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Monday, May 02, 2016

Not Quite Nashville Hot Chicken in a Biscuit

There's this thing called Hot Chicken that is popping up here and there, even in Baltimore (at least at KFC). This specialty of Nashville, Tennessee is typically marinated in spices, breaded, fried, and then coated in a cayenne-rich paste or oil. It's red in color and definitely hot.

Spicy hot food releases endorphins, feel-good chemicals that make us want more. At least, those who can tolerate heat. Some people are just crazy with the amount of capsaicin they are willing to ingest. Us, not so much. While we enjoy hot foods, we're not "chileheads" by any stretch of the imagination. So while I did spice up this fried chicken a bit, it's still quite enjoyable by all and sundry. If you are a chilehead, feel free to add more cayenne to the chicken coating and to the sauce. Hell, add it to the biscuit, if you want.

Really, though, this post is more about making dinner with what we had on hand rather than going along with a food fad. I've been really lazy recently, not thinking ahead about what we're going to eat when it's my turn to cook (the weekend). And when Saturday comes, I'm digging through the freezer, hoping we have some good raw materials to work with. Thankfully, we usually do. This time, we had packages of boneless skinless chicken thighs. We also had three sweet potatoes hanging around (Mr Minx doesn't like them particularly) and a bulb of fennel that I had purchased on impulse the week before. I've made hash before with those same ingredients (and it was pretty good) but I hate repeating myself. I thought I could hide one of the sweet potatoes in a batch of biscuits, and fried chicken seemed like a good thing to put in one of those biscuits. With slaw on top, using fennel rather than the typical cabbage.

I have a somewhat embarrassing confession to make: I was a fried chicken virgin until the middle of last year. Oh, I've eaten my fair share over the years, but I'd never cooked it before. I was afraid of making a greasy mess while stinking up the house and ending up with either burnt or raw chicken. Last year, we wrote a book about Maryland cuisine and including a version of Maryland fried chicken was a must. At long last, it was time to get over my fear of frying. I purchased a cast iron skillet.

Maryland fried chicken is shallow-fried, then steamed. It's just as crispy-coated and moistly delicious as deep-fried chicken, only it's not nearly as messy. Or smelly. Once I figured out the proper cooking times (a lot of published recipes don't allow nearly enough time for the coating to brown) and got the technique down, I felt like a chicken frying pro. It was easy, and results were delicious.

If you're a novice, try my recipe. If you don't want spicy chicken, just put some salt and pepper in the flour. Don't worry about buttermilk soaks or egg washes or anything else. Just seasoned flour, chicken, and hot oil. And a cast iron skillet.

Spicy Chicken Biscuit Sandwich with Fennel Slaw
BTW, I used to love those crackers, Chicken in a Biskit, even though they don't taste like chicken nor particularly like biscuits.

For the biscuits:
1 large sweet potato
1/3 cup half and half, plus more
1 3/4 cups AP flour, plus more
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons of cold salted butter, cut into small pieces
Melted butter for brushing tops

For the fennel slaw:
1 large bulb fennel
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives (can use whatever onion you prefer)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1-2 teaspoons agave syrup or superfine sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

For the chicken:
6 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, cut in half
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 - 1 teaspoon cayenne
Fat for frying (lard or vegetable oil, or a combo of the two)

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 or more tablespoons of your favorite hot sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch salt

To make the biscuits: Peel the potato and cut into 1" chunks. Place in a pan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn down to a simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Drain pot and mash potatoes. Pack mashed potato into a measuring cup. You should have one cup of sweet potato. If you have more, eat the rest. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Once sweet potatoes are cool, add the 1/3 cup of half and half to them and stir to combine. Combine the 1 3/4 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, stirring well with a fork. Add the butter and combine with your fingers, a pastry blender, or two knives, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Gently fold in the sweet potato, adding a dribble more half and half if the dough seems too stiff, a pinch more flour if it seems too wet.

Flour your hands well and grab small handfuls of the dough. Gently roll into a ball, then flatten into a fat disc. Place discs on a parchment-lined baking sheet--touching if you want soft sides, not touching if you like crispier biscuits. You should be able to get between 9 and 12 biscuits, depending on how big you make them. Brush tops with a little melted butter. Place in preheated oven and bake for 12-18 minutes (depending on how many you made; bigger biscuits need more time), until light golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove biscuits to a wire rack until ready to serve.

To make slaw: You can do this while the sweet potato is boiling. Cut stalks off of bulb, retaining some of the fronds. Rinse well and cut off any discolored bits on the outermost layer. Cut the bulb in half and make a triangular cut at the bottom to cut away the core. Grate the fennel with a hand grater or a food processor. Remove fennel to a large bowl; chop the fronds and add to the rest of the fennel. Add the chives.

In another bowl, combine the mayo, rice wine, and agave syrup or sugar (more or less depending on how sweet you like your slaw). Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make chicken: Combine flour with salt and peppers in a plastic zip-top bag. Place the chicken pieces in the bag, one at a time, and shake to coat with flour. Place coated chicken on a plate to rest.

Heat 1/4-inch of fat in a large, heavy-bottomed, frying pan (a cast iron skillet is ideal) over medium-high heat. Put the chicken pieces in the hot fat and cook for about five minutes without disturbing them, until crusty and browned on the bottoms; turn each piece and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over again, cover the pan partway, turn the heat down to medium, and allow the chicken to steam for 8-10 minutes. A meat thermometer stuck into the meatiest part of the chicken should read no less than 165°F. Remove the cover and cook an additional couple minutes on both sides if it hasn’t browned to your liking.

