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PIECE OF CAKE, PEACE OF MIND

Exploring, creating, & reflecting one day at a time


I live in a duplex in Berkeley, a cute old (really old) house about 4 blocks south of campus. It’s divided into two apartments—the upstairs and the downstairs. I live in the downstairs part, and we have 5 guys living upstairs.

Two of them are moving out next semester, and despite our constant talk of doing combined house parties or house gatherings, this hasn’t happened much. So one of the boys that lives in the room directly above me, Nick, suggested that we do a “family dinner” night. Nick (other Nick) and Gina loved the idea and when I asked for suggestions of what to make, they immediately threw out the idea of chicken & waffles.

It’s been a long while since I’ve been to Roscoe’s. I kid you not, at one point in my high school career, one of my best friends Brianne and I were going to LA for concerts and shopping and other shenanigans almost every day of the week and grabbing some Roscoe’s while we were at it. I think our record was 4 days in one week. Kinda gross. On normal visits though, we’d have just gotten out of a concert with 5+ friends at 1:00 AM with a craving for some soul food.

So it’s pretty sad that I haven’t been there in such a long time, but maybe I just overdid it back then. For those who don’t know, Roscoe’s is THE chicken & waffle house. C’mon, it’s where SNOOP DOGG goes to get his fix. Do you really need more evidence?

So the point is, I didn’t reject the idea that Gina & Nick gave me, and instead ran with it. I make pretty decent buttermilk waffles (with Gina’s awesome waffle maker) that my friends have enjoyed many a Sunday morning after a night of a little bit of craziness. Fried chicken, though, I had never attempted. Raymond’s success way back when gave me a boost of confidence, though.

I grabbed two whole chickens from Berkeley Bowl and realized I was a little bit out of my league. Sure, I’ve made my family’s Thanksgiving turkey for 3 years now, but completely taking a part a chicken carcass is another story. Nick helped me pop joints out of sockets and got a little bit over zealous. I think his testosterone was speaking to him. But I was extremely grateful for his composure when faced with sticking his hand into the dreaded “cavity” and taking out the giblets because that is my kryptonite. I just can’t do it without breaking into hysterical laugh-crying.

I chose to research a few recipes and then combine parts of each to make my own, but I knew I had to incorporate buttermilk, because, as I’ve mentioned previously, buttermilk is one of my all time favorite ingredients. It makes everything tasty.

My neighbors made some yummy food too—vegetarian taquitos and broccoli potato soup. I forgot to take pictures though, because I’m dumb. But you’ll just have to take my word that they were yummy. And just look at their keen eyes for design:

I rounded out the meal with a peach black berry crisp, the recipe of which I found on the LA Times website. I’ve had generally good experiences with LA Times recipes so I always get excited when I see things I haven’t tried making in there.

Ultimately, the chicken came out better than I expected. Nick blurted out that “it’s the best he’s ever had” after taking his first bite, which may have been just a reflex, but hey. I’ll take it.

BUTTERMILK FRIED CHICKEN

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cut up fryer chickens
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 T salt
  • 5 c flour
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 + 2 tsp  paprika
  • 2 + 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 + 1  tsp cayenne pepper
  • grapeseed oil for frying

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix the buttermilk, 2 tsp paprika, 2 tsp thyme, 1 tsp cayenne, and 3 T salt in a large bowl.  Add the chicken and toss to coat the chicken completely.  Cover and let sit in the fridge overnight.
  2. Mix the flour and remaining seasonings in a large vessel of some sort (I used a rectangular Ziploc storage container).
  3. Using tongs (or your hands, I suppose), remove a piece of chicken from the brine and coat it in the flour mixture.  Shake a little bit to remove the excess and place back in the brine to coat once more.  Dredge one more time in the flour and put aside. 
  4. Heat a large skillet with about an inch of frying oil (I used grapeseed) on medium heat.  I don’t have an oil thermometer, so I dropped tiny pieces of the flour-buttermilk mixture into the oil and when they fried properly (with a decent number of bubbles, without blackening).  Place 4-5 pieces of chicken in the oil at a time and cook until golden brown on both sides (~10-12 minutes).  
  5. Drain excess oil on paper towels.
Note: I was confident that the smaller pieces were cooked through, but for the larger pieces, I heated the oven to 350 (also to keep the waffles warm) and threw them in for about 15 minutes while we started eating the first batch of chicken.

PEACH BLACKBERRY CRISP

from LA Times.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 1/2 to 4 pounds peaches
  • 1 pint blackberries ( 1/2 pound)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into chunks

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Peel the peaches: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut a shallow X in the bottom of each peach, and blanch it quickly in the boiling water until you see the peel start to lift away from the peach. The blanching time required will vary depending on the ripeness of the peach. Transfer it to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking, and peel away the skin with your fingers. If the peel proves difficult to remove, simply return the peach to the boiling water and try again. If after 5 minutes of blanching, the peaches are still not peeling easily, use a small paring knife to scrape away the skin.
  3. Pit the peach by cutting it in half, following the cleft that runs down one side. Twist and the flesh will separate. Discard the pit and cut the peach into bite-size pieces. You should have about 7 to 8 cups of peeled, pitted, cut-up peaches.
  4. Place the peaches in a bowl with the blackberries, cinnamon, brown sugar, 1 tablespoon flour and the lemon juice and stir gently to combine. Set aside while you make the topping.
  5. In a food processor, briefly pulse together the sugar, salt and remaining 1 cup of flour just to combine. Distribute the chunks of butter over the top and pulse just until the mixture resembles wet, clumpy sand.
  6. Dump the peach mixture into a 2-quart baking dish or gratin dish and give it a good shake to make sure it’s evenly distributed. Spoon the crumbly mixture over the top, distributing it evenly. Bake until the top is crusty and brown and the peaches are soft, about 45 minutes.
Note: I used my fingers to break up the butter-flour topping mixture because I don’t have a food processor.  Just make sure you don’t play around with it to much or the butter will start to melt.  Also, I attempted to do the peach blanching/peeling method described here, but it didn’t work for me so I ended up remembering that I have an awesome new serrated peeler (for soft foods…like a peach perhaps?!) from that fateful trip to Sur la Table, which worked like a charm:
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