The Ex Files: Fried Chicken and Biscuits & Coconut Pancakes & Crab Rangoon

21 Feb

Bear Mountain Park in the Hudson River Valley

When you first fall in love, I mean really fall in love, dolce vita mutual love, you glow. Everything about the world seems shinier, gauzier, more effulgent, practically vibrating with Hallmark Card truisms.

Suddenly, your heart and mind are saturated with a completely unfamiliar, frightening sensation — is it sympathy? compassion? the mysterious sentiment you’ve heard about called contentment? — that makes you and the object of your affection temporarily abandon all of your previous antisocial personality disorders.

Meanwhile, you both gain about 10 pounds.

Between bouts of gazing into each others’ eyes and enumerating the manner in which you plan to shower each other in a glistening array of sparkling jewels, sustainably harvested caviar, effervescent champagne and silky soft cashmere, you spend most of your time eating, and let’s face it, drinking. You abandon your exercise routines, rationalizing that you burn off all of those crème brulee and bellini calories between the sheets – and really, who has time for the gym when you simply must rush out to yet another seven-course, 12-hour brunch?

You discover favorite foods together, gather the cajones to eat weird and freaky things you never would have considered putting in your mouth if your lover hadn’t had a mother who grew up on a farm and spent her life eating and preparing various alarmingly hued cow innards and really you must simply try these deep fried sweet breads, they’ll change your life. You create dishes at 2 am out of scraps in the pantry, and they become a part of your regular recipe rotation.

You’re creating a history together, building a culture, learning a new language: as with every civilization, its eccentricities and traditions are often most accurately and  poignantly expressed by the manner in which you break bread together, and the substance and structure of the bread itself.

And then things get ugly.

Your personality disorders bleed out from the deep dark drawer in your (and his!) brain, right into your lives together, and suddenly this chubby, ill-kempt man exhibiting sidewalk rage and wearing terry cloth trousers on a Friday night seems like a stranger to you. And his penchant for eating scrapple every Sunday while watching the game? Disgusting! (Not that your truck driver vocab and collection of bathroom hairballs is particularly charming, either).

You break up. Your civilization crumbles. Your nations are at war!

But, if you’re like Stephen and me, a few scraps of culinary history from each of your previous relationships stay on file. We’ve trotted out our databases of yumminess, always operating under rules of full disclosure when pressed on the sources of our recipes. Often, the best dishes and recipes developed in the midst of romances are shamelessly decadent, easy to make and fun to eat on the fly. Stephen and I tap into the Ex Files for recipes when we need to shake up our own rotation, and when we want something familiar, yummy and fast.

This past long weekend, we drove around Westchester and Putnam counties, getting to know our new hood a bit better. It was gorgeous, fun, inspiring, life-affirming — but exhausting and time consuming — our usual Sunday in the Kitchen became a few minutes here and there, hurry up already, we need to get going!

We woke up every morning and came home every night craving rich, homey dishes that paired perfectly with steaming cups of black coffee or frosty mugs or sudsy, hoppy ales. Instead of trying something new, we reached back into our databanks and pulled up our favorite relics from the Ex Files. In addition to the bulging set of hideous, mismatched baggage they left us with, we inherited a few kick-ass recipes, which have, do and will continue to serve us, together. Below, check out our recipes for Fried Chicken and Biscuits, Coconut Pancakes and Crab Rangoon. Thank you, exes, for the delicious leftovers!

Chicken and biscuits, in the buff

Fried Chicken and Biscuits

Makes 6 servings, more biscuits than chicken

Ingredients for Chicken:

  • About 1 pound of boneless organic chicken breasts or thighs, cut into two or three-bite strips
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup mirin or sake
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Optional garnish: honey mustard or garlic aioli

Method of Chicken:

  • Marinate the chicken for about an hour in the soy, mirin, garlic mixture.
  • Heat vegetable oil in sauce pan. It should be hot, but not smoking. Heat over medium-high, to about 350 degrees.
  • Drain chicken and discard marinade. Dip strips of chicken in cornstarch. Test small piece in oil. If it sizzles and floats to the top, the oil is ready. Be careful when putting chicken in; use tongs and be careful to not let the oil splash on your skin.
  • Fry chicken in batches and don’t overcrowd. When chicken floats to top and develops a golden crust, remove and drain on paper towel. Keep warm in oven until you serve, with biscuits. (Recipe below).

