Posts Tagged ‘poultry’

I have had a busy last few weeks and really not by any sort of choice. First, I found myself with a full week of jury duty, which saw me spending full days at the courthouse. While the experience was educational and informative, I am glad to once again have control over my schedule.

Unfortunately, right at the end of my jury service, my dad had an accident and broke eight ribs; two of the ribs were displaced and he also had a Hemothorax. Needless to say, I flew to be with him as soon as I could, and I spent six days visiting him. He is, unfortunately, still in the ICU, so I will likely be traveling to see him again shortly. I am hoping and praying for good news soon. It would be great to see him finally turn the corner. Yes, 2019 has not been kind to me thus far.

Coq au Vin

In an effort to distract myself and do something productive, I’m sitting down to write up a dish I actually prepared weeks ago:  Alton’s Coq au Vin. Coq au Vin is an old French dish that was originally composed as a means of cooking old, tough roosters (I was informed of this fact by both Alton and my dad). This dish certainly takes some time to prepare and you need to start a day ahead of eating. Salt pork is the first ingredient in this recipe, but you can substitute slab bacon if you are unable to find the salt pork. I lucked out and found salt pork at my local grocery store.


Salt pork.

Cube six ounces of the salt pork and place it in a large skillet over medium heat, along with 2 T water. Cover the skillet and let the pork cook for 5-10 minutes.


Cubed salt pork in skillet with water.

While the pork cooks, place four chicken thighs and four chicken legs on a metal rack over a sheet pan and season them liberally with Kosher salt and pepper.


Chicken thighs and legs seasoned with Kosher salt and pepper.

Put 1/4 to 1/2 C flour in a large plastic bag and add a few pieces of the seasoned chicken at a time. Shake the bag to coat the chicken pieces with the flour until all of the chicken has been coated. Set the coated chicken pieces back on the wire rack and set them aside.

When the pork has darkened in color and has rendered some of its fat, remove the lid from the skillet and continue to cook the pork until it is crispy and brown.

Remove the pork from the pan and add 24-30 pearl onions to the pork fat. You will need to peel your pearl onions prior to using them; you can do this easily by cutting off the root end of each onion and cutting a deep V where the root was. Place the onions in boiling water for a minute and let them cool. Once cool, the skins should slide right off.

Cook the peeled onions in the pork fat until they are golden brown, and then remove them from the pan.

Next, add three or four chicken pieces to the skillet and cook the chicken until it is golden brown on all sides.

While the chicken browns, prepare a “bed” for the browned chicken by placing the following ingredients in the bottom of a Dutch oven:  two quartered ribs of celery, two quartered carrots, a quartered onion, 6-8 fresh Rosemary sprigs, three crushed garlic cloves, and one Bay leaf.


Vegetable bed in Dutch oven: celery, carrot, onion, Rosemary, garlic, and a Bay leaf.

As the chicken pieces finish browning, place them on top of the vegetables in the Dutch oven.


Browned chicken placed on vegetables in Dutch oven.

When all of the chicken has been browned, add 1 T butter to the skillet, along with eight ounces of quartered mushrooms. Scraping the pan, cook the mushrooms for about five minutes, or until they are golden brown.

Remove the mushrooms from the pan, let them cool, and combine them in a container with the cooled pork and onions. Set the mushroom mixture in the refrigerator until the next day. Pour any excess fat out of the pan and discard it (I had very little extra fat in my pan). Remove the pan from the burner and add 1 C Pinot Noir to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a spatula.


Pinot Noir added to deglaze pan.

Add 2 T tomato paste to the skillet, stirring to combine, and pour the liquid over the chicken in the Dutch oven.

Finally, add 2 C chicken broth to the chicken, along with the rest of the open bottle of wine and another full bottle of Pinot Noir.

Put a lid on the Dutch oven and place it in the refrigerator overnight. The following day, place the Dutch oven in a cold oven and set the oven to heat to 325 degrees. Set a kitchen timer for two hours and check the chicken a few times to be sure it is submerged in the cooking liquid. After the two hour cooking period, remove the Dutch oven from the oven and use tongs to transfer the chicken from the Dutch oven to a packet of foil. Place the foil packet of chicken in the cooling oven to keep warm.

Strain the cooking liquid into a saucier, discarding the vegetables (or you can feed them to your dog, as Alton did in the episode).

Place the saucier over high heat and reduce the liquid by one third, which should take about 30 minutes. You can check the fluid level by placing a rubber band around a long spoon handle at the initial fluid level. When that level has dropped by 1/3, you are good to go.

Once the sauce has reduced, add the onions, mushrooms, and salt pork to the saucier and cook for 15 more minutes.


Salt pork, onions, and mushrooms added to sauce.

Serve the chicken and sauce over cooked egg noodles.


Coq au Vin served over egg noodles.

