Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fritalian Chicken

 If you know anything about my gustatory habits, you probably know that, while I tend to stick to what I know when ordering food at a restaurant (and have been, on occasion, called "picky"), when I actually make a meal... I like to experiment. When I'm eating, a ham sandwich is great; when I'm cooking, a ham sandwich is boring. When, eventually, I end up running my Viking pub, I don't want to just make traditional Scandinavian food, or traditional pub food. I want to make food with Viking spirit. Inventive, powerful, daring food; inspired, not only by my heritage, but by combinations of styles from everywhere the Norse people went (which is a far greater variety of locales than you probably realize). And it was, in this spirit, that I decided that I would attempt to combine food from two very different places, and do something I had never attempted in any way.

I'd never breaded anything, nor had I ever fried chicken. Breading should be easy: roll something wet in bread crumbs, and the bread crumbs will stick, right? My only lesson in frying chicken was from Minnie Jackson in The Help... Minnie don't burn chicken. In my experience jumping all the way into uncertain waters, it either goes exceptionally well, or exceptionally poorly, and rarely falls on any sort of middle ground... I expected this would be no different, and my girlfriend and her family were very nice to allow me to use them as my guinea pigs.

What I did:
To start, I bought a whole chicken to butcher. Another thing I'd never tried.
He has no idea what he's in for.
Next, I took fresh rosemary, sage, and oregano leaves (16 oz. each), half a bulb of fresh garlic, and two jars of Best Foods (because, as far as I'm concerned, there aren't any other companies making mayonnaise) Olive Oil mayonnaise, and mixed them in a bowl.

and added a whole bulb of garlic which I'd been roasting in olive oil
in case you didn't know what roasting garlic looked like.

because just one kind of garlic is not enough. Just one bulb of garlic is not enough. (side note... the mayonnaise spread that came out of this experiment is delicious, but I will not be putting it on a sandwich to eat before going to a job interview)
With all the garlic added to the mix, it was time for my girlfriend's adorable immersion blender to join the party.

Seriously, am I not just super cute right now?
With the marinade blended, and the whole house smelling like Little Italy (minus the sweat), I put most of it back into the mayonnaise jars (seriously, if you're in the area and want to come over for one of the most delicious sandwiches ever, feel free), and the rest went into a large ziplock bag with the massacred chicken carcass (turns out I'm not a great butcher yet) to sit in the fridge over night.

The next day, my girlfriend (who is the one I go to with questions like, "We should probably put some vegetables on the plate right?" and, "What kind of food, that never moved of it's own volition, do people eat?") and I went to the store to figure out our side dish. What we settled on was red potatoes, broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, and asparagus spears. This mixture (cut into slices or chunks) was cooked in a pan with crushed tomatoes and their juices, as well as various seasonings, I think (can you tell I paid slightly less attention to the vegetables than to the meat?).
The chicken was wiped nearly clean of the mayonnaise/spread/marinade, and breaded in Panko Parmesan breadcrumbs, mixed with shredded parmesan cheese because, seriously, there can never be enough parmesan. The wings, drumettes, drumsticks, and thighs were placed in a pan of hot vegetable oil, and fried on medium high heat for ten minutes skin-side down, then flipped and fried for twenty more minutes over medium low heat, while the breasts were baked in a pan at 450ish degrees for 30 minutes, skin-side down, then flipped and baked for another 25 minutes at 500 degrees (meanwhile, the fried pieces were being kept at about 110 degrees in the toaster oven because I hadn't quite thought through the timing). Finally, with everyone on the brink of starvation (partially because it was about 8pm, and partially because the house just smelled so damn good), the food was all ready, and was served with a creamy alfredo/four-cheese alfredo mixture, to which I had added melted goat cheese, more parmesan, and a couple spoonfulls of the Italian seasoning mayonnaise from the fridge. The end result was this beautiful disaster:
Served with some $11 red wine, because we classy.
In the end, the taste was great. The chicken was well cooked, and ridiculously soft and (there needs to be a better word to use here than) moist on the inside, while crispy on the outside. The vegetables were slightly soft, but still had some crunch, and very good flavor. Yes, I actually ate the vegetables... mostly. And the wine was as good as ever (Apothic Red: probably my favorite relatively cheap wine).

What I will do differently next time:
To save myself a fair amount of time and energy, at the expense of a dollar or so, I will buy a pre-butchered chicken. Then I will double the amount of rosemary, sage, and oregano in the marinade, as well as adding half a bulb of fresh garlic... then I will let it marinate for at least two days... perhaps up to five. I will forgo the bread crumbs on the fried chicken, in favor of a flour, buttermilk, parmesan, and Italian seasoning mixture, in hopes of avoiding the problem I had this time with all the breading falling off when I took it out of the pan. Also, instead of vegetable oil, I will use rosemary infused grapeseed oil. Oh, and I'll start baking the breasts half an hour before the rest of the chicken starts frying... and I won't put the frying pan over a high-output burner (or, if I do, I will turn the temperature down slightly) in order to avoid the breading getting burned before the meat has finished cooking.

In the end:
Some (more perfected) version of this recipe will be on my menu... so if you're drooling all over the place, and would get up right now and make it for yourself if not for fear of slipping in the puddle, you are welcome to come in and try it some day.