Category Archives: Oink + Moo + Cluck



Kentucky Fried Chicken is a thing of the past to me. I don’t have beef with that fast food chain in particular – although that rat infestation at a downtown New York City branch a summer or two ago was pretty bad – but for one reason or other, that red-and-white bucket hasn’t graced my dinner table in many a moon. However, the memory of the Colonel’s secret 11-herbs-and-spices recipe is forever embedded in my brain and taste buds.

I’ve eaten fried chicken several times at my paternal grandmother’s house – pollo a la canasta (basket-style chicken – perhaps alluding to a picnic basket?) in local parlance – and it appeared every now and then at home. Also, there’s a chicken chain in Nicaragua called Tip-Top that built its fame on fried chicken, and once in a while on Sundays we’d have lunch there on our way to my grandparents’ house in Granada. All were good and had that homemade touch, but that was just the problem, they were very obviously homemade and lacking that extra-crispy skin. I wanted the Colonel’s secret.

None of my kitchens have ever witnessed fried chicken. I was always afraid of the stink all the frying would produce, I had concerns about flabby skin and undercooked chicken, I didn’t have a recipe I trusted, etc. etc. Fried chicken was just not an option. The closest I ever got was buying Tyson’s breaded chicken fingers. And I baked those.

Last week, though, as people at work geared up for the long 4th of July weekend, I got a hankering for fried chicken. I don’t have a grill, so barbecue was out, and fried chicken seemed to be a very all-American, very apropos thing to make. I was so caught up in the idea that I didn’t even consider my previous fears and hesitations. And, as luck and fate would have it, I came across a special issue of Cook’s Illustrated titled “American Classics.” There on the cover, was the most beautiful, textured, mahogany-colored plate of fried chicken I’ve ever seen. There was no stopping me now; I would become the Colonel.

Preparation is a bit intense, but, so worth it. I made one bird and ate most of it – with the help of the husband – in two sittings. We miraculously had a leftover breast which we ate out of the fridge the next day and though not warm and as crunchy, it remained incredibly finger lickin’ good. Make it for a crowd – spread the love.

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

As I mentioned above, the prep time is a bit lengthy, but cooking goes by in a flash – and it’s not smelly, believe it or not. Make sure you have at least one grid rack, and instant read thermometer.

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons table salt
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons paprika
3 medium garlic heads, cloves separated
3 bay leaves
2 quarts low-fat buttermilk
1 whole chicken (about 3 ½ pounds), giblets discarded, cut into 12 pieces (each breast cut in half crosswise, thighs and drumsticks separated, wings cut into two pieces)
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 – 4 cups refined peanut oil or vegetable shortening


-In large zipper-lock bag, combine salt, sugar, paprika, garlic cloves, and bay leaves. With rubber mallet or flat meat pounder, smash garlic into salt and spice mixture thoroughly. Pour mixture into large plastic container or nonreactive stockpot. Add 7 cups buttermilk and stir until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Immerse chicken and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours.

-Remove chicken from buttermilk brine and shake off excess, discarding any garlic and bay leaf bits. Place chicken pieces in single layer on a large wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 2 hours. (You can refrigerate in for an additional 6 hours – just make sure you cover chicken with plastic wrap).

-Measure flour into large shallow dish. Beat egg, baking powder, and baking soda in medium bowl; stir in remaining 1 cup buttermilk (mixture will bubble and foam). Working in batches of 3, drop chicken pieces in flour and shake dish to evenly coat. Shake excess flour from each piece, then, using tongs, dip chicken pieces into egg mixture, turning to coat well and allowing excess to drip off. Coat chicken pieces with flour again, shake off excess, and return to wire rack.

-Line large plate with double layer paper towels. Heat oil (oil should be 2 ½ inches deep in pan) to 375˚F over medium-high heat in large 8-quart cast-iron Dutch oven with a diameter of about 12 inches. (I made mine in a 4-quart capacity and had no trouble – just make sure you can safely add the oil and chicken without causing an overflow).
Place half the chicken pieces skin-side down in oil, cover, reduce heat to medium, and fry until deep golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. After about 3 minutes, uncover the pan, lift the chicken pieces with tongs to check for even browning; rearrange the pieces if some are cooking faster than others. Check the oil’s temperature – at this point it should be at about 325˚F.

-Once the first side is deep golden brown, turn the pieces and cook the opposite side 6 to 8 minutes, uncovered. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate, allow to drain, then transfer to wire rack.

-Meanwhile, bring the oil back up to 375˚F and cook the remaining chicken in the same manner.