This is a really delicious recipe, but it does take some effort and time. For me, it took two and a half hours of prep the first day, followed by the cooking time the second day. I would certainly consider this to be a special occasion dish simply because of the amount of prep. We did, however, get several meals out of this one recipe, so perhaps the time per meal is not much. The chicken in this dish comes out super moist and tender, and has a slight purple hue. The sauce has many layers of flavor, but is light in body. If you want a chicken dish that can serve a group and results in perfectly cooked chicken with lots of flavor, this is the one.

This January has given 2019 a little bit of a rough start for me. I had a short, nasty stomach bug for the first two days of the year, which was followed up with back pain for several days. After that, I traveled to be with my dad while he had cancer surgery. Two days after I returned home from my trip, I came down with a nasty flu-like bug that knocked me out for 10 days. Whew! Good riddance, January!

Turkey with Stuffing

Although the holidays are long gone, this recipe certainly has a holiday feel to it. While Alton’s other turkey recipes have really featured the turkey itself, this one is all about the stuffing. In the episode, Alton actually goes into very little detail about prepping/cooking the turkey, so I opted to brine my turkey, using the brine recipe from the original Good Eats Thanksgiving special. The premise of this recipe is that Alton can make a well-balanced stuffing that will cook inside the turkey, and that the turkey and stuffing will reach their desired temperatures at nearly the same time. To make the stuffing, chop 1 C each of onion, celery, and green bell pepper.


A cup each of celery, onion, and green bell pepper.

Toss the chopped vegetables with 1 T vegetable oil and 1 T Kosher salt. Spread the vegetables on a sheet pan and roast them for 25 minutes at 400.

After 25 minutes, add 3 C cubed Challah bread (I made my own) to the vegetables, give everything a toss, and continue roasting for 10 more minutes.


My Challah bread, ready to be cubed.

Next, place two ounces of dried mushrooms (porcini, morels, or shiitakes) in a bowl and pour a quart of boiling chicken stock over them. Let the mushrooms rehydrate for about 30 minutes.


Shiitake mushrooms, soaking in boiling chicken broth.

When the mushrooms have finished their soak, drain them (reserving their liquid), chop them, and place them in a large bowl, along with 4 ounces dried cherries, 2 ounces chopped pecans, 2 beaten eggs, 2 t dry rubbed sage, 2 t dry parsley, the roasted vegetables and bread, and 1/2 t pepper.


Dried cherries and chopped pecans.


Chopped mushrooms added to cherries and pecans.


Chopped mushrooms added to cherries and pecans, along with eggs, rubbed sage, and dry parsley.

Add enough of the reserved mushroom liquid to moisten, but not saturate, the mixture; I used about a cup, though Alton was vague about this in the episode and it actually appeared as if he added all of the reserved liquid.


Challah, vegetables, pepper, and mushroom liquid added to mixture.

Place the stuffing in a cotton produce bag, or use cheesecloth to make one – you can seal it with butcher’s twine. Place the bag of stuffing in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it on high for six minutes. Also, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To put the stuffing in the turkey, prop the open end of the turkey up on the side of a bowl and use tongs to plunge the bag of stuffing into the bird. If you have a plastic cutting board, you can form it into a tube shape, insert the tube-shaped cutting board into the cavity, and push the bag through the tube.


Microwaved stuffing placed inside turkey.

For this recipe, you will ideally want two thermometers – one inserted in the thigh and one inserted into the center of the stuffing; I only have one oven-safe thermometer, so I placed that in the thigh and checked the stuffing periodically with an instant read thermometer. Place the bird in a roasting pan and roast it for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. After 45 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 350 and cook until both the stuffing and the thigh meat are about 170 degrees. When done cooking, remove the stuffing bag with tongs and place the stuffing in a serving bowl.


Turkey after cooking to thigh temperature of 170.


Alton’s stuffing.

Tent the turkey with foil and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before carving. Okay, so there were some good things about this recipe and some bad things. This stuffing has a wide variety of both flavors and textures, with flavors ranging from sweet/tart to umami, and textures that range from slightly crunchy to moist and soft. I will say that the stuffing would have been too wet, and probably overpowered with mushroom flavor, if I had added all of the mushroom liquid as Alton appeared to do in the show. My biggest problem with this recipe was that it didn’t achieve the goal of having the stuffing and turkey finish cooking at the same time. For me, the stuffing was done cooking long before the turkey was, so I ended up pulling the stuffing out early while I had to continue cooking the bird for a good 20 minutes. In my mind, that makes this recipe a failure. Also, I think the bird could have done with a little less cooking. While I would consider making the stuffing again, I would not attempt to cook it in the bird again. Instead, I would opt for either the original Good Eats roast turkey or the butterflied, dry brined turkey.

