Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Visions of Veganism—Butter

Butter is important in baking because it gives your foods color, flavor, and acts as an emulsifier.

Yet butter is one of those products that is looked down and frowned upon my vegans…

So what I am supposed to use instead so that I can make my sour cream pound cake where my vegan daughter can eat it also…after all this pound cake does call for two whole sticks of butter…definitely a Southern recipes, right?!

 

1.Applesauce…Applesauce can be used in baking…(more on this next post)…Applesauce can be usedf as alternative for butter. Applesauce makes your baked goods have a very  moist. texture.  Other “politically correct” options worth checking into include avocado and nut butter…(more on these later also)…

 

2. Coconut Butter or Margarine…These both can be used in recipes instead of butter. Neither of them contain cholesterol. Choose coconut  butte if you want your cookies, cakes, and so forth to have a  richer flavor, margarine adds a milder taste. Two goo options are Artisana Foods Coconut Butter and Earth Balance Soy Garden Buttery Spread..

 

3, Coconut Oil…Organic coconut oil often gets a bad rep, but if used in moderation this is a good alternative. Coconut oil usually works great  for nearly all baking needs as a substitute for butter.

.Coconut oil has a fairly mild, neutral flavor and is much more cost effective than most other vegan butter substitutes. When substituting coconut oil, you will want  to use the coconut oil as a solid at room temperature and substitute it cup for cup.

To use coconut oil as a substitute, replace the original ingredient amount with 3/4 coconut oil and 1/4 water. Mix the coconut oil and water together before adding to your recipe.

 

4, Homemade Vegan Butter…Trtue vegans that have enough,  if not perhaps too much,  time on their hands often try making their own homemade vegan butter This can be quite a time-consuming project though.

Non-Hydrogenated Butter Substitute….such as Earth Balance Buttery Sticks or a similar vegan butter substitute…

How many of us keep these products on hand on a regular basis…or else are also avoiding over-processed foods…or refuse to pay the extra money to buy these products.

 

5. Oil…Oil is typically not a good ingredient in baking recipes because it has low nutritional value and too many calories….but if the recipe the recipe that you are making does call for oil instead of butter, choose a “neutral” oil, such as rapeseed oil, so that the oil does not leave a strong, strange flavor.

You could also try EVVO…extra-virgin olive oil…but this will probably give your baked goods a funky taste.

 

6. Vegan Margarine…Margarine is another option for a butter substitute. You can find vegan margarines in almost all supermarkets these days…

Most vegan margarines are soy-based, but be careful because often these soy-based margaines contain whey, which is a dairy product and totally defeats your efforts in turning a recipe into a vegan recipe.

Margarine can also be bad for your health due to the hydrogenation….so bad that you would actually be better off using butter instead….if you’re going vegan primarily for health reasons and can do so without a “guilty conscience.”

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making Marvelous Muesli

So now that we know what muesli is…how do we make our own…and what do we do with it once we have it made?!
Making your own muesli is super easy and takes only about five minutes to go…a perfect combination of nuts, seeds, and oats that is perfectly healthy and perfectly filling.

 

 

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The Math

Making your own muesli is also more of a mathematical formula…than a method that must be mastered….a matter or proportions and personal preference…
Typically you will want to use about…
  • 4 cups grains
  • 1 1/2 cups nuts/seeds
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit

Start with a ratio of four parts grain + one part nuts/seeds + one part dried fruit.

Keep in mind that the more fruit you add, the sweeter it will be. The more nuts you throw in, the more expensive your grocery bill. Remember, also, that the grains will become soft when combined with milk or yogurt. Muesli with extra nuts will be overly crunchy; muesli with lots of fruit will be very chewy.

 

 

 

 

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The Grains

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Nuts/Seeds…1 cup

 

Nuts and seeds—such as…
  • Brazil nuts
  • cashews
  • chia seeds
  • coconut flakes
  • hazelnuts
  • macadamias
  • peanuts
  • pecans
  • pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • pistachios
  • poppy seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • sliced almonds
  • sunflower seeds
  • unsweetened coconut flakes.
  • walnuts

will give your muesli a delicious crunch,,,not to mention te fact that nuts and seeds will make your muesli even healthier because they contain omega-3 fatty acids and protein.

