Friday, October 28, 2011

Pan 'Fried' Chicken

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Sometimes I find myself with a craving for Southern comfort cuisine, but as quickly as I crave I consider two key issues: calories + labor. In my family, pulling out the deep fryer doesn't take too much thought; it seems as though we all have one. Here in Los Angeles, I've stopped myself many times from purchasing one of my own...the temptation to make my childhood treats would be too great. This quick and easy Pan 'Fried' Chicken shortcut is just that: a shortcut. It is not a recipe so much as it is a means of giving you that flavor without the 'heavy' baggage. 

Now on to the food!

Breading (season as you wish):
  1. A buttermilk soak is common after the chicken has been tossed in flour. After as little as 30 minutes, toss the chicken in flour again and fry in your preferred method until fully cooked and breading is golden.
  2. What if you don't have flour? If you have crackers, crush them up and do the same as the above. 
  3. No crackers? Consider cereal, you can get the same result with rice krispies, crispix, corn flakes, bran flakes...think: clean and simple. Avoid sweet cereals and cereals with harder textures.
  4. If you don't have buttermilk, then use egg. Whisk one or two eggs together (with or without the yolk) and evenly coat your chicken, then toss in whatever coating you've come up with above and cook as preferred.
  5. Not interested in egg or buttermilk? Then don't use either. Press the chicken into the coating you've chosen and cook as preferred.
'Frying'
  1. A deep fryer isn't necessary for fried chicken, but certainly makes it easier. 
  2. You can also use a deep pan to avoid the splatter and pour in your oil (vegetable, canola, peanut, olive...depending on preference) to about 1/4 to 1/2" in depth. 
  3. If you prefer not to fry like above, then toss a little butter, melt, and press your coated chicken in to sear. Once golden, and you've tested the chicken to be fully cooked, then plate. 
  4. If you prefer not to use butter, then try an oil spray, and sear the chicken as you would normally. 
  5. If you wish to avoid the pan fry method altogether...just bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes in the oven. I'd advise against, because then it's no longer fried chicken!
Pictured above is a combination of Breading: #3, #5, and Frying: #3. Translation? The chicken tenders were seasoned with cayenne pepper, pressed into crushed corn flakes, and pan-seared in butter. The tenders were thin enough to cook all the way through and plated straight from the pan! The result was deliciously simple and a perfect fix for my craving.

Note: For breasts, I would suggest cutting horizontally to convert the breast into two thinner halves. If tenders, the pan-method may be fine, but making a few shallow cuts assists in the cooking. If the breading becomes golden brown but you're unsure if it's fully cooked, cut a slice and check. If not, bake in the oven on foil for 10-15 minutes at 350, depending on the thickness of the meat. Don't risk your health because it smells good!!
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cafeteria

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New York City, NY. Sure, it can get crowded. Sure the prices can seem a bit on the moderate to high side depending on the entree, but here's the twist: 24 hour dining.  For some reason when I consider 24 hour dining, I immediately think of the franchise favorites I grew up going to after high school or on extended road trips. As a result, there's a soft spot in my belly for diner food. To find a place that serves up the down-home favorites at any hour of the night without leaving the restaurant feeling like "oh...geez...I can't believe I ate all of that" is difficult, but Cafeteria can offer you that experience. 

This place has always depended on the time of night and later seems to be a bit better. The crowd is livelier but not rowdy. I have met up with friends to eat here and I have become friends with people at the restaurant itself - comfort food brings people together. The vibe is 'alive' to put it mildly - alive enough to where you need to have a voice to hear people at your own table. In my case in my last visit, my voice was absent, but friends seem to be really good at reading my lips anyway, haha. The wait time at about 11pm was less than 10 minutes, and with such incredible weather, outside eating seemed necessary.

The food can spark some memories (Biscuits and Gravy, Mac 'n Cheese, Wedge Salad) but as if a tradition, my order consisted of the Mac Attack Sampler, a triplet serving of their three Macs: cheddar and fontina, smoked gouda and bacon, and truffle oil.  Now, I don't like the dish because it's absolutely delicious, I like it because of what it invokes. I grew up with boxed macs as most kids, but my grandparents always spoiled me with a cheesy noodle goodness that could only come in a casserole dish, not stove-top. This dish serves up three baked mini-variations from the traditional type, to a little added flare, and the ever popular truffle oil infusion. I'm all about traditional taste and I tend to enjoy the simplest of the three. It seems to have something for everyone - I've ordered this as an entree and as an appetizer to share, and leave pretty happy either way.