Stuffed Squash

Since the tendency with stuffing is to stuff vegetables into meat, Alton decided to formulate a recipe where a meat filling is stuffed into squash. Acorn squash are the squash of choice for this recipe, as they are perfect for individual servings. To make four servings (I only made two), cut the lids off of four acorn squash and scoop out their seeds; be very careful when doing this, as I discovered it is very easy to poke a hole in the bottom of the squash! Be sure to save the lids for later. If your squash will not sit flat, you can also cut off part of the bottoms to make them level.


My two acorn squash, ready to be prepped.


Lids off and scooping out seeds.

Set the prepared squash on a parchment-lined sheet pan. To make the filling, cook 1/2 pound ground pork in a large skillet over medium heat until the pork is no longer pink. Transfer the pork to a small bowl and set it aside.

Return the pan to the burner, but decrease the heat slightly. Add 1 T olive oil to the pan, along with 1/4 C chopped carrots, 1/4 C chopped celery, 1/4 C chopped onion, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Cook the vegetables until they have softened a bit.


Celery, onion, and carrot added to hot oil, along with a pinch of Kosher salt.

Deglaze the pan by adding 1/2 C white wine and scraping up any browned bits.


Wine added to deglaze the pan.

Follow the wine with 10 ounces of thawed/drained/chopped frozen spinach, 1 1/2 C cooked rice, 1 1/2 t dried oregano, the cooked pork, and 1/2 C toasted pine nuts.


Spinach, rice, oregano, pork, and pine nuts added to the skillet.

Stir the filling until it is heated through and add a few grinds of black pepper. Remove the filling from the heat and place 1/2 T butter in the bottom of each prepared squash.

Spoon the stuffing into the squash, avoiding tightly packing the stuffing.


Filling spooned into prepped squash and lids placed on top.

Place the lids on the squash and cook them for one hour at 400 degrees, or until the squash are just fork tender.


Alton’s stuffed squash.

We ate these squash as our dinner entrée and were pretty happy with them. Ted really does not care for squash, in general, but he agreed that the sweetness of the squash paired well with the very savory pork filling. This is a an easy meal that really gives you both your protein and veggies in one, and the individual squash “serving dishes” are sort of fun. The squash also did not become mushy, as some squash are wont to do. I could see making the filling ahead of time for these, and on a busy weeknight you would only have to fill the squash and put them in the oven. Super easy!


Alton Brown fans probably know that he is going to back on our TVs starting Monday. He is going to revisit Good Eats, revamping the old recipes he is unhappy with, and adding new methods, techniques, and information. I am anxious to see which recipes he chooses to alter, as there have certainly been some less than perfect recipes along the way. Of course, there have also been some fantastic recipes that have become mainstays in our house. Now, back to my personal assessments of Alton’s original Good Eats.

Beef Paillard

Alton’s beef paillard calls for a good cut of meat, namely beef tenderloin. To serve four people, he calls for a pound of beef. Since it was just the two of us, I had the butcher cut us a couple steaks from the tenderloin, rather than buying a larger cut of tenderloin. Prior to cooking, place your meat in the freezer for two to three hours, as this will make it easier to cut thin slices. When your meat has chilled, remove it from the freezer and slice it into thin slices; Alton used an electric knife for this, but I used a sharp chef’s knife.


Beef tenderloin, after freezing for two hours.

Place the slices of beef between sheets of plastic wrap, spritzing the beef and the plastic with water (this decreases friction and prevents tearing of the meat and plastic). Pound the meat until it is very thin – probably about 1/8-inch thick.

When all of your meat slices have been pounded, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat for a few minutes.

While the skillet heats, brush both sides of the meat slices with vegetable oil and sprinkle them with pepper and Kosher salt.


Paillards of beef tenderloin, brushed with vegetable oil and seasoned with pepper and Kosher salt.

Once the skillet is hot, invert the pan and brush the back of the skillet with vegetable oil. Place the beef paillards on the inverted skillet and they should begin sizzling immediately. Alton said his beef took about 10 seconds per side, but I would say that mine took about 30 seconds per side. I would err on the side of caution here, as you really do not want to overcook the beef.


Inverted cast iron skillet.


Paillards added to oiled skillet.


Paillards, flipped after cooking on one side.

Transfer the beef slices to plates, drizzle them with olive oil, and garnish them with some capers, shaved Parmesan, and greens.


Alton’s beef paillards with olive oil, capers, greens, and shaved Parmesan.

With this recipe, my biggest concern was that I would overcook my beef, but it turned out perfectly. The meat was amazingly tender and seemed to melt in your mouth. And, Alton’s garnishes of olive oil, Parmesan, capers, and greens were spot-on, complimenting the flavor of the beef without overpowering it. The salty nuttiness of the Parmesan, along with the tang of the capers was just perfect with the fruitiness of the olive oil. The best part of this recipe is that it is worthy of a special occasion, yet you can put it together in a very short period of time. This is a recipe that, in my opinion, needs no revamping.