Choose any nut, seed, combination that you like…or omit them altogether if you’re allergic to them or simply don’t like them.

 

Before mixing your ingredients together, also take the time to toast your nuts in the same way that you do your grain. This will not only give the nuts a little extra crunch, but also make them more flavorful.

Don’t add oil or any other liquid to the pan when toasting your grains and nuts. Toasting the nuts release their oils, so anything added will make your muesli taste a little greasy.

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The Fruit…1C

 

The third ingredientw that you will want to add to your muesli—now that you have stirred together your grains and nuts/seeds, is/are fruit(2)…Dried fruit will add both sweetness and chewiness to your muesli.

This can be any fruit that you like…as long as it’s dried and not fresh. Adding fresh fruit will make your muesli too soft and cause it turn bad much more quickly.

There are no set-in-stone rules as far as what fruits to add…simply choose whatever fruits that you and your family like.

A few ideas as far as what fruits you could add…as long as they are dried or dehydrated…are…

  • apple chips
  • apricots
  • bananas
  • blueberries
  • cherries
  • cranberries
  • currants
  • dates.
  • figs
  • mango
  • papaya
  • raisins
  • strawberries

Here are a few things to remember…as far as adding fruit to your muesli…

  • Add only enough d  to make your granola taaste seweter…but nout so much that your granola is too sweedt.
  • Avoid dried fruit that contains added sugar.
  • Chop up your dried fruit into bite-sized pieces before adding to your muesli.
  • Do not add any additional sugar to your muesli. You shouldn’t need it…and as we already know…it’s not good for you.
  • Experiment until you find the “perfect” recipe.Avoid dried fruit that contains added sugar.
  • Make sure that any dried fruit that you use does not contain dded sugar.
  • Save fresh fruit for when you actually get ready to eat your muesli.

 

 

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 The Spices

If you would like your muesli to have even more of a taste that your family will enjoy, feel free to add spices.  Spice (that are often used to make your muesli more flavorful include cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, and ginger,

Store a cinnamon stick, a few whole cloves, or a vnanilla bean with your muesli to infuse different flavors.

 

 

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Stirring Your Muesli

Now that you have put all of your “stuff” into a container, put the lid on the container and shake until everything is combined.

 

 

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Storing Your Muesli

Store the muesli in an airtight glass jar or plastic container. Your muesli will stay good for  up to two months as long as it stays dry.

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Serving Your Muesli

 

The easiest way to enjoy your muesli is to add milk or stir it into some yogurt.  Waiting for about ten minutes to half an hour before eating it will soften up the grains a little.

You could also soak your muesli in milk overnight….at a 1:1 ratio. To make overnight oats, combine 2/3C muesli wotj 23C milk in a small lidded container. Refrigerate overnight. Enjoy cold in the morning.

A third option is to heating your muesli in the microwave before serving.

 

Soaking or cooking your muesli will break down the oats, making them easier to chew and digest…and making the muesli more nutritious becsuse the nutrients—such as the fiber, healthy fats, antioxidants. vitamins, protein, omega 3 and minerals found in muesli—are more easily absorbed by your body.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Amaranth…The Why

So now that you know what amaranth is, why should you care…what is the nutritional benefit…why should you add amaranth to your diet…why is amaranth considered a superfood?

Amaranth is a “relative” of other extremely healthy foods that you probbly already have added to your diet, possibly from birth—such as beets, spinach, and quinoa,

Amaranth is a great source of protein, fiber, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and iron.

Let’s look at the nutrients that amaranth provides…

 

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The Numbers—Key Nutrients

Based on one cup serving of amaranth, here are some important uumbers…

Calcium...112% DV…116 mg…The calcium that can be found in amaranth is important for bone repair and strength. Not getting enough calcium in your diet causes your bones to become weak and pliable….increasing your risk of breaking a bone and developing osteoporosis.