If you want to change your late-night diner experience to a simple metro aesthetic, it's worth it for the sake of aversion to that feeling of regret, and...you never know just 'who' you may see.

Cafeteria
119 7th Ave
New York, NY 10021
(212) 414-1717
www.cafeteriagroup.com
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Papa Haydn

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Portland, OR. It's open late. It has dessert. It serves coffee. 'nuff said? (nah)

Driving back to my temporary residence from an incredible pizza experience, my friend and I saw Papa Haydn's interior still lit. Wait, there is another location? Earlier on 23rd I remember walking in to take a peek at the restaurant's highly suggested dessert menu. Indeed, there is an Eastside and Westside restaurant. Either way, the idea was to eat a light after-meal bite and a nice cup of coffee...of course that meant a cake, cookie, and a dessert beverage.


Cassata Cake - Soaked with liquor and served with coffee beans, caramel and hot fudge...nice combination of flavors. The buttercream frosting was the focus here - light, fluffy, and delicious. The cake texture was nice on the tongue, but again, although the tastes were good, the frosting was the clear winner - should this have been a competition.


Chocolate Chunk Cookie - A traditional chocolate chip cookie made a bit thicker than the standard cookie. It was a cookie you could easily expect, but as a cookie it still made one smile with each bite.


Black Pearl - coffee mixed with liquor, with a hint of  black licorice (as a child I've grown to dislike the latter). Not the right mixture for me, but I could see where they were going with it and I applaud the creativity.

The restaurant boasts a large assortment of desserts that exceeds many I've seen in such venues. The interior space is large enough for larger or smaller groups. At a late hour, it seems to be the option for dining or, as in our case, dessert.  Throughout the day dessert options may dwindle, but there are enough featured options to arrive and leave content. As we were sitting at the below location, we had a great view of one of the chefs preparing desserts from the kitchen - it was a great thing to watch and she looked quite happy doing it - something that makes for a better tasting experience as the consumer. If you've not yet tried this eatery and wanting to venture around Portland in the search of a full meal or a light bite, take a gander in here to see if it suits your cravings.

Papa Haydn
5829 SE Milwaukie Ave
Portland, OR 97202
(503) 232-9440
www.papahaydn.com
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Monday, October 03, 2011

Lovejoy Bakers

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Portland, OR. When you're traveling in a foreign city, or better stated "foreign to you" city, there are some great food-oriented mobile apps.  If you find yourself sans internet and with user friendly reception, good eats are just a few finger strokes away. Outside of the Saturday Market (on a Sunday) I walked through the city of Portland on a quest: where could I find a vanilla cream cheese danish and a good cup 'a jo?

I came across a number of places: Petite Provence, Pearl Bakery, Nuvrei Pastries, Ken's - all of whom I called to ask three pretty important questions:
  1. Do you carry cheese danish?
  2. Do you bake them on-site?
  3. At what time?
Sure, it may seem a bit extensive for a quick early morning call, but typically pastry shops can answer them with absolutely no difficulty. Of course if you find the rep hesitating before answering, just hope that they're new to the shop, otherwise fresh may not be what is in the store. I settled on Lovejoy Bakers in the Pearl District, a fun and quaint little area to walk through in the downtown area.

The bakery has a sweet Vanilla Cheese Danish made with flaky croissant dough and is baked in the wee hours of the morning on-site. I ordered the last one and paired it with a large White Mocha and sat down on this atypically sunny day to enjoy my second eat of the day.  The coffee was incredibly smooth with a hint of chocolate - maybe it was a good day, or maybe it was what would soon learn about Portland: it's just a coffee makin' kind of city.

The flavors of the pastry hit home, despite the fact that I came late in the morning, chose the last one, and realized that mine was a tad overcooked. The pastry was flaky, could easily taste wonderful earlier in the day without reheating, and wasn't too sweet. The size was larger than I expected, more than enough to satisfy, and I couldn't even finish the entire danish - an oddity for me. After passing it to a friend, the validation that it was pretty darn good was heard with each "Mmm" he uttered in his consumption.

The cafe itself hosts indoor and outdoor seating, with a number of fresh breads and other goodies to try. The line moves quickly but with just enough time to survey the potential chow. I was tempted to indulge in a bit more, but I knew with just the environment alone I'd be back for a quick bite, cup, or conversation.

Lovejoy Bakers
939 NW 10th Ave
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 208-3113
www.lovejoybakers.com
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