Pickle Chicken

IMG_3702.JPGI scream. You scream. We all scream for … Pickle Chicken!

I couldn’t really think of a good rhyme.  Just go with it.

Even though now I’ve got you thinking about ice cream which likely does not put you in the mood for chicken.

In the early days of switching our eating, we decided that we were not going to eat fast food (except on rare or “special” occasions because it’s part of our world and we prefer not to set ourselves up for failure). Not that we had eaten much before, but we had made our fair share of trips to McDonald’s and Chick-Fil-A.

Yes. I know. Shock and dismay. I hang my head in shame and with regret.

But not really, because we didn’t know what we know now. So, it’s all part of the learning experience of life.

Back to the early days … since we had sworn off fast food, I thought I would try my hand at some homemade Chick-Fil-A.

The first time I made this, I think the heavens opened for the children because it may have been the first time that they realized I could make something that they actually, really and truly, love. Sure, there are lots plenty of some things that they eat and enjoy, but they have some serious adoration of this chicken.

Like fist-pumping, “Yes!”-shouting … the kind of excitement that is usually reserved for everything except food.

Having made it several times, I have tweaked it (and unsuccessfully tried to gluten-free, Paleo it) to the point of near perfection in flavor. Says me. And my three minions. Which should really be enough for you. And gives me license to call it perfect.

It is time-consuming and can make the kitchen a bit fried-smelly so I don’t make it as often as my boys would like, but it is definitely a regular at our table. In fact, I buy this big ‘ole jar of pickles just so that I have enough “pickle juice” to make this chicken.

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You can either fry them, or to minimize the mess to the stove top and the time involved, you can flash fry in the skillet and finish them in the oven. I have found that an iron skillet or griddle pan in the oven works best to keep the chicken crispy, but you can also use a jellyroll pan or cookie sheet.  Just be sure to warm the pan before you put the chicken on it.

Be forewarned, this recipe is dish-heavy, so I try to make sides that don’t require much time or extra dish usage. If you love dishes and enjoy spending all that time cleaning up in the evenings, then please feel free to make it as complicated as you’d like.

Pickle Chicken
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 5 medium chicken breasts
  • 1 cup (or more) pickle juice
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup flour (or ½ cup flour and ½ cup panko breadcrumbs)
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ tsp dry mustard
  • Refined coconut oil or palm oil, for frying
Instructions
  1. About 8 hours before or, if you can, the night before, cut chicken breasts into similar size pieces. The smaller the pieces the longer it takes to cook, but the more crispy you have in each bite. It's a delicate balance. Figure out which one works for you.
  2. Place chicken in 1 cup pickle juice, adding enough so that the chicken is completely submerged.
  3. About an hour (or as much in advance of cooking as possible), remove chicken from marinade and set on a plate covered with a paper towel. It's best to let the chicken dry before coating so that the moisture doesn't cause the breading to fall off (which will disappoint most of your customers ... not that this has ever happened to me).
  4. In a bowl, combine and stir flour (or flour and panko), paprika, sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, baking soda, and dry mustard and set aside.
  5. In another bowl, whisk egg and buttermilk together.
  6. If finishing in the oven, preheat oven to 450 degrees. If you're using an iron skillet, place that in the oven at the same time. If using a pan with another material, you can put it in when you start cooking the chicken.
  7. Drop a hefty tablespoon of your chosen cooking oil into an iron skillet. Warm to medium/medium high heat.
  8. Dredge one piece of chicken at a time in egg bath, ensuring each side is wet and dredge in flour mixture coating each side.
  9. Place each flour coated chicken piece on a separate plate.
  10. When oil is hot (you'll know this because a circle will form in the middle of the skillet), place chicken gently in the hot oil.
  11. If you're using a cookie sheet and not an iron skillet/griddle pan in the oven, you should put it in the oven now.
  12. Cook until crispy on either side and then transfer chicken to the pan in the oven. If not putting it in the oven, then make sure the chicken is cooked through.
  13. Remove chicken to your serving plate. If you're like me, that's just a regular dinner plate. Because I'm not trying to win any awards for fancy dinners. Especially with fried chicken pieces.
Notes
I have tried tapioca flour and arrowroot flour, which get crispy but then get gummy as the chicken cools. I have also tried almond flour and I find that the breading tends not to stick.

I have not yet successfully figured out how to let the chicken cool without the bottom losing its crisp.  Any suggestions would be most welcome!

Also, make sure to take a bit more than you might want because it will disappear quickly. Like suddenly someone pressed the fast forward button on your table and before you can hit stop, the chicken is gone. And you’re still hungry.

Which is really okay, because you know you wanted ice cream anyway.

Garlic Roasted Cauliflower

Mr. Selective came home and was in a mood.

He asked to go to The Bread Guy’s baseball practice with The Man (also the coach). He said yes.

I said no. Because I do aspire to be the most evil mother on earth.

This served to improve his mood not at all and resulted in throwing chairs and screaming. And of course I remained calm and collected and handled it in a mature, textbook-parent sort of way. Bwahahahaha!