Fiber…20% DV…Amaranth contains more fiber than any other gluten-free grain, even more than superfoods such as quinoa. The fiber in amaranth is good for your digestive system….(need I elaborate…fill in the blanks yourself)…

 

Folate…14%DV…54.1 mg…The folate in amaranth helps the body copy and synthesize DNA, which is especially important for pregnant women, because a folate deficiency can keep the growing baby’s cell from growing properly…possibly resulting in  birth defects as spina bifida or causing heart and limb malformations.

 

 

Manganese …105$ DV….This is over 100$ DV of manganese,…Maganese is especially important for diabetics because it helps reduce high blood sugar levels by helping your body converrt amino acids into sugar and maintain the balance of sugar within the bloodstream.

Protein…The protein found in amaranth is important for…
  • aiding in digestion
  • building muscle mass
  • controlling mood swings
  • decreasing exercise-induced muscle damage
  • helping to naturally balance hormones
  • making you feel full quicker and requiring more work for the body to digest than fast-acting refined carbs
  • preventing weight gain by
  • supporting neurological function

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Other Nutrients

  • Caroohydrates….48 grams
  • Copper…18%DV…0.4 mg
  • Far… 3.9 grams
  • Iron…25%DV …5.2mg
  • Magnesium…40% DV…160mg
  • Phosphorous…36%DVC…364mg
  • Potassium…9% DV…352 Mg
  • Selemium…19% DV…13.5mg
  • Vitamin B6…14% DV…0.3mg
  •  Zinc…14%…2.1 mg

 

 

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Other Health-Related Issues

In addition to all of these nutrients, amaranth also provides each of the he nine essential amino acids and aantioxidants.

Now let’s look at what all of these nutrients mean as far as your health…your muscles, bone, and skin…your cardiovascular health…your mmune system.

1. Controlling Cholesterol Levels…Amaranth is a considered a cholesterol-lowering food…having been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol…even by up to 50%.

2.  Controlling :Your Weight…Amaranth can help you maintain your goal weight for many reasons, including…

  • amaranth strengthens your bones, which means that you can exercise without having to worry so much about breaking a bone
  • fiber found in amarant keeps your digestive system regulated and reduces inflammation
  • high levels of lysine, an amino acid, helps your body produce carnitine, a nutrient that is important for converting fatty acids into energy and helping lower cholesterol
  • protein keeps you full longer and increases endurance levels

3. Dealing with Gluten Sensitivity…Many people are either allergic or sensitive to gluten, the protein found in wheat…but amaranth is gluten-free. Problems associated with gluten could include…

  • arthritis
  • bone and joint pain
  • celiac’s disease
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • infertility
  • miscarraige
  • poor memory.
  • skin rashes

4. Keeping Your Bones Healthy…The calcium that can be found in amaranth is important for bone repair and strength. Not getting enough calcium in your diet causes your bones to become weak and pliable….increasing your risk of breaking a bone and developing osteoporosis.

5. Reducing Inflammation…Inflammation is caused by the accumulation of dietary and environmental toxins in the body…making your immune system so overworked and weak that it can no longer defend  body tissues against damaging defense cells and hormones.

Inflammation is associated with just about every health condition, including…

  • leaky gut syndrome
  • arthritis
  • fibermyalgia
  • irritable bowel disease
  • gout

Amaranth helps reduce this inflammation.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

A Watched Pot Never Boils

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Let’s All Get Boiling Mad Together

Yeah, I know…I said that we would crawl our way up the Raw Foods Pyramid one food at a time…one tier at a time…

But…

My family will never be content to eat nutritional yeast and raw sweet potatoes for the rest of their lives.

So instead I have been getting acquainted with all the different cooking methods…what foods work best for which technique…how to use each method in creating not only meals that are healthier, but also more delicious.

I began looking at these different cooking methods by starting with what I thought were “moist cooking methods”…specifially sauteeing, pan frying, and deep frying.

