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.

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Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Skinny Dipping

5. Chill the  Breaded Food…

Cover the tray of breaded food with foil or Saran Wrap. Place in the fridge for thirty minutes to an hour.

This is priobably the one step that most of us feel like we could simply skip…

But chilling your food is actually extremely important beccause refrigerating the fooed allows the flour to become sticky and attach to the meat….ensuring that the breading stays on your food once you cook it.

4. Fry Until Golden Brown…After the breaded food has had time to chill, you’re ready to fry it.

a. First fill the pan that you have designated as your offricial frying pan with enough oil so the food you’re frying is half-covered. Make sure you use a heavy pan for frying so it conducts heat evenly.

b. Heat the oil until a few breadcrumbs sizzle when tossed in. The type of oil that you fryt your food in is actually a matter of preference. Use cooking oil that can withstand high temperatures.

Make sure that the oil is hot enough before adding the food…otherwise your fried food will absorb the oil like a sponge…resulting in soggy, oily food….and the breading will fall off the food into the pan.

Your oil should be somewhere between 300 and 400 degrees, depending on the recipe.

You can you tell if the oil is hot enough by using use a kitchen thermometer…or tossing a drop of batter or breadcrumbs into the oil to make sure that it sizzles…or sticking the end of a wooden spoon into the oil to see if little bubbles form around the spoon.

Also, if the oil in your ia hot enough, the oil will take on a distinct shimmer.

But it the oil is smoking, it’s too hot…either turn the heat down or start over.

Don’t try to rush the oil into reaching the right temperature by cranking your stove eye up as high as possible. The oil should heat up slowly. Trying to heat the oil too fast will lead to bitter, burned food.’

c. Gently lay your breaded food meat in your heated pan, being sure not to overcrowd.

Once the oil is at the right temperature, and you are ready to add your food to your pan, make sure that you do not overcrowd the pan. Crowding the pan will cause heat to be trapped underneath your food, causing it to steam rather than fry.

Even if you know that your pan coulfd hold more food, you do not want your pieces of food to touch each other. Either cook in batches or use two pans.

Remember that as you take out the cooked food and add another batch of uncooked food to your pan, the temperature of the oil will plummet. Allow the oil to come back up to temperature between batches of cooking…otherwise your food will be soggy.

d. Fry for a minute or two, until golden brown on the bottom, and then flip. You may want to use your probe thermometer to check the temperatures of the meat as you are cooking it.

Keep an eye on the food.

Keep the flame on medium to medium-high.

Make sure the temperature doesn’t get too high. If the oil starts to smoke or turn black, it’s too hot and you either need to let it cool down or start over with fresh oil.

To avoid your breading when you turn your food, it is imporrtant that you not turn the food too early or too often.

Remember that the second side always cooks faster than the first.

Be patient. Leave the food alone until it develops a crust and is easily lifts off the pan. If the food is still sticking to the pan, it isn’t ready to turn.

Be sure to use the proper utensils—such as tongs or a thin spatula—for turning your food, especially when the food is fragile.

e. Drain the cooked food on cooling racks placed over foil-lined cookie sheeta. Keep warm until ready to serve. You could also use either paper towels or brown paper sacks. Of these two, the sacks yields the crispest food.

Once the food has been fried and transferred to a paper towel-lined plate, sprinkle it once more with kosher or sea salt.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Dreading the Breading

So we’ll start our discussion on frying foods with breading.

Breading is a basic process that involves coating your food—such as fried chicken and onion rings—before frying it.  

This coating can consist of many different types of crumbs—such as rushed corn flakes, fine dried breadcrumbs, crushed cracker meal, and even potato chips…(more on this later)…

Breading differs from using a batter to prep your food.

 

Breading involves using basically dry ingredients whereas Battering your food involves combining flour of some sort with a liquid and perhaps other ingredients—such as eggs and baking powder.

Battering your food coat them in a thicker and more goopy layer.

Your goal whenever you are frying food is to create delicious food that has a crunchy and delicious exterior with a moist and flavorful interior.

Batters and breadings are important in this process because they both serve the same basic purpose—to help seal in moisture.

You do not want the oil to immediately come into direct contact with the food because you are more likely to end up with food that is either burned or leathery.

Instead you want to create a barrier between the hot oil and the raw food that will help the food cook more gently and evenly, instead of burning.or turning leathery.

Breading not only serves these purposes, but also helps reduce spatter, adds a very subtle crunch, and aids with browning.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

I Can Bring Home the Bacon…AND Fry It Up In a Pan

 

Panfrying is an easy and straightforward dry cooking method that is used all over the world, giving us such great foods as breaded pork chops and chicken cutlets.

