Friday, March 19, 2010

Melissa in Bloom!

What a pleasant surprise these two were. I had never met Melissa and Robert before but got connected through Melissa's aunt Andrea, whom I shot for previously. It was actually my first time up in Davis, CA and Melissa and Robert were gracious hosts showing me around Davis campus where they spent a lot of time together during their dating years through marriage. Last Sunday pretty much told me that Winter is so 5 minutes ago as it looked like everyone in Davis was out enjoying the sun with us along the waterway at Davis Arboretum.

I can't wait to meet Robert Jr. in the weeks to come. Congratulations guys!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Melissa + Robert Maternity Session Teaser

Check back in a couple days for more highlights from Melissa & Robert's maternity session in Davis!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

Ad Hoc's 4-course daily menu quite often offers buttermilk fried chicken as a main course. On our last visit the waiter mentioned that it's one of the most requested menu items so I knew I had to give it a proper makchef recipe evaluation myself.

Keller recommends two 2.5 to 3-pound chickens for this recipe- essentially smaller birds. You definitely want to find a "fryer" chicken instead of a "roasting" chicken. The primary difference is the size of these birds - fryers being smaller; i.e. - cook more evenly. Fast, even cooking is so crucial to deep frying. I found Lucky's-branded fryer leg quarters that I separated into drumsticks and thighs myself.

Lemon-Herb Brine
5 lemons, halved
24 bay leaves
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
1 bunch thyme
1/2 cup honey
1 head garlic, halved and crushed with skin on
1/4 cup black peppercorns
2 cups kosher salt
2 gallons of water

Here's where I should've followed his recipe more closely. I got lazy and ended up using dried herbs which pale in comparison to fresh herbs. If you got the means, go get the fresh stuff. Just combine all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Your goal is just to dissolve all the salt crystals. Let the brine chill before using.

any oil with a high smoke point - peanut oil, canola oil (I used vegetable oil)
1 quart buttermilk (I only used 2 cups because all you're doing is coating the chicken and didn't think I needed a full quart)
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

6 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup onion powder
4 tsp smoked paprika
4 tsp cayenne
4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper

fine sea salt
fresh rosemary

Here's my take on Thomas Keller's Buttermilk Fried Chicken. It's not hard but required a lot more prep time than I initially planned for. This isn't gonna be a Rachel Ray 30-minute meal.

Pour the brine into containers large enough to hold your chicken pieces and soak them for 12 hours in the fridge.

Remove the chicken from the brine (discard the brine) and thoroughly rinse the chicken. You'll notice that the brined chicken pieces are plumper now. This is some juicy goodness you will soon enjoy!

I used an electric deep fryer that could only hold about 3 pieces comfortably at a time. If I were to prepare 14 pieces of chicken again I would probably use 2 pots on a stove going at the same time because this recipe calls for a frying temp of 320 degrees for 11-12 minutes - more on this later. In any case, bring your oil temp up to 320 in your cooking apparatus. Prepare a cooling rack on a baking sheet lined with parchment or paper towels.

Combine all your dry coating ingredients into a large bowl. Transfer half of this dry mix into a second bowl. Pour your seasoned buttermilk into a third bowl.

Right before frying you want to dip the chicken pieces into the first bowl of dry mix, turn to coat; dip into buttermilk; then dipped into second dry mix bowl.

Slowly lower the chicken into the hot oil and set a timer for 12 minutes. As I mentioned earlier, my electric fryer could only hold 3 pieces at a time. You'll want to be careful not to crowd the pot as this will drop your frying temperature. If it drops too low your chicken will start simmering instead of frying - and this becomes a greasy mess.

About 2 minutes into the fry time carefully move the chicken around and continue to monitor the oil temp. As you're waiting for it to finish you can prep your next batch to be fried.

Transfer the chicken pieces to the cooling rack skin-side-up and let it rest while you fry the remaining chicken. Keller says that putting the pieces skin-side-up will allow excess fat to drain. Sprinkle fine sea salt on these pieces and garnish with rosemary if you'd like.

Additional Notes:

If I were to do it all over again I would probably use a second pot to have another batch going at the same time. I probably fried chicken for a good hour trying to get through 14 pieces at a rate of 3 pieces per batch for 12 minute periods.

I'm not a white meat fan and didn't fry up any chicken breast meat. If you do decide to fry white meat I suggest cutting them in half as these are usually larger pieces. You will also have to raise the temp to 340 degrees and fry for about 7 minutes instead of 12 minutes

My oil got pretty dirty after the 3rd batch. When dredging in the dry mix be sure to shake off any excess flour but dirty oil is going to be inevitable with this recipe.

As you can see here in my last batch - the crust was getting darker as the oil got dirtier.

I think I got my fry fix for a while now. It was definitely fun :) Let me know if you'd like to see more recipes.