Turkey Piccata

While I had previously eaten chicken piccata (piccata means “sharp”), I had never before had a version with turkey. Alton’s recipe calls for a whole turkey breast, which, surprisingly, was just impossible for me to find. I had to settle for some pre-sliced turkey breast, as that was all I could find after going to numerous stores. If you are able to find a whole turkey breast, slice it into half-inch slices. Place the slices between sheets of plastic wrap, spritz them with water, and pound them until they are twice their original size.


Slice of turkey placed between sheets of plastic wrap.

Season the top sides of your pounded slices of turkey with Kosher salt and pepper, and place them, seasoned sides down, in a pie plate of flour. Season the second sides of your slices of turkey and coat them also with flour, shaking off any excess.

Next, heat 4 T unsalted butter and 2 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high.

When the butter has melted, add the floured turkey slices to the pan, cooking them until golden (about two minutes per side).

Move the cooked turkey slices to a foil packet and keep them warm in a 200 degree oven while you make the sauce.


Cooked turkey transferred to foil packet.

To the pan in which you cooked your turkey, add 2 T chopped shallots, cooking for about a minute.


Shallots added to the pan.

Add 1/2 C white wine and 1/3 C fresh lemon juice to the pan, allowing it to simmer for two to three minutes.


Wine and lemon juice added to the pan.

Finally, whisk 2 T butter into the sauce.


Butter, stirred into the sauce.

Spoon the sauce over the warm turkey slices, garnishing with parsley, capers, and peppercorns, if desired.


Capers added to finish the sauce.


Turkey piccata.

I had mixed feelings about this recipe because I found the sauce to be tangy and delightful, but my turkey was tough. I see that Alton tells you to cook the turkey for only one minute per side in the online recipe, but he cooked his turkey for two minutes per side in the episode, which seemed to be too long. I also think my turkey piccata would likely have been better if I could have found a whole turkey breast and sliced it just prior to cooking. I’m tempted to give this one another try because the sauce was smooth, buttery, and full of lemon tang. I would recommend opting for chicken if a whole turkey breast is unavailable.

Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev is something I remember my mom making once or twice. She viewed it as a special occasion dish, as her mother served it to her father’s business clients who came to dinner. Chicken Kiev is actually of French, rather than Russian, origin, but was brought to Russia by the French in the 18th century. I remember my mom sometimes being frustrated with her Chicken Kiev because the filling would leak out during cooking. Having never made it before, I was hoping Alton’s recipe would keep my filling intact. This is a recipe that you will want to start at least two hours prior to serving, or even the night prior. The first step of this recipe is making a compound butter by combining a stick of softened unsalted butter, 1 t dried parsley (I used fresh, so I used twice as much), 1 t dried tarragon, 1 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 t pepper in a stand mixer.


Butter, parsley, dried tarragon, Kosher salt, and pepper.

Place the compound butter on wax paper, roll it into a log, and place it in the refrigerator to firm.

After the butter has firmed up, place a chicken breast between pieces of plastic wrap, spritzing the chicken and plastic with water.


Chicken breast in spritzed plastic.

Pound the chicken until it is thin enough to roll. Chicken breasts are fairly thick, so it is tedious to get the chicken thin. Place a couple slices of compound butter in the center of the pounded chicken, along with 1 T panko bread crumbs.


Pounded chicken topped with compound butter and panko bread crumbs.

Roll the chicken over the butter and bread crumbs by folding the longest edge of chicken over the filling and then folding in the ends. Continue rolling the chicken, using the plastic to help you roll and keeping the ends tucked inside. Wrap the rolled chicken tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, or overnight.


Rolled chicken.

When ready to cook your chicken, roll the chicken in a pie plate containing two eggs beaten with 1 t water.


Chilled chicken being rolled in egg wash.

Next, roll the chicken in a plate of panko bread crumbs.

Put a half-inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet and heat it to 375 degrees. Once hot, add the breaded chicken rolls to the pan, cooking for 4-5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Transfer the cooked chicken to a rack, letting it rest for five minutes.


Chicken resting after cooking.

I found that my chicken took considerably longer than 10 minutes to reach 165 degrees inside. You do get some carryover cooking, so I think it is best to pull the chicken from the oil when the internal temperature hits 158-160. Otherwise, your chicken may be slightly overcooked by the time you cut into it.


Alton’s Chicken Kiev.