Panfrying allows you to get dinner on the table more quickly than several of the other cooking methods that we have or will be discussing…as long as you prepare as much as possible before throwing the first pork chop into the oil…and as long as the food that you will be cooking is actually food suited for this cooking method.

Panfrying simply involves cooking food in a heavy pan containing a small amount of hot oil over moderate heat until it is brown on one side, then flipping it over so that the other side browns also.

The oil should only cover half of the food’s height, unlike deep frying where the food is completely suspended in oil. The fact that the food actually touches the bottom of the pan means that the crust will be even darker than if it had been floating in the oil.

Panfried foods are often covered with some sort of breading before being added to the hot oil…(more on this later)…

This layer creates a barrier that prevents the oil from soaking into the food and making it greasy

As food is panfried, the moisture contained in the inside part of the meat turns into steam and then has a battle with the very hot oil surrounding it. The steam fights to keep the oil out, while the oil  fights to keep the moisture in. 

Actually I was a little puzzled about why frying would be considered as a “dry cooking method” even though the food is cooked in liquid.

Supposedly this is the case because oil is actually a fat that contains no water at all.

Even though both oil and water are liquids, oil behaves much differently than water.

Fewer flavor compounds found in food dissolve in oil. This means that foods cooked in oil are less likely to lose their flavor than those same foods cooked in water.

Save water for making stocks and broths, since so much of the flavor originally found in the food will be dissolved into the water anyway..

The goal of panfrying is to maintain a moist interior while at the same time creating a crisp, tasty, golden-brown crust, Pan-fried foods are favored for these browned surfaces, crisp coatings, and tender interiors.

Panfrying is an effective way to not only retain the moisture and tenderness that these cuts of meat such as pork chops should have, but also to add rich, caramelized flavor.

Food that has been panfried correctly should have a moist interior and a crispy exterior that you refuse to share with anybody.

One primary difference between panfrying and sauteeing, that we talked about in this previous post, is that panfrying uses lower heat.

This lower heat is important because panfrying involves cooking whole pieces of meat, not food that has already been cut into smaller pieces before cooking. If your temperature is too high, the exterior of the food will overcook while the  interior of the food will be undercoked…(ever cut into a hot piece of chieken only to find that the interior is still pink)…

In these next few posts, we will discuss the right equipment, the proper oils, which foods are best for panfrying…and how frying food can be done so that it isn’t quite as bad for my diabetic husband and my own big fat butt…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Shandong Campaign

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Anhui Campaign

The Anjui region is an inland area located in East China. The region surrounds the Huangshan Mountain, also referred to as Yellow Mountains. The region consists of many different types of terrain—including not only these mounjtains, but also forests and farmland.

Anhui cuisine revolves around wild plants and animals, very similar to Fujian cuisine that we talking about in an earlier post.,,,although there is less emphasis on seafood.

Anhui cuisine is humble and hearty peasant food. ..created by the native rustic cooking styles of the mountain dwellers.

Food is seen as therapy and meant to be healthy, visually stimulating, and simple.

As far as cooking method, it is important that the food is cooked in a way that doea not destroy the nutrients of the food. The cooking methods used in this province are simple, usually one of these four methods—braising, stewing, steaming, salting—with special emphasis on controlling cooking time and temperatures

As far as meat, Anhui cuisine includes more gamey meats than anyjui other regional cuisine.

As far as spices, Anhui cuisine uses many fresh wild herbs,

As far as vegetables, Anhui cuisine uses a lot of woodland vegetables—such as foraged mushrooms, berries, tea leaves, bamboo shoots, and other wild plants that can be found locally.

Examples of Anhui entrees that you might find on a menu are…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary—Zhejang Campaign

Zhejiang cuisine tends to be the simplest of all Chinese regional cuisines.

The focus of Zhejiang cuisine seems to be simplicity. The people of the region focus more on serving fresh seasonal produce served crispy, perhaps even raw or almost raw…much like Japanese food….fresh seafood…and

Zhejiang cuisine tends to be fresh, soft, and smooth with a mellow fragrance.,.,, with a good balance between saltiness and umami

Zhejiang cuisine uses a wide variety of cooking methods—including braising, sautéing, stewing, steaming, and deep-frying.

As far as meat, Zhejiang cuisins uses many different varieties of fresh seafood and freshwater fish caught from local rivers.

As far as sauce, Zhejiang cuisine tends to focus on simple marinades—such as a simple mixture of vinegar and sugar—instead of the more complicated sauces and marinades found in other Chinese regional cuisines.

