Don’t put away that picnic basket. An al fresco feast with a menu of mustard-fried chicken, crunchy citrus coleslaw and flaky biscuits would be a fine plan for a warm day. The “al fresco” element can be a country picnic, a quiet escape to the beach, or your own backyard or porch.
Preparation can be a breeze for the cook. The fried chicken can be made more conveniently by starting it on the stovetop and finishing it in the oven. Marinating the chicken in advance, then combining pan-frying with oven-frying, will give the chicken a delicious, crispy coating and a tender, juicy interior.
Try these pan-frying tips:
* Rinse and dry the food for pan-frying, and coat as desired. Make sure the food is dry before seasoning and coating, to reduce unwanted moisture and make a crispy crust. Season generously with salt and pepper before you apply the coating ingredients.
* Heat the oil to the right temperature. Chef Eve Felder, associate dean for curriculum and instruction at The Culinary Institute of America, says that the way to get crisp texture and a nice golden color is to ensure that the pan and oil reach an optimal temperature before the food is added.
“When a faint haze or slight shimmer is noticeable, the fat is usually hot enough,” Felder says. To test the temperature, dip a corner of the food in the fat. The fat should bubble around the food and begin to brown the coating within 45 seconds, indicating the fat is about 350 degree, the proper frying temperature.
* Add the food carefully to the hot oil and pan-fry on the first side until a crust and color has developed. Avoid overcrowding the pan, or the food may not develop the color and texture you want.
* If you are pan-frying large quantities, skim or strain away loose particles between batches. Add more fresh oil or replace the oil (and reheat) to keep the level constant and to prevent smoking or foaming.
* Turn the food once and continue to pan-fry until the second side is golden. Once even color is achieved, you may remove the food from the pan and blot it gently, then place it in the oven to finish cooking.
The following recipes are among 150 described and illustrated in “An American Bounty: Great Contemporary Cooking from The Culinary Institute of America.”
The book is the signature cookbook of the American Bounty Restaurant, located on the CIA’s Hyde Park campus.
2frying chickens, cut into 8 pieces each
1/4cup Dijon-style mustard
1teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
1/2teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2cups all-purpose flour
2cups vegetable oil
Rinse the chicken in cool water and pat dry. Blend the buttermilk, mustard, tarragon, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces, turn to coat and marinate for 2 to 3 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.
Remove the chicken from the marinade and let it drain briefly. Roll in the flour, and transfer to a baking sheet. Set aside for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a cast-iron or other deep-sided, heavy gauge skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the chicken pieces, a few at a time. Pan-fry, turning to cook all sides, until the chicken is well browned, a total of 6 to 8 minutes.
As the chicken is browned, transfer to a baking sheet. Bake the chicken pieces in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until they are fully cooked (when the thigh is pierced, the juices should run clear).
Blot the chicken briefly on paper towels and serve.
Makes six servings. Per serving: 595 calories, 48 grams protein, 36 grams fat, 20 grams carbohydrates, 410 mg sodium, 140 mg cholesterol.
Citrus slaw with avocado and red onion
1cup fresh spinach leaves, washed thoroughly, stems removed, and finely shredded
1cup finely shredded red cabbage
1cup finely shredded Savoy cabbage
1/2cup julienned red onion
3/4cup grapefruit vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1grapefruit, peeled and cut into segments
1/2teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
Toss together the spinach, cabbages, red onion, and 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette in a salad bowl.
Peel, pit and cut the avocado lengthwise into slices; toss gently with the remaining vinaigrette until evenly coated.
Arrange the avocado, and grapefruit on top of the cabbage mixture and top with the cracked peppercorns.
Makes four servings. Per serving: 280 calories, 4 grams protein, 24 grams fat, 20 grams carbohydrates, 25 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol.
3/4cup peanut or safflower oil
A few drops of dark sesame oil
1/4cup grapefruit juice
A few drops of soy or tamari sauce
1/2teaspoon dry mustard
1/2teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2tablespoons chopped fresh herbs such as chives, parsley, tarragon, chervil, basil, dill, or others (optional)
1teaspoon brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey (optional)
Whisk or shake all the ingredients together in a small bowl or jar. Add brown sugar, maple syrup or honey, if desired (to smooth out the flavor). Shake or whisk the vinaigrette again before using if it has stood for more than a few minutes.
Makes about 1 cup, or enough for 12 servings. Per serving (1/2 tablespoons): 150 calories, trace of protein, 16 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrates, 145 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol.
1/2envelope dry yeast
1/4cup warm water
21/2cups all-purpose flour
1/2tablespoon baking powder
1/2teaspoon baking soda
1/2cup melted and cooled vegetable shortening
Lightly oil a baking sheet.
Stir together the yeast and warm water in a small bowl and let stand for 5 minutes, or until foamy.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in another bowl, and stir to distribute ingredients evenly; make a well in the center. Add the buttermilk and melted shortening to the yeast mixture and pour it into the well in the dry ingredients. Quickly stir the ingredients just until the dough begins to form a heavy, loosely combined mass. Do not overmix.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and pat it into a square, then roll it out to about 1/2 -inch thick with a rolling pin. Cut the dough into 2-inch circles using a biscuit cutter.
Place the biscuits about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Allow to rise slightly in a warm place, 35 to 45 minutes, or until nearly double in volume.
Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Whisk the egg white together with 1 tablespoon of cold water and brush the tops of each biscuit lightly with the mixture. Bake until the tops of the biscuits are light brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove the biscuits from the oven and cool slightly; serve while still warm.
Makes 10 to 12 biscuits. Per biscuit: 190 calories, 4 grams protein, 8 grams fat, 23 grams carbohydrates, 160 mg sodium, 1 mg cholesterol.