excess. Dip into the egg and let the excess drain off. Dip into the flour, and shake off the excess.

Fry the chicken until all sides are nicely browned, working in batches if necessary to keep from overcrowding the pan.

Once all the pieces are browned, cover the pan (returning any pieces of chicken you removed to make room).

Lower the heat to medium and cook until the juices in the chicken no longer run pink - 30 to 45 minutes depending on the size of the pieces and how long it took you to brown them in the first step.

When the chicken is done, let it drain for a few moments on a rack to let the clinging oil drip off.

Serve hot. Or cold. There's not much better than cold fried chicken the next day.

Moscato and Blood Orange Cocktail

This is an incredibly simple drink - just two ingredients. But it's a pretty pink and festively bubbly. The sweetness and bubbles cut some of the richness of the fried chicken, and the tartness of the orange adds brightness.

Moscato is a fairly sweet wine, but still light - not like as sweet as an eiswein or a sweet sherry, for example.

To make it, simply squeeze the juice from a blood orange into your glass and top with moscato. That's all there is to it. You can garnish it with segments of blood orange if you like.

For more information about Whole Foods Friday, see the tab right up there at the top.