Let’s consider a few characteristics that make certain cooking methods “moist” cooking methods…

  • 1. Moist-heat cooking methods involve cooking food with, or in, some type of liquid—such as steam, water, stock, or wine. Lately I have learned that many people do not consider these three methods to be “moist” cooking methods because…but, hey, we’ve already talked about it…so let’s move on and not join in on that debate.
  • 2. Moist-heat cooking methods involve using lower temperatures—ranging from 140°F to 212°F—(yeah, I know, we just talked about frying foods at 300-ish degrees…just go with it)…
  • 3. Moist-heat cooking methods soften tough fibers—such as meat protein or plant cellulose….which can be good or bad depending on the food that you are figuring out what to do with.
  • 4. Moist-heat cooking methods are typically simple and economical.
  • 5. Moist-heat cooking methods are more likely to preserve and maintain the water-soluble vitamins and other nutrients of the food, taking advantage of that food’s nutritional potential.
  • 6. Moist-heat cooking methods preserve and even add moisture to the food as it is cooking…important for cooking foods that need softening—such as hard vegetables, tough meat or dry grains and beans….
  • 7. Moist-heat cooking methods bring out more of the natural flavor in the food.

We have already looked at sauteeing, pan frying, and deep frying.

Some more common moist-heat cooking methods are…

  • boiling
  • braising
  • poaching
  • simmering
  • steaming
  • stewing

So let’s get boiling mad together in these next few posts, okay?!

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Meat and Taters Around the World—Sweden

Getting my five year old ready to start “real school” in the fall has reminded how there’s always one of THEM in almost any crowd…

The sibling that gets your mom the most expensive gift of any other sibling

The nerd in the class that always aces the test that most of us have just failed

The homeroom mother eight months pregnant, kid in tow, perfectly organizing the homeroom Christmas…or whatever the heck THEY acknowledge the holiday as this week…party

The relative that brings the fanciest side dish to the Thanksgiving side dish to the annual “let’s all get together and pretend like we all like each other once a year” ordeal…

Your sister in law was so proud of her mashed potatoes…until you showed up with your twice-baked potatoes…

But lo and behold…here comes THAT sibling…the one you’ve competed with and lived in the shadows of your entire life walking in fashionably late with nothing but…

HASSELBACK POTATOES

We can all thank Leif Elisson for being the overachiever in his cooking school and creating these potatoes back in 1953…when he was a chef in training at the famous restaurant at the Hasselbacken Hotel in Stockholm…an elegant hotel that first opened in 1748.

By the way the word Hasselback actually translates  “Hazel Hill.”

In fact, they can’t be possibly be as hard as they look like they would be to make if the Swedes enjoy them not only for “red calendar day” events…but also for breakfast, appetizers, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

They are basically a baked potato…so I’m not gonna go into depth as far as cooking them…already talked about that in this previous post…

These just go extra by requiring that you make a special series of deep parallel cuts along the top of the potato so that it opens into their expected fan shape….and then so that you can showboat various toppings on top.

Surprisingly these potatoes only take a little more effort than a regular baked potato…and can make such an impact when served alongside a special dinner—such as a holiday roast, date night steak, or Easter ham.

The perfect Hasselback potatoes have perfectly crispy, crunchy, and golden edges of French fries on the outside…the soft, buttery, creamy goodness of mashed potatoes on the inside….and the perfect amounts of cheddar, Parmesan cheese, fresh chives, sour cream, bacon, crumbled feta, spring onions, etc. 

 

 

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PREP

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet or a 9×13-inch pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Arrange a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat to 425°F.

 

 

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SLICE

The one thing that separates a hasselback potato from a plain everyday baked potato is the way it is cut.

So settle on bringing mashed potatoes or twice-baked potatoes to the party until you master the technique.

First of all, it is important that you choose a good quality knife to cut your potatoes—one with a thin blade that is very sharp…(and have the number to the nearest CareNow clinic close at hand.)…

Slice a thin layer from the bottom of the potato to keep it from rolling around.