Ever since my return from LA I’ve been thinking on the bacon-wrapped hot dog. As that ultimate of downtown delicacies doesn’t exist in my current place of residence, I would have no choice but to recreate it in the confines of my kitchen. Last week, as the object of my consideration became an obsession, it became a tentative item on the week’s dinner menu. Though I was eager to undertake Mission Bacon Dog, there were details that needed to be sorted out, for instance: What variety of frank would be the best? How thick did the bacon it would be draped in be? Also, what garnishes should top it? In LA it was a veritable Mexican parranda, with guacamole, grilled jalapeños, and sautéed onions and peppers, but did I want a different, more personalized theme?

I started researching garnishes and was in the midst of studying homemade pickling, when suddenly, at 6:00pm on Wednesday last week, my ruminations came to a jaw-grinding halt: I discovered there was no Spanish chorizo to be had at Whole Foods. Spanish chorizo was the key ingredient in the recipe I’d intended for dinner, and without it, I had nothing.

Plan B-less, I looked around in a panic. It was getting late, the after-work crowd had descended, Señor O was growing irritable, and though I kept pressing myself into the corner of a cereal display, shoppers trying to squeeze past were giving me the stink eye. I kept staring at the bins of salami, willing them to transform into the chorizo I needed, but salami they obstinately remained.

I’d had ample opportunity to view the stacks of hot dog packs while on my desperate search for chorizo, and knew all I had to do was reach out and grab one, but truth to tell, I didn’t want that particular Wednesday to be Mission Bacon Dog night because all the variables weren’t in place, but I was between a rock and a hard place – i.e. Señor O’s glare – so I caved in and bought a package of all-natural Wellshire Frank beef hot dogs, a few slices of Whole Foods bacon, and a bag of buns.

Now, another of the questions I’d been pondering was how to keep the bacon in place while the wiener cooked. There were no sticks or strings on the LA one, and I was determined not to cheat. I was concerned, however, because the bacon was a little too thick and a bit raggedy to boot. Also, I’d had to use one-and-a-half slices per sausage because one wasn’t enough to spiral around the whole thing.

I assumed/hoped that the tacky quality of the meats would be enough to adhere them to each other, and to my surprise, the bacon held even after I gently laid two blanketed dogs in the skillet. A mound of onions that I’d set to cook earlier was melting into a caramelized pile while the bacon dogs sizzled and released a deliciously porky aroma.
1Everything in its place.

The Mission was going smoothly until I tried to turn the hot dogs; the bacon started to peel off. With the help of tongs and a spatula, I did the best I could to keep the hot dogs clothed, but it they were beyond help. We were starving by this time and the smell of frying bacon and onions was overpowering.

Take it off!

I finished stripping the hot dogs and waited for the whole mess to brown, then I stuffed a hefty helping of the dripping mess into a warm bun and settled down to a dinner that would make those LA vendors proud.



WARNING: The following post is rated “R” for graphic images of a slaughtered farm animal.

This Halloween we received an unexpected treat: a whole hog. No joke. The animal was wheeled into the kitchen on a cart – à la patient in ER – plopped on the table, and promptly cut up into pieces. It was strange, seeing that whole animal there…It looked plastic and lifeless – obviously lifeless, the thing was dead, but what I mean is it appeared as if it had never ever been a walking, snorting thing.

Anyhow, despite the photos you’ll see below, butchering was not a cruel, self-indulging experiment but a necessary learning experience. As a matter of fact, I wish we had something to cut up every day. I mean, haven’t you ever found yourself at the supermarket staring blankly at shrink-wrapped hunks of meat with names that are utterly meaningless and misleading? For instance, did you know that pork butt isn’t the pig’s rear at all but a portion of its shoulder? I bet you didn’t, but now you’ve been enlightened.

Enough small talk – you may proceed to the ghoulish gallery:






Some children dream of becoming astronauts. Others aspire to being ballerinas. I had loftier ambitions: to de-bone a chicken. When I began culinary school I thought – wrongly – that removing every single bone from a chicken while leaving it whole would be part of Basic Cookery 101. Crestfallen, I set my book aside and came to the conclusion that de-boning was perhaps an art reserved only for the most masterful of chefs, a process that was only known to a small, exclusive circle. I had resigned myself to live in a world where only bony chickens were served.

And then, one day, the rain cloud that loomed over my bowed head parted and a ray of sunshine broke through: my beloved chef instructor announced that he was going to teach us the coveted procedure. If anything, this one bit of learning has made culinary school worth it.

Doesn’t it look grand?

I also made whole-wheat dinner rolls…one of my Thanksgiving trial runs.