We were pretty happy with Alton’s Chicken Kiev. His method for rolling the chicken worked well, and kept the filling intact for the most part (my one roll split a little bit). It is easier to roll the chicken if you get it really thin, so try to get it as thin as possible before filling/rolling. Also, don’t skimp on the chilling time for the rolled chicken, as the chicken really needs that time to maintain its shape. The panko bread crumbs gave Alton’s chicken a really great crispy crust, and the filling of the chicken had lots of anise-like flavor from the tarragon. I do wish that the compound butter would have melted a bit more, though. I just wouldn’t cook the chicken all the way to 165, as my chicken was just a tad overcooked. My mom can’t really cook anymore because of her Parkinson’s, but I think she likely would have adopted Alton’s Chicken Kiev recipe as her go-to.

I love garlic and cannot fathom how some people do not care for it. I have some personal favorite garlic recipes, one of which is my mom’s garlic bread recipe. When I watched Alton’s garlic episode of Good Eats a few days ago, I remembered having seen it years ago when it originally aired. It’s always fun to re-watch the episodes I recall from years ago.

Vlad’s Very Garlicky Greens

Two nights ago for dinner I prepped a homemade pepperoni pizza and Alton’s garlicky greens. Ted has lost a lot of weight over the past couple months, due to his surgeries and complications, so we are working hard to get weight back on him (he had lost over 30 pounds, and had nothing to lose). Needless to say, I fix whatever sounds good to him, and Alton’s garlicky greens were his first foray into greens since surgery. For Alton’s greens, begin by heating a saute pan over high heat. While the pan heats, smash and peel four cloves of garlic. Add olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan.


Olive oil heating in pan.

When the oil is hot, add your smashed garlic cloves and stir them until they are lightly browned.


Four cloves of smashed garlic added to olive oil.

Once golden, remove the cloves from the pan and discard; they have done their job of “blessing,” or flavoring, the oil. Immediately add one thinly sliced clove of garlic to the flavored oil and turn the heat off under the pan.


One clove of garlic, thinly sliced, added to pan.

Move the pan continuously, as you do not want the garlic to burn, and sprinkle in some Kosher salt. As soon as the garlic begins to color, add four handfuls of greens to the pan (I used mixed greens), along with some more Kosher salt.


Greens and Kosher salt added to pan.

The residual heat in the pan will cook the greens. Toss the greens and add one more clove of garlic, this time finely chopped.


One clove of garlic, finely chopped, added to greens.

Toss the greens with the garlic and season with additional salt, if necessary.


Alton’s garlicky greens.

We both really enjoyed these greens. They had lots of garlic flavor, but it was not overpowering. And, the combination of cooked and raw garlic flavors was nice. I did slightly over-salt my greens. I will make these again. For a quick, easy, delicious vegetable side dish, this is great.

40 Cloves and a Chicken

Due to Ted’s cancer surgeries and complications, he was not up to having a big Thanksgiving with family this year, so we celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday at home – just the two of us, and the dogs and cat, of course! We are turkey traditionalists when it comes to Thanksgiving, but a turkey just would have been too much food for us this year. So, as an alternative, I made Alton’s take on chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. The chicken, along with my dad’s cornbread/sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut (a family tradition) made up our mini Thanksgiving feast. The nice thing about Alton’s chicken recipe is that most of the “work” is done in the oven, so it frees you up for making other things. For his chicken, you’ll need a broiler/fryer chicken cut into eight pieces:  breasts, wings, thighs, and legs. I previously wrote about Alton’s method for breaking down a chicken here. Oh, you’ll also need 40 cloves of peeled garlic.


40 cloves of garlic.

Begin Alton’s chicken by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, season both sides of your chicken pieces with Kosher salt and pepper. Sear both sides of the chicken pieces in a large oven-safe skillet (with a lid) over medium-high heat.


Seared chicken.

Once the chicken is seared, add 40 cloves of peeled garlic, 1/2 C olive oil, and a healthy bunch of fresh thyme sprigs.


Fresh thyme, olive oil, and garlic added to seared chicken.

Put the lid on the pan and place it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.


Lid on the pan and into the oven for 1 1/2 hours.


We thought this chicken was absolutely delicious. The meat was moist and falling off of the bones, and the flavors of roasted garlic and fresh thyme permeated the meat. I will definitely make this one again. Oh, and if you choose, you can use the garlic oil in the pan to brush on bread for garlic toast. And, the whole garlic cloves can also be spread on toasted bread. Nothing like a built-in side dish!


Alton’s chicken as part of our mini Thanksgiving feast. The roasted garlic could be used to spread on toast.

I actually prepared this dish a couple weeks ago, but I am only now getting around to blogging about it. I know my mother-in-law, Ellie, is concerned about Ted keeping his weight up as he goes through his radiation and chemotherapy. I am doing my best to keep him well-fed, and Alton’s fried chicken was certainly something he had no trouble consuming!

Fried Chicken

I am not a huge fan of preparing chicken, as I have written before. I just find it to be unappealing in its uncooked state. Now, if someone prepares it for me, it’s a different thing. This was my first time making fried chicken, and was the first time I had consumed fried chicken in years. The recipe for Alton’s fried chicken is pretty straight-forward. He recommends getting a whole broiler/fryer chicken, rather than purchasing an already-portioned bird.