Place a potato between the handles of two wooden spoons or two chopsticks. This creates a “guardrail” that should help keep you from slicing the potato all the way through….the most important thing to not do whenever making this dish…(other than cooking them too long and burning both your potatoes and perhaps even your house.)

Another option to help guide you as you are making your cuts is to rest the potato in a large serving spoon.

Cut thin parallel slits about every 1/4″ across each of the potatoes, leaving 1/4″ at the bottom intact. The thinner the slices, the better the end result.

Push the knife straight down into the potato. Once your knife hits the chopsticks or edge of the spoon, stop slicing. Once again, it is important to make sure that the slices stay connected at the bottom of the potato.

Don’t worry about your slices being perfect, they will end up great regardless.

If all else fails, and you still suck at this, then order yourself a Hasselback potato cutting board…they’ll still be impressed…

Repeat with the remaining potatoes, sertting each on the prepared baking sheet once sliced.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are to dinner fare what hash browns are to breakfast fare…and in this post, we’re gonna learn how to make the best mashed potatoes ever.

The perfect mashed potatoes are rich, super-creamy, and thick…and flavored with butter, sour cream, garlic and Parmesan cheese.

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Which type of potatoes should I use?

The best variety of  potato to use when making mashed potatoes is Yukon Gold….(that’s why I put mashed potatoes in this section on Yukon Gold potatoes…go figure)…because they give your mashed potatoes an even creamier texture….

 

 

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Should I Cut or Peel My Potatoes? 

First of all, whether or not you peel the potatoes before cutting them is purely a matter of preference. Some people like the texture that the skin adds,while other don’t…Just remember that the skin is where all the extra nutrients and flavor.s are.

Regardless if you peel them or not, you will need to cut your potatoes into evenly-sized chunks, about an inch or so thick.  You do not want to boil whole potatoes Now transfer the potatoes  to a large stockpot full of cold water until all of the potatoes are cut and ready to go.

 

 


How do I cook my potatoes?

Place the potatoes In a 6-quart stockpot, and cover with enough cold water that the water line sits about 1″ above the potatoes. Add 1Tbsp salt. You do not want to boil or heat the water before addiong the potatoes because they might not cook evenly.

Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat down to medium-low. Cook about 15min…until you can stick a knife into the middle of the potato with almost no resistance.

Draining and steaming to finish helps pull out any remaining water for a fluffy final texture. …Whether or not you cook them without peeling them first is a matter of personal preference.

So carefully drain out all of the water.

Return the drained potatoes into the hot stockpot. Set back on the stove over low heat.  Gently shake the pan for about a minute to release some of the steam and moisture from the potatoes.

Remove the pan from the heat.

Set them aside until you are actually ready to mash your potatoes….this will make sure that all the liquid is evaporated.

 

 

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Now what do I do?

Heat 1/3C salted butter, 1C milk, and 2tsp salt together either in a small saucepan or in the microwave until warm…but avoid boiling the milk.  Set aside until ready to use. This keeps the potatoes hot and absorbs better. 

Return the potatoes to the hot stockpot. Place back on the hot burner, but first turn the heat down to low.  Using two oven mitts, carefully hold the handles on the stockpot and shake it gently on the burner for about a minute to help cook off some of the remaining steam within the potatoes. 

Mash the potatoes with a potato masher, strong wooden spoon, or electric beaters until smooth, adding a little extra milk if needed…but be careful not to over beat or they will become gluey.

Add warm milk mixture, a little bit at a time, to the potatoes until they reach the desired consistency is reached.

Stir in 3 cloves garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, 1/2C sour cream, fresh herbs, onion, shredded cheddar, cooked bacon bits, chives…whatever you want.

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect French Fries

Homemade French Fries…why even bother when it would be so much easier either to drive thru McDonald’s or grab a bag of frozen fries out of your freezer…the one that’s probably been hiding in there for the last couple of years at least…goal for today—clean out freezer!!!