Ingredients for Biscuits:

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt (kosher is fine)
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 6 TBSP butter, cold
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, plus more for brushing
  • Optional spread: marmalade or more butter

Method for Biscuits:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Whisk together dry ingredients.
  • Using knives or a pastry blender, cut in butter. Don’t be afraid to blend it in with your hands a bit. The butter will distribute more evenly that way. You want the mixture to look like a pile of small peas. It never looks exactly like this, but it’s an idyllic vision to aspire to.
  • Make a well in the center. Add the buttermilk and stir in.
  • When the dough forms a large ball and separates from the bowl, turn it out onto a lightly floured counter or board. Knead gently to prevent excessive gluten formation (tough biscuits are a crime against deliciousness). Knead for about 2 minutes. Using a floured rolling pin, roll it out until it’s about a 1/2″ thick. Using cookie cutters, stamp out biscuits and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Brush with buttermilk and pop in oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.
  • Serve with chicken and more butter. Extra biscuits will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container, or in a bag in the freezer. Reheat in oven at 300 degrees.

Nutritional breakdown for Fried Chicken and Biscuits:About 450 calories and 18 grams of fat per serving. Decent source of protein. Also excellent source of saturated fat, cholesterol and other artery-coating and blood pressure pummeling nasties.

Cost breakdown for Fried Chicken and Biscuits: If you buy organic, humanely raised chicken, about $17, or $2.83 a serving

Verdict / In the Future: The buttermilk biscuits are a Granny classic — anyone who doesn’t like buttermilk biscuits should be held up to public ridicule, solemnly paraded through the streets and then put on an ice floe and cast away from civilization. They go well with absolutely anything, especially fried things. This chicken is marinated in soy and mirin which gives it a delectable salty/sweet high kick and the soy breaks down some of the proteins in the meat, making it meltingly soft, but not insipid; the cornstarch makes the coating as crisp as old school KFC bucket chicken.

Coconut Pancakes

Makes 2 huge servings

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 1 1/2 TBSP sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 TBSP butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • Butter, vegetable oil or coconut oil for frying
  • Maple syrup or candied fruit for garnish; more butter

Method:

  • Whisk together dry ingredients (not the unsweetened coconut) in a large bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
  • Create a well in the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. Stir in dried coconut.
  • Warm butter or oil in large skillet over medium to high heat. If you have coconut oil, use it. The pancakes will be amazingly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
  • Add about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. Cook, resisting the urge to flip, until the edges of the pancake are bubbling. Flip over and cook until golden brown. Cook in batches and keep warm in the oven.
  • Serve with more butter and either maple syrup or candied fruit. (I like candied cranberries in the winter; they also compliment with the coconut).

Nutritional breakdown for Coconut Pancakes: About 500 calories and 20 grams of fat per serving with generous toppings. Coconuts are extremely high in saturated fat, but in a different type of saturated fat than animal fat; the medium chain fatty acids in coconuts are a great source of energy and they’re extremely nourishing and soothing for people with digestion issues and ulcers.

Cost breakdown for Coconut Pancakes: About $3 or $1.50 a serving.

Verdict / In the future: Coconut pancakes are much more filling and nutritionally dense than regular pancakes, so they feel like a meal in and of themselves. Sweet, nutty, rich and savory. Perfect before setting out on a rugged tour through the brewpubs of Putnam County.

Crab Rangoon

Makes 36 wontons

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. neufchatel (regular cream cheese would work too)
  • 6 oz. canned crab meat, drained and flaked
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 green onion, finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • sesame oil to taste (if baking)
  • vegetable oil (if frying)
  • Sauce for dips (optional): For hot mustard: mix 1 part dry mustard to 1 part cold water, whisk in a few drops of vegetable oil and allow to sit for an hour or so. For sweet and sour sauce: put 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1/3 of a cup sugar and 2 TBSP soy sauce in small saucepan; heat to boil, reduce to simmer, cook until thick and nappe (will coat back of spoon).

Method:

  • If baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Mix cream cheese, crab, onions, garlic, Worcestershire, soy, salt and pepper in large bowl.
  • Clear space on counter for rangoon creation. Have a small bowl of warm water handy and a plate to put finished wraps on. Lay out wonton wrappers, a few at a time, keeping the rest covered with a damp towel to prevent drying out.
  • Spoon about 1 tsp worth of crab filling into center of wonton wrapper. Moisten edges with finger dipped in water. Press edges together, forming a triange. Seal edges with more water if necessary. Place on plate and cover with damp towel until all of the rangoon is assembled.
  • (Extra rangoon can be frozen and fried up to a month later).
  • Heat a few cups of vegetable oil, if frying. Heat to about 350 degrees. Carefully adding a few rangoons at a time, fry until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon and place on paper towel lined plate. When finished, serve with one or both of the dips.
  • If baking, place rangoon on baking sheet and drizzle each piece with sesame oil. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Serve with one or both dips.

Nutritional breakdown for Crab Rangoon: About 75 calories and 3 grams of fat a pop. Brimming with heart stopping, stroke causing properties that will make you very fat and very happy.

Cost breakdown for Crab Rangoon: About $7 for 36 of the little guys.

Verdict / In the Future: Deep fried. Cheese. With aromatics. And salt. Worth the waddle, every time.

Goodbye, long weekend

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