Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cuke Pop

These warm, waning days make me crave bright, fizzy drinks.  Thankfully it's not yet time for mulled cider and the heavy bevs of autumn.  The cukes are getting fat on the vines.  Gotta use them up. Here's a recipe for a refreshing cucumber shrub that makes a great base for a soda and also likes to be paired with gin or tequila for a boozy alternative.  

Cucumber shrub:
One large cucumber sliced thin.  Green cukes will make a pleasant, pale jade syrup.  But use what you've got.  Place cukes in a bowl and stir in 3/4 cup sugar and 2 tsp. salt.  Mix well and cover.  Let sit at room temperature for at least an hour, stirring occasionally.  The cukes will give up a lot of juice.  Pour mixture in a blender and purée with 3/4 cup vinegar of your choice.  I used organic cider vinegar.  

Strain puréed ingredients through a fine mesh strainer, squeezing pulp to remove juice.  To make a refreshing soda, combine syrup with soda water to taste and serve over ice.  Garnish with a fresh round.  

If you really want to forget that winter is waiting in the wings, mix equal parts shrub with tequila or gin.  Add ice and soda water to taste and finish with a sqeeze of lime.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Parsi-style fried chicken in a biscuit

Inspired by the new issue of Saveur, which is devoted to the food of India, I'm feeling in the mood for some succulent curry.  At the same time, I'm craving more fried chicken.  I want a piece of fried chicken wedged into a fresh, warm biscuit.  But I also want the pungent punch of cardamom, cumin, ginger, chile and garlic.  So here's what the old scavenger is going to attempt:  an experimental combination.  Warning:  this could go horribly awry!

I'm making a chicken marinade based loosely on a recipe for Parsi-style chicken with apricots from the aforementioned mag.  The Parsis, South Asia's ethnically Persian population- followers of the prophet Zoroaster- carry a beautiful cuisine that frequently pairs sweet fruits with savory herbs.  

1 cup whole milk
1 cup whole milk yogurt
OR 2 cups buttermilk instead of milk and yogurt (I was out at the time)
1 pint apricot jam
10 dried chiles de arbol (seeded and ground or pounded)
6 cloves garlic
1, 4" piece of ginger, sliced
2 tsp cumin (ground)
6 green cardamom pods (seeds removed and ground, husks discarded)
2 sticks cinnamon (ground to powder)
2 Tbs salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth

2 lbs boneless thighs, preferably with the skin on

Place chicken in a glass dish or Pyrex storage container with a cover, pour the marinade over, mix with hands, cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Quick Cream Biscuits (recipe from the Anson Mills website).  Or use your favorite biscuit recipe.  
After trying this, I recommend a more rugged biscuit that can hold up to rough treatment.  

Anticipating the coating on this chicken to be pretty sweet from the jam, I'm making a quick onion pickle to offset the sugars.

Pickled onion:
1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
1 + 1/2 Tbs fine salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup wine vinegar

Mix ingredients, cover and let rest at room temperature an hour, then store in fridge if necessary.

For Dredge:
2 cups cake flour
1 cup all purpose flour
OR 3 cups all purpose flour
salt to taste
veg oil for frying

Mix dry ingredients in large bowl.  Remove chicken from fridge, shake off excess marinade and dredge well in flour mixture.

Fill 12 inch cast iron skillet with 1/3 to 1/2 inch oil and heat to 350.  Place chicken in skillet, skin side down first.  Cook chicken til it turns golden brown, 4-5 minutes per side. Don't crowd the skillet, fry in batches, if need be.  Let cooked chicken rest for a few minutes on baking sheet lined with paper towels.

Ok, the chicken turned out pretty well, but these biscuits are not meant to hold a hot chunk of bird-they are soft and crumbly.  Delicious, but better to save them as vessels for butter and preserves.  We need to find a more stalwart biscuit next time.

We had to pull an open-faced maneuver:  a little mayo on bottom half of biscuit and a dab of chile pickle, then the chicken and pickled onion.  We buttered the top half and ate it separately.