No. No, I didn’t. And that’s where we’ll end this part of the story.

The cherry on top of this evening was that I made two of his favorite things for dinner … Burgers. And roasted cauliflower.

He ate peanut butter and jelly. (The only time he eats this happily is when there is an less desirable option for dinner.)

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Now, I am not a fan of mushy veggies. Or cauliflower. Or leftovers.

But I love this as a side. And as a leftover.

Sometimes you just step into a pot of lucky.

Roasted Cauliflower
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 Tbsp refined coconut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • ¼ c. Parmesan cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 415.
  2. Cut cauliflower into florets and then slice florets. I like to leave some thick slices and some thin, so you get some chunks and some of the itty bitty crispy pieces.
  3. Combine garlic and coconut oil in small bowl.
  4. Melt oil and garlic together in microwave. If you're anti-microwave, then do it however you do it.
  5. Stir.
  6. Line a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment. Put chopped cauliflower on pan.
  7. Pour garlic/oil mixture over cauliflower and mix well. Use your hands for this one and get all of that garlic-y goodness in every bit of the cauliflower.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes, mixing every 10 minutes or so.
  9. Add cheese and give it a stir. Bake for 10-15 minutes more, until you've reached desired level of crisp-ness (or until you can't wait any longer).
  10. Make sure that you save some for everyone else.
Notes
Depending on the size of your head, you may need more oil. The head of cauliflower - not your actual head. If you are a garlic lover, you can add more garlic for a stronger flavor. Similarly, if you like the cheese, add more cheese.

The Bread Guy will eat this, unhappily and usually against his will, but he does it. Big Britches won’t touch it.

Give it a shot. It’s a delicious way to eat cauliflower.

I’d suggest, though, that you try it on a day that the furniture isn’t attacked by your grumpy 7-year-old.

Coconut Oil Popcorn

popcorn pot

I know what you’re thinking.  “What on earth is THAT, Tracy?” (Pardon the poor shot quality – my dad was helping his girl out and took this for me.)

Well, friends, that is the best popcorn pot on earth.  You see, popcorn was a staple in our house when I was a kid.  And this is the pot that my mom has used for as long as I can remember.

This pot has likely cranked out millions kernels of deliciousness over the years.  I’m not sure what we ingredients we used before I had memory, but when Orville Redenbacher came out with his specially-formulated butter-flavored popcorn oil, that became our go-to.  Combined with his big ole tub o’ corn, we were a full-on Redenbacher house.

Ah, fond, GMO-free memories. So beautiful…

And then there was the great topping debate.  Redenbacher’s butter-flavored salt or McCormick’s Season-All?  I was always on team butter.  I think as time passed, I became its lone member.

After I left the nest, I married a man who does not share my love of the popped corn.  I would make it and he would nibble here and there, but he just wouldn’t eat it by the handful – as it is truly meant to be eaten.  There’s something about the popcorn experience that requires someone with whom to share it.   And so, my popcorn eating days waned.  And over time, they disappeared altogether.

Makes me a bit sad, really, to consider my sacrifice.  All those years with no popcorn.  Years, friends, that I can never get back…Sniff…Sniff.

When my children arrived, they fell in love with the bagged cheese popcorn.  Smartfood (a puzzling moniker as it is in fact, not smart food).  It wasn’t a regular thing, though.  No matter how far we fell down the processed food hole, there was always something about powdered cheese that didn’t sit well with me.  I mean, think about it, how do you turn a brick of cheese into powder?  It just isn’t right, friends.  But my kids loved it.  Mr. Selective could probably have eaten an entire Costco-sized bag in one sitting, had I let him.  And he flat refused to eat any popcorn that wasn’t fully cheesed-up.

Until, that is, I formulated this most awesome, deliciously perfect, you-could-eat-an-entire-potful-in-one-sitting recipe for popcorn.  Mr. Selective can’t get enough.  And even He Who Doesn’t Like Popcorn has been known to indulge when I make it.  Which is, sadly, not as often as it used to be.

coconut oil and ghee popcorn from change of plates

And fortunately, it is ever so simple.

Coconut Oil Popcorn
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • ½-1 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ c. non-GMO, preferably organic, popping corn
Instructions
  1. Drop oil and a few kernels into the bottom of a heavy-duty stock pot (I use a 6qt) .
  2. Heat on medium to medium high, with pot lid cracked to let out steam. I have read that some cover the pot with aluminum foil and poke holes in the top. You can if you want, but that makes the next step a bit trickier.
  3. When the few kernels start to pop, dump the rest of the popping corn in and shake the pot so that the kernels evenly cover the bottom of the pan and are fully coated in oil.
  4. Make sure that you lift the lid slightly and leave it cracked for the duration of popping.
  5. When the popping begins to slow, turn the stove off. I usually leave the pot on for about 30 more seconds and then move it to a cool burner until the popping stops.
  6. Dump popcorn into a bowl and season as you like. We like ours served simply, with just a little pink salt.

No go forth and pop some corn!

And try to resist the temptation to keep the whole bowl for yourself.

Because the popcorn experience really is meant to be shared.