Because we are talking about the deep frying cooking methods and potatoes, and of course the topic of French fries would eventually come up.

The perfect French fries are extra astonishingly crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside.

French fries are actually very easy to make ahead and store in your freezer that you may never buy another bag of frozen fries ever, ever again…

 

 


The Potatoes

Which potatoes?

  • Yukon Gold…that’s why we’re learning about making French fries while we are on the topic of Yukon Gold potatoes…go figure, right?
  • Choose the largest ones you can find.

Why are Yukon Gold potatoes better?

  • …because they are less starchy and will turn out much crispier than any other type of potato.

How many potatoes?

  • Figure on two potatoes per person.

How do I slice the potatoes?

  • Slice the potatoes into ½” thick sticks. The thinner you cut your fries, the crispier they will be.
  • Wash the potatoes.
  • Peeling them at this point is purely a matter of personal preference.

Soaking Your Potatoes

Soak the potato slices in cold water for at least one hour, perhaps even overnight. The longer, the better.

Soaking your potatoes removes the starch and will end up making your French fries extra crispy and keep them from sticking to each other when you are cooking them.

 

 

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Cooking Your French Fries

 

Most cooks and chefs agree that the best way to getting those perfectly crispy fries that you’re craving is to double fry your potatoes—first for five or six minutes at 300° to cook the middle of the potato, and then frying them a second time at 400° to cook the outside.

Using a deep-fat thermometer will help ensure that the oil is at the proper temperature before you start adding your potatoes to the water.

Drain the potatoes.. Pat them dry with paper towels or a clean dishcloth.

Be sure to use a pot that is large and tall enough—such as a tall 8-quart soup pot, to contain the oil without overflowing when the potatoes are slipped in.

Pour enough oil into the pan that it measures about 1-1/2″ deep.

Heat the oil over high heat until it reaches 300.

Carefully drop small batches of potatoes to the hot oil. Frying too many French fries at once makes them less crispy.

The oil should bubble lightly.  The temperature of the oil will drop to about 260 F after the potatoes are added.

Gently stir the fries to ensure that they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan or stick to each other.  

Fry for about five minutes.

Remove from the oil using a pair of tongs or a slotted metal spoon.

At this point we’re only heating the potatoes, so don’t be disappointed if they’re not crisp yet.
Place the cooked potatoes on a paper towel lined plate.

 

Increase the heat to 400 degrees.

Fry a second time in batches about five more minutes, until they are crisp and golden-brown.

Remove them onto dry paper towels.
Sprinkle with salt as soon as they come out.
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

What’s Next?!

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Pan-Frying 101

 

2. Brining the Chicken…Typically when I frychicken, I cook approximately 3-3 1/2 pounds of chicken pieces….So let’s get started…
Soaking your chicken in some sort of brine will help the breading stick to the food better…and add moisture and flavor. Once you prepare the brine, simply add the chicken to the liquid and stick in the fridge at least thirty minutes, and even overnight.

 

4. Heating Your Oil…When frying chicken, it is important that the oil can be heated to a high temperature without burning. Peanut, canola or vegetable oil are your best options…Avoid using olive oil or butter.

 

 

 

5. Cooking Your Chicken…Gently place your breaded chicken skin side-down in your heated pan, being sure not to overcrowd the pan.

Replace the lid onto the pan. Cook the chicken about ten minutes, using your tongs to turn the chicken a few times while it cooks.

Remove the lid. Cook ten minutes more, uncovered…until the chicken is cooked through and the outside is a deep golden brown.

 

If you are using a probe thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the chicken, the magic number is 165 degrees.

Remember to bring the oil back up to 350 degrees before you add the next batch of chicken.

 

 

 

Once your chicken has finished frying, place the hot chicken on a wire rack set on top of a baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little salt for extra flavor.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

When done well, you should end up with a hallmark of great fried chicken—perfectly tender meat with plenty of that crunchy, dark brown crust that all of us Southerners so adore.