A broiler/fryer chicken.

My broiler/fryer chicken.

Why? It is cheaper to break down your own chicken, you get better portioning, and the meat stays fresher longer.

It is probably best to watch Alton’s chicken breakdown in the episode. To start, place your chicken on a cutting board with the neck facing you.

My chicken on a cutting board.

My chicken on a cutting board.

Cut the wings off; discard the wings or save to use in making stock. Next, you need to remove the wishbone. You can feel the wishbone if you run your finger over the inside of the neck. Using a sawing motion, you will cut the wishbone out by running your knife down each side until the bone becomes detached. The legs are next; cut through the skin between the breast and the drumsticks. Flip the bird over, feel for the thigh bones, and bend the legs backward toward you, dislocating the joints. Cut the legs off with your knife. Squeeze each leg together to find the joint line, kind of like squeezing a nut cracker. Place the blade of your knife in the joint and slice down to separate the thigh from the drumstick. To portion the breast, cut down one side of the keel bone, and use your knife to “peel” the meat from the ribs. Do the same on the other side.

My chicken after portioning Alton's way. Not a perfect job.

My chicken after portioning Alton’s way. Not a perfect job.

Again, it may be easier to watch a video of how to break a chicken down. If desired, you can use the carcass and wings to make stock. Place your chicken pieces in a container and pour two cups of low-fat buttermilk over them; cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.

Chicken pieces in a container.

Chicken pieces in a container.

Low-fat buttermilk.

Low-fat buttermilk.

Buttermilk poured over chicken pieces.

Buttermilk poured over chicken pieces.

I let my chicken pieces sit for ~24 hours. When ready to fry your chicken, heat solid vegetable shortening in a large skillet (preferably iron); for a 12-inch skillet, use 16 oz. of shortening.

16 ounces of shortening melting in a 12-inch skillet.

16 ounces of shortening melting in a 12-inch skillet.

You want your melted shortening to come 1/3″ up the side. Drain your chicken pieces, discarding the buttermilk.

Chicken after soaking in buttermilk for ~24 hours.

Chicken after soaking in buttermilk for ~24 hours.

Drained chicken pieces.

Drained chicken pieces.

Meanwhile, prepare your seasoning blend by combining 2 T Kosher salt, 2 T paprika (I used hot smoked paprika), 2 t garlic powder, and 1 t cayenne pepper. Alton places his seasoning blend in a shaker for easy dispersion.

Ingredients for spice blend:  Kosher salt, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper.

Ingredients for spice blend: Kosher salt, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper.

2 T Kosher salt and 2 T paprika.

2 T Kosher salt and 2 T paprika.

2 t garlic powder and 1 t cayenne pepper added to spice blend.

2 t garlic powder and 1 t cayenne pepper added to spice blend.

Final spice blend in a shaker.

Final spice blend in a shaker.

Place your drained meat pieces on a baking sheet and season them liberally on both sides with your blend.

Chicken pieces on a baking sheet.

Chicken pieces on a baking sheet.

Chicken pieces sprinkled liberally with spice blend.

Chicken pieces sprinkled liberally with spice blend.

After seasoning, dredge the chicken pieces in flour, shaking off the excess flour.

Seasoned chicken pieces being dredged in flour.

Seasoned chicken pieces being dredged in flour.

Dredged chicken pieces.

Dredged chicken pieces.

Seasoning the meat prior to dredging decreases the chance of burning and also leads to less waste of spices. Let the dredged chicken sit for 2-3 minutes. To start frying your chicken, Alton says you want your oil temperature to be a max of 350 degrees. I put my chicken in the pan when my oil was around 325 degrees.

Shortening at ~325 degrees.

Shortening at ~325 degrees.

Place your breasts, skin side down, at 10 and 2 o’clock in the pan. The drumsticks should be placed at 5 and 7 o’clock, and the thighs should go in the center. I did a poor job of portioning my thighs, so they were very small. I opted to place my breasts in the center instead.

Chicken pieces added to skillet for 12 minutes.

Chicken pieces added to skillet for 12 minutes.

Fry the chicken for about 12 minutes, and flip the pieces to their opposite sides to cook for an additional 12 minutes. Make sure to check your oil temperature frequently, as you do not want it to get any hotter than 350 degrees. I used my infrared thermometer to monitor my oil temperature.

Chicken pieces flipped to second sides for ~12 more minutes.

Chicken pieces flipped to second sides for ~12 more minutes.

When your cooking time is up, check the internal temperature of your chicken to ensure it is cooked throughout; you will want an internal temperature of 180 degrees. Some of my chicken pieces required additional cooking time. Drain your fried chicken on a rack over a sheet pan. It will maintain its heat for quite some time.

