Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mojo Fried Chicken

A bit of a warning on this one: IT WILL BE MESSY. But super worth it. See?
Click me for a more detailed image of delicious
I chose to blend two of my favorite culinary cultures on this one, Cuban and Japanese. The traditional Cuban dressing called mojo (pronounced mo-ho) is vinegar based and infused with garlic and lime. I used this as a marinade for my boneless skinless chicken breasts. You can buy pre-made mojo at your local grocery store in the ethnic aisle. I've found in the past that, by itself, it doesn't provide enough tart kick, so I added equal parts non-fat, plain yogurt to the marinade. I let it sit in the fridge for three hours before I began cooking. I'll get to the Japanese part in a minute.

On to prepping your station. Start by preheating vegetable oil in a medium size skillet to medium-high heat. I used canola oil, since it's what I had on hand, but if you've got the extra money laying around, I recommend peanut oil. You want to fill your pan to a height half the depth of your chicken, so a half inch or so. I initially used about one and a half to two cups. You will need more to refill the pan, if you are doing large quantities. You will know when your oil is ready by coating your fingers in a touch of water and flicking it into the pan. When it sounds like this, it's ready:
Caution: When adding water or water bases substances (read, chicken) to hot oil, it will pop everywhere. So, for God's sake, wear a shirt, you moron.

Here's where we get to the song and dance. This job really requires one and a half people. One to handle coating the chicken and one half a person to make sure the chicken in the frying oil doesn't burn. So, until you get this on lock down, grab a buddy. You will need three large plates or bowls and a decent amount of counter space next to your stove. In bowl one, you will put flour. If you didn't marinade your chicken, you should add a pinch of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and any sort of green dried herbs you'd like, say basil, rosemary, or oregano. In bowl two, you want an egg wash. So beat two to three eggs lightly, until well broken up. In bowl three goes the bread crumbs.

The Japanese make a specific type of bread crumb called panko. It's done by baking the dough with electrical current instead of heat making the most heavenly, crunchy bread crumbs you will ever know. Check this poorly made, but informative video. Again, this can be found at your local grocery store on the ethnic aisle. If your store doesn't carry it, yell at them. Then go down the baking aisle and grab a couple cans of Vigo Bread Crumbs, specifically the Italian Seasoning blend.
When you're done, your work area should look like this.
My stove top is on the right hand side, thus, I put my bowls in order towards my pan. With each step, you want to cover the chicken breast completely, but also shake off any excess, so the breading won't fall off.

As you can see, I chose to fry the whole chicken breast. That didn't go so well for me. The breading browned too quickly and didn't cook the inside. When this happens, you should finish off the breading, then whisk it away to your oven, set to 350 degrees, and bake it till the center of the thickest part is no longer pink and the juices run clear. Since the breasts were pretty cold when i breaded them, it took around forty minutes. I cut the remaining pieces into smaller portions.

Much like pancakes, you want to wait until the bottom edge is browned before turning. Approximately 3-5 minutes per side. It should look like this:
When turning them over, you want to grab from underneath, not from the sides. Grabbing from the sides pushes the cooked breading together and causes it to fall off, since the top side is still raw and thus cannot be braced against.

Yes. This is how it's done.
Stop that right now, young lady. :P
Once fully cooked, place them on a plate with a couple paper towels down to wick away any excess oil. Let them rest for a couple of minutes for the juices inside to redistribute. To check for if they are done, cut the biggest piece in half and make sure the middle is no longer pink and the juices run clear.
Enjoy everybody!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Continuation of the Rainbow Cake: The Tie-Dye Cake

In the post on Rainbow Cake, I mentioned that if you layer your colored batter too aggressively, it will swirl instead of layer. On that note, I made a cake with tie-dye technique in mind. I used a boxed White Cake mix, and followed the instructions normally. I split the batter in two bowls and layered them. I chose bright green and pink. Starting with the green on the bottom.
I next mixed the pink food coloring and realized that, for added effect you could add the batter while the color is only partially mixed in. I chose to continue mixing in the color for full saturation, but if I had stopped, it would have looked like this:
Then I added my pink layer, with little finesse. Other than keeping it inside the pan, that is. If you prefer, you can use a toothpick or your spatula to mix the cake batter around, but don't really mix, fold.
Bake according to the box mix directions, and when you're done, it'll look like this:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Coming Soon for Singles' Awareness Day...

I want to put up some sort of treat for Anti-Valentine's Day, and I have two projects in mind. One is quite lewd and the other is sort of cartoon-ish but cute. Which would you prefer? Voting is on the right hand side.

Rainbow Bundt Cake with Vanilla Vodka Royal Icing

For my very first post, I'd like to start the blog with a project that is fun and easy to do.

Rainbow cake can be made a number of ways, giving you different effects based on the pan you choose. I chose the bundt pan because the shape of the pan, with the flute in the middle, causes the cake to bow, creating a rainbow without having to use several pans or reuse the same pan.  Given that bundt pans vary in intricateness, I chose a more traditional pan, with minimal features. 

I used a boxed White Cake mix for the batter. You can use a Yellow Cake for the base, but I find it harder to keep the richness of the colors. Since bundt pans are usually quite large, it took two boxes of cake mix, with a little leftover. Prepare your batter as directed, as you will be baking the cake normally, with no special instructions. 

Once your batter is prepared, we're going to separate a portion into a bowl and begin adding our food coloring. At this juncture, we must decide which color we want to start with. I began with purple and worked backwards to red, in the "Roy G. Biv" order. 

I chose to use water based food dye, since we're not worried about the balance of wet to dry ingredients. The cake batter that goes on the bottom of the pan is going to spread up the sides of the pan, we want this layer of color to be large enough to cover the bottom of your pan by quite a bit. 

When you begin to layer your colors on top of one another, the only advice I have is try to keep a steady, even flow of batter that gently pours. Excessive force of the batter with cause the colors to intermix and displace each other, which doesn't make a pretty rainbow, but would make and interesting marbled rainbow. If you mess up, swirl a toothpick around, not too much mixing, to create a completely different effect, but still cool. No reason to waste perfectly good cake. 

As you can see, I made my purple layer too thin, and I switched my indigo and blue layers, but still tastes fine.

Now for the Vanilla Vodka Royal Icing
I used a small sauce pan to cook off some of the alcohol in the vodka before added a splash of heavy whipping cream and confectioner's sugar. I didn't really measure my ingredients, but I would say probably 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of vodka and 3 to 4 cups of confectioner's sugar. I would recommend adding the confectioner's sugar slowly, working it in and adding more as needed. The desired texture is entirely up to you, I preferred it to run off the spoon, but still maintain it's shape on the plate. 

 Serve and Enjoy!