As far as spices, Zhejiang cuisine tends to be lightly seasoned and veer on the salty side..

Examples of foods that you might find include…

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Jiangsu Campaign

Jiangsu cuisine seems like the aristocracy of Chinese regional cuisine. I say this for many reasons.

First of all, Jiangau cuisine places much emphasis on artistic presentation—carefully arranging the food so that it makes visual impact.

Jiangua cuisine also requires being able to use precise and delicate carving techniques, mastering various meticulous cooking methods—such as braising, stewing, and quick-frying.

Not only that, but Jiangau cuisine is often the go-to for elite banquets and state dinners.

Jiangua cuisine combines several taste sensations—saltiness, umami, and sweetness—in almost every single dish. The flavors tend to be rich, light and fresh. The texture tends to be tender. The emphasis seems to be on soup, with soup being a staple on almost all menus. The foods tend to be highly aromatic.

As far as ingredients, the Jiangsu province is widely known as a “fertile land of fish and rice.” Because most of the ingredients come from the many rivers and lakes of the region, as well as the sea, the cuisine often uses a variety of fish.

As far as spices, sugar is often used to round off the flavors.

One dish that you might find on a menu in this region might be Salted Duck.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Hunan Campaign

When I first decided to take a detour through the different Chinese cooking cuisines, I had no clue that this was going to take up a total of nine posts…what started as one post, soon led into about two or three weeks on my blog.

And all this time I have been thinking back on those times as a kid playing the game of Risk with my brother…fighting over who holds what territory.

 

But Chinese regional cuisine also poses a risk of a sort…the risk of cooking with the wrong methods and ingredients for taking care of a diabetic…as well as the risk of standing at the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet debating between  getting Sichuan chicken or Hunan chicken for about twenty minutes and then settling for the orange chicken of the sweet-and-sour chicken like most of us do anyway…

 

 

Anyway, on to the next province…

 

The Hunan Province is a land-locked agricultural hub in south-central China that produces a broad range of vegetables and herbs.

And Hunan cuisine takes advantage of  the great variety of ingredients that its rolling hills and beautiful valleys that the region provides.

Hunan cuisine is very similar to Sichuan food, but even hotter.

But the fact that the spiciness is derived from chilies makes it even more delicious because you can actually taste the ingredients,  instead of only being able to taste mouth-numbing peppercorns.

 

 

Hunan cuisine is not only known for this spicy flavor, but also for its deep colors, oily texture, and fresh aromas.

Another characteristic of Hunan cuisine is an emphasis on sourness. All shapes, sorts, and sizes of pickles are popular in the Hunan region.

 

 

As far as meat, Hunan cuisine uses lots of peppered and smoked meats, such as cured hams

As far as spices, people in the Hunan region can’t even begin to imagine life with without chilies. In fact, no dish is complete without chilies…kinda like no dish is complete without sour cream to many people, including me..

As far as other ingredients, Hunan cuisine uses heaps of garlic, shallots, and tofu, fermented bean curd.

 

 

Examples of foods that you might find in the Hunan region include…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Fujian Campaign

 

Because the Fujian province is surrounded by both the mountains and sea, Fujian cuisine can be a true culinary adventure.

This cuisine takes advantage of both worlds by incorporating the best of both worlds..the offerings of the sea—such as mussels, shrimp, and various types of fish—as well as the offerings of the mountains woodland—such as forest-foraged herbs and mushrooms, garlic, bamboo shoots

 

The people of the Fujian province tend to prefer mild and lightly seasoned…with a great passion for what we know as “sweet and sour.”

The chefs of this region take great pride in their expert knife skills and use these skills to enhance the flavor, aroma and texture of their food.

 

Another factor that distinguishes Fujian cuisine from the other Chinese cuisines is the use of fermented products…making the region distinct by its reputation for  marinated dishes, soups, stews and stir-fries.

 

 

As far as meat, Fujian cuisine includes pork, duck, chicken and beef…but especially takes advantage of what the sea offers—such as mussels, shrimp, and various types of fish.

As far as sauces, Fujian cuisine takes advantage of many different sauces—such as fish sauce, shrimp paste, shacha sauce and preserved apricots. In addition to these, orange juice is often used for a little complexity and sweetness.

As far as spices, Fujian cuisine is known for the precise use of scintillating, but not tongue numbing, spices. Fujian cuisine uses sugar, much like Sichuan cuisine uses Sichuan peppers…probably not a bood thing for any of my diabetic readers, right?

 

Examples of Fujian cuisine recipes that you might find on the internet include…