Alton's fried chicken.

Alton’s fried chicken.

I have to say that Alton’s fried chicken was pretty spot-on. I heavily spiced my chicken, and that made the flavor quite intense. The skin was crispy and relatively low on grease, and the meat inside was tender and juicy. I would definitely make this again. Maybe someday someone will make it for me, as I would prefer to not see the slimy bird before cooking! At least I didn’t start a fire with this frying attempt, as I did with the fish and chips!

First of all, I am getting pretty excited to see Alton Brown’s live show in less than a week, especially considering that we bought tickets the day they went on sale, which was about eight months ago. We will be going with my parents, and I think we are all highly anticipating the show. My dad, too, was an avid Good Eats watcher in the past.

I have not eaten a lot of duck in my life, but I know some people who have, namely my dad and my husband. There was a stretch of time when Dad and Ted would both order duck when we would all go out to eat, and this went on for months. Seriously, they ate more than their fair share of duck. I feel, therefore, that they can appropriately be deemed Duck Aficionados, or “Quackxperts,” as I prefer to call them.

Mighty Duck

I had some trepidation about preparing duck since I know how critical it is to cook properly, but I hoped Alton wouldn’t let me down. I set out to prepare Alton’s recipe last night, after thawing my duck in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Alternatively, for faster thawing, you could thaw your duck under cold, running water. I had intended to cook my duck on Saturday, which would have necessitated the running water thaw, but the combo of too long of a marathon training run with too little food led to a night on the couch, in lieu of duck prep. On the plus side, my duck (I named him Donald) was perfectly thawed for dinner last night.

To make Alton’s duck, first mix your brine by combining 1/2 C Kosher salt, a pint of pineapple orange juice, at least 15 black peppercorns, a bunch of fresh thyme, and four smashed cloves of garlic in a leak-proof, lidded container; shake to dissolve the salt.

Brine ingredients:  Kosher salt, pineapple orange juice, black peppercorns, fresh thyme, and garlic.

Brine ingredients: Kosher salt, pineapple orange juice, black peppercorns, fresh thyme, and garlic.

Brine mixture.

Brine mixture.

Next it is time to prepare the duck itself. Place your duck on a cutting board and discard all of the innards. With a knife, slice through each wing to the joint, and break each wing off by bending the joint backward. From the base of the neck, cut along one side of the back bone of the bird with kitchen shears.

Dog craving duck, as I cut along the back bone.

Dog craving duck, as I cut along the back bone.

Turn the bird around and cut up the other side of the back bone. It will be tough to cut. Pull the back bone out and discard it. Flatten the duck and flip it over, so the breast is facing up. Again, using the shears, cut down the middle of the breast, splitting the duck into two halves. Using a sharp knife, separate the breast from the leg by making a crescent-shaped cut. The duck is now in quarters, with two breast pieces and two leg pieces. The breast quarters have a fair amount of fat, so you want to score the skin of the breast in a grid pattern (three cuts one way, and three the other way) with a sharp knife, taking care only to score the skin; this will allow much of the fat to cook off.

Duck halves, cut into quarters. The breast pieces are scored.

Duck halves, cut into quarters. The breast pieces are scored.

Line a container with a large Ziplock bag, put the duck quarters inside, and pour the brine over the duck, squeezing as much air as possible from the bag.

Duck and brine in a bag.

Duck and brine in a bag.

Removed as much air as possible from the bag.

Removed as much air as possible from the bag.

Let the duck brine in the refrigerator for 2-2.5 hours. When ready to cook your duck, bring some water to a boil in a large pot that can hold a strainer or colander; I used our pasta pot.

Pasta pot to steam the duck.

Pasta pot to steam the duck.

Place the duck quarters around the sides of the colander, avoiding stacking them on each other, as this can cause uneven cooking.

Duck quarters, ready to be steamed.

Duck quarters, ready to be steamed.

Cover the pot, decrease the heat, and steam the duck for 45 minutes. If your dog is anything like mine are, he/she will be sent into a tizzy, and will pace around the kitchen, whimpering and pleading for just a sampling of your duck. Why steam? In the episode, Alton, or rather his plumber, explains that it is a gentler cooking method than water, is more efficient than air, and it does not wash away the seasoning. Toward the end of your steaming, heat your oven to 475 degrees, placing a cast iron skillet inside.

Hot cast iron skillet.

Hot cast iron skillet.

When the steaming is complete, set the steaming water aside, place the duck legs into the skillet, skin side down, and cook them for 10 minutes.

Duck quarters after steaming for 45 minutes.

Duck quarters after steaming for 45 minutes.

Duck legs in hot skillet.

Duck legs in hot skillet.