Drain chicken on paper towel-lined plates. Salt and pepper pieces as soon as they come out of the pan.

To make sauce: combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve: Split biscuits with a fork. Top with a piece of chicken, a dollop of sauce, then a big spoonful of the slaw. Close biscuit and eat. Repeat.

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Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Flashback Friday - Linguini and White Clam Sauce

Mr Minx loves his pasta. I love his pasta, too.

--Kathy

This post was originally published on September 11, 2009.
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Linguini and White Clam Sauce

Mr. Minx here to talk about our dinner from Labor Day: linguine and white clam sauce with shrimp thrown in for good measure.

Most of my favorite dishes involve pasta and liguini and white clam sauce is probably my second favorite thing to eat next to spaghetti and meatballs. It was a bit of a revelation for me when I first had it as a teenager because, up to that time, I thought all pasta dishes had to have a thick, heavy sauce and/or a heavy meat component like beef or pork. When made properly, liguini and white clam sauce is light and creamy with a mild seafood flavor enhanced with bright parsley notes.



I started making liguini and clam sauce after I had it at a family get-together. My Aunt Kathleen made it for us, which was a bit of a shock since her culinary ball park was more meat and potatoes. I was sitting next to my Uncle Al and, midway through the meal, he leaned over to me and said, "This is the kind of dish I just want to keep eating and eating." I had to agree as the flavors had an almost hypnotic effect on me. He and I polished off the very last remnants of liguini in the kitchen after the rest of the family had left the table. When I asked my Aunt Kathleen about the recipe, she said, "Oh, it's really easy. You just follow the recipe on the can of clams." I did just that for many years.

There are several recipes out there, but the simplest way to make white clam sauce is to saute two cloves of chopped garlic in about a 1/4 cup of olive oil. Once the garlic is lightly cooked, pour in the juice from a can of chopped or minced clams and bring it to a simmer. Let is simmer for a few minutes and then add the clams and some chopped parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour over some cooked liguini and you're all set. This should make enough sauce for two average people or just me. If Minx wants to eat, I double the recipe.

Over time, familiarity has led to experimentation, adjusting the flavors to suit my personal taste. For example, the standard recipe tells you to saute two cloves of chopped garlic in olive oil. I always tend to burn my garlic, leading to a bitter taste, so I chop up some onion and saute that in olive oil first. Then I add the chopped garlic along with the clam juice reserved from the can of chopped or minced clams. This way you get some extra texture and flavor from the onions and the garlic cooks without burning. I also like to throw in extra shell fish if they are available. In this case, I added some shrimp.

The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley, but more is better in my book. When I haven't had parsley, I've used fresh basil, but it creates a different flavor. Everything with basil in it tastes strongly of basil, which isn't a bad thing necessarily, but parsley is less dominant. It just gives a bright, herbal note without overpowering. Some lemon juice can't hurt either.

Liguini and white clam sauce is one of those fun dishes because it is insanely easy to make, comes together in less than one half hour, and can be riffed on in so many different ways. I could never understand ordering this dish in a restaurant when anyone can make it well at home. You just have to make lots of it because, once you start eating it, you can't stop.

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Posted on Minxeats.com.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament!

Back for the 6th year, the Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament pairs local chefs against each other in a one-on-one, single elimination, bracket-style competition. The first battle begins on June 7th. All events will be held at the Inn at the Colonnade.

Minxeats is proud to be a media sponsor for the 5th year in a row. Hope to see you at a match!

This season's competing chefs are:

Christopher Vocci, Alexandra’s at Turf Valley
Kurt Peter, Azure
Chad Novak, Das Bier Haus
Fabio Mura, Grille 620
Brian Wells, Hard Yacht Cafe
Francois Giovanni Merle, KitchenCray
Kitty Ashi, Monsoon Siam
Bill Kelley, Renditions Golf
Niko Negas, Roasthouse Pub
Brett Arnold, Smokin’ Hot Bar & Grille
Terence Tomlin, SoBe Restaurant
Jeffrey Barillo, Social Restaurant & Oyster Bar
Brendan McKinney, Tark’s Grill
Darius Jones, That’s My Favorite Catering
Sean Praglowski, The Point in Fells
Greg Mason, The White Oak Tavern

Tournament Details
Tickets for all 15 dates of this summer-long single-elimination chef competition are available for purchase at: http://www.masondixonmasterchef.com. Tickets for most matches are $25 for general admission and $45 for judging experience (including all taxes). In addition, the Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament donates 10% of the net proceeds of each ticket sold directly to their charity partner Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland (http://www.mealsonwheelsmd.org).

Competition Dates 
June 7, 8, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28
July 11, 12, 18, 19
August 1, 2, 14

Event Timeline
5:30 p.m. – Happy Hour with Complementary Hors d’oeuvres and Wine Tasting by Boordy Vineyards, plus Drink Specials
6:30 p.m. – Cold Prep Begins for the Competition
7:00 p.m. – Chef Competition
8:00 p.m. – Judging Begins, Complementary Dessert and Coffee Served

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Posted on Minxeats.com.