After 10 minutes, use tongs to move the legs up to the sides of the skillet, and add the breast quarters to the pan, skin side down. Cook the duck for an additional 7 minutes. While the duck cooks, shred some chard and chop a couple of shallots.

Duck breasts added to skillet with legs.

Duck breasts added to skillet with legs.

Shallots and shredded chard.

Shallots and shredded chard.

Chopped shallot.

Chopped shallot.

When the duck is done, let it rest on a plate, covered with foil; a small, upturned bowl in the center of the plate gives the duck something to lean against, keeping it from sitting in its own juices.

Duck quarters, resting.

Duck quarters, resting.

While the duck rests, add a couple handfuls of shredded chard to the hot cast iron skillet, tossing with tongs.

Chard added to hot duck skillet.

Chard added to hot duck skillet.

The skillet will be hot enough that you can do this off of heat. Add some chopped shallots to the chard, toss until wilted, and sprinkle with some balsamic or sherry vinegar.

Chard and shallots in hot skillet.

Chard and shallots in hot skillet.

Remember that cooking liquid that remained after steaming? The water portion of that liquid can be boiled away until all that remains is wonderful duck fat.

Steaming liquid, boiling down to duck fat.

Steaming liquid, boiling down to duck fat.

Alton recommends simmering some cubed red potatoes in salted water before sautéing them in a little duck fat over high heat. I just could not resist that idea, so I heeded his advice and made some duck fat potatoes to go with our duck and chard.

Red potatoes to saute in duck fat.

Red potatoes to saute in duck fat.

Red potatoes, after simmering in salted water.

Red potatoes, after simmering in salted water.

Potatoes cooked in duck fat.

Potatoes cooked in duck fat.

Duck, potatoes cooked in duck fat, and chard.

Duck, potatoes cooked in duck fat, and chard.

Not being a Quakxpert myself, I thought this meal was pretty darn delicious… and sinful. My one complaint was that the duck skin was only super crispy where it had directly contacted the skillet, but that crispy part was really great. I also ended up having very strongly flavored shallots, which overpowered the chard a bit, but that was just the luck of the draw. The duck was very moist and had lots of flavor. Ted agreed, and he had the leftovers for lunch today. I foresee making this again for a special meal, and it could be a different option for a future holiday dinner. As my dad would say, “It’s a life’s work for a duck.”

I can admit that I experienced some trepidation upon seeing I would need to butterfly a chicken for the 5th episode of Good Eats. As a child, I shrieked in horror upon seeing our family’s naked Thanksgiving turkey sitting on the kitchen counter. Fleeing the room, I was chased by my older brother who had a handful of giblets. Ever since, I have really not liked the appearance of uncooked fowl. Really, though, can anyone truly say they find raw chicken appetizing? It’s an odd shade of yellowish pink, slimy, slightly sticky, and covered by prickly yellow skin. Still, amazingly, the cooked version can be quite tasty.

The smallest chicken we could get at our grocery store was five pounds, while Alton’s recipe calls for a three or four pound bird. I made my paste of peppercorns, garlic, salt, lemon zest, and olive oil, and filled my roasting pan with carrots, onions, and celery. Then it was time to face the bird… DUN, DUN, DUNNN!!!

Veggies in the roasting pan.

Veggies in the roasting pan.

6-16-2014 002

Garlic, pepper, lemon, salt, and oil paste.

Garlic, pepper, lemon, salt, and oil paste.

I placed my chicken (I called her “Sally”) on my board and cut down both sides of the back bone. This part was actually pretty easy. The keel bone, however, proved to be harder to remove than it was when Alton did it on the show. I pressed down on her until she was flat, loosened her skin, and spread the paste under her skin. Then I oiled her up and placed her on top of the veggies in the roasting pan.



Butterflying Sally.

Butterflying Sally.

6-16-2014 008

Into the oven.

Into the oven.

My oven rack was 8 inches from the broiler, as recommended in both the episode and online recipe. This proved to be too close, as Sally’s breasts were getting too dark too quickly. It was fine after lowering her to the very bottom rack.

Ready to flip. Breast got a little too dark.

Ready to flip. Breast got a little too dark.

The online recipe tells you to check the bird after 10 minutes of cooking. The episode, on the other hand, tells you to check after 18 minutes. Since my bird was larger, I checked her after 18 minutes, and decided to let ‘er go for another couple minutes before flipping her over. Her derriere took considerably longer also, and she ended up cooking for a total of nearly an hour before she was at 165 degrees.

Ready to eat.

Ready to eat.

While Sally rested in the shade of a foil-covered bowl, I deglazed the roasting pan and made the jus. I cut Sally into quarters, making incisions to catch the jus, drizzled her with jus, and topped her with a lemon wheel.

Making the jus.

Making the jus.

The final plate.

The final plate.

Ted declared Alton’s chicken to be delicious, and I think it’s safe to say that he is happy I am pursuing this project.