Smoky Chipotle Fried Chicken

Smoky Chipotle Fried Chicken
Smoky Chipotle Fried Chicken
I have had this idea for a while now and was inspired to push it up in my "recipes to complete" list after having enjoyed some succulent , juicy brined poultry last week in our Lemon and Rosemary Brined Roast Turkey. Brining poultry is something you just  must try  if you never have; it adds great seasoning and extra juiciness throughout the meat, making it tender and perfect.

While it works well for roasting, I think it works even better for fried chicken. I have never brined chicken parts for more than a full day but when I unexpectedly had to leave it for a second day I was flabbergasted by the result. I had been wanting to try a very simple smoky spiced fried chicken for a while now, using two of my favorite smoked spices, smoked paprika and chipotle powder, so  I thought this was the perfect opportunity. 

I don't say this lightly at all...this was the best fried chicken that I have ever eaten. 

Smokey Chipotle Fried Chicken
Smokey Chipotle Fried Chicken

It was amazingly moist and juicy. The meat was completely seasoned throughout from the brine and using a tip I saw on "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives",  I added some butter to my canola oil to fry the crust to an amazingly perfect crispy texture with just the right amount of smoky spice. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. I absolutely know I will make this again and again. This is one recipe you absolutely have to try!

We served this outstanding fried chicken with grilled corn, mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits and gravy. Does it get any better than that?  Need a recipe for great Buttermilk Biscuits? Click right here!


I begin by washing:

  • one large chicken, about  3 1/2 to 4 pounds

Cut and trim the chicken into 8 pieces ( 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 wings and 2 breasts)

Place the chicken in a large plastic container and cover it with the brine mixture. Cover and refrigerate for up to 48 hours. If you need to add a little more water to completely cover the chicken, that's not a problem.

Tabasco Brine Mixture

 Begin with 2 quarts (liters) of water
  
Add:
    Smokey Chipotle Fried Chicken
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
Stir until the salt and sugar is dissolved, then add:

  • 3 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 8 cloves thinly sliced garlic
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup Tabasco sauce (add more if you like)

After 48 hours, remove the chicken from the brine mixture. Toss it into the flour and spice dredge.|

Flour and Spice Dredge

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 heaping tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 heaping tbsp chipotle powder

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until very well combined. Add the brined chicken pieces. Toss well and press the chicken pieces into the flour dredge with your palms to get good contact with the meat. \let stand for ten minutes, then toss again and press down with your palms again. Now it's time to warm up your oil.

In a 12 inch cast iron skillet heat 1 inch canola or corn oil with 1/2 cup real dairy butter until it reaches 35O degrees F. Just below medium heat works well on my stove but use a thermometer to be sure.  A cast iron skillet is the best for fried chicken. Be extra careful to regulate the heat properly of using anything other than cast iron. Even cooking is essential.

Drop the dredged chicken pieces into the hot oil/butter mix and cook for approximately 35- 40 minutes depending on the size of your chicken pieces, turning at least once halfway through the  cooking time. I start with the dark meat pieces and add the breasts about 10-15 minutes into the cooking time because these will cook faster. I always use my meat thermometer to ensure that the largest pieces have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, which is perfect for fried chicken. The chicken should be a beautiful golden brown when it comes out of the oil. Let it rest on a wire rack to drain for 5 minutes before serving.


The Best Cajun Spice Rub

The Best Cajun Spice Rub Surf and Turf
The Best Cajun Spice Rub Surf and Turf

Is there really a best Cajun Spice Rub? If you search the internet, you will probably find thousands of them and celebrity chefs have made small fortunes branding and marketing their own "secret blends". The truth is that for the most part, many of these are composed of the same basic ingredients in different ratios. 

Over the years, I have experimented with adding a little more of this, a little less of that, adding a new ingredient etc., until I came up with one that suited my own taste and that's exactly what I encourage you to do. Feel free to reduce the heat or salt content or pump up the smokiness by using all smoked paprika in place of the two mentioned here...adding some ground chipotle powder will also add some smoky heat. The point is that the best Cajun spice rub is YOUR personal favorite blend, so get out there and start working on your own. Here's a great place to start. ;)


Mix together:
The Best Cajun Spice Rub
  • 3 tbsp paprika
  • 3 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 3 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 1/2 ground thyme
  • 1/2 tbsp crushed chili flakes
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp white pepper
  • 1 tbsp celery salt
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt

In the photos above we have used this great Cajun spice rub  in this mouth-watering Surf and Turf. When using it on seafood like these sweet, succulent shrimp and scallops, I generally just toss them in the spice rub and put them directly onto the grill. When using it on beef, like this beautiful rib-eye steak, I like to give it as much time as possible. I rub plenty of it all over the surface of the steaks and leave them in the fridge for the day or at at least a few hours if possible. I then add a little more when I take them out of the fridge and let the steaks come up to room temperature before hitting the preheated hot grill.

Grilling any good cut of steak straight out of the fridge is, I think, the most common mistake that folks make when trying to grill the perfect steak. It is ESSENTIAL to take the steaks out of the fridge for at least an hour depending on the thickness of the cut in order to achieve the perfect rare, medium or even well-done steak.

Simple Soy and Ginger Grilled Scallops

Simple Soy and Ginger Grilled Scallops
Simple Soy and Ginger Grilled Scallops
Scallops are my favorite seafood. Period. I've often had them at their very freshest and best, only hours after being plucked from the ocean floor. I love them prepared in practically any way, from tempura battered to practically raw in a lime ceviche. During the summer months I also love them simply marinated in any number of ways and then lightly grilled.

This recipe is particularly tasty and very simple to prepare. It makes a perfect appetizer course for a barbeque dinner party or served on a salad for a light lunch or dinner meal. If you like you can make double the marinade and with one half, add some rice wine vinegar to make a terrific salad dressing too.

Soy and Ginger Grilled Scallops

1 1/2 pounds scallops
2 small sweet bell peppers, any color or mix them up

For the marinade mix, together:

1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tbsp peanut oil
few drops toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger root
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
1 clove finely minced garlic
pinch salt
pinch black pepper

Marinate the scallops in the marinade for no longer than 20 minutes; longer than this can allow the citric acid in the lemon juice to break down the surface of the scallops  and dry them out when cooked. While the scallops are marinating you can also soak 3 or 4 bamboo skewers in water to prepare them for the grill.

Push the scallops onto the pre-soaked bamboo skewers. If you like, you can alternate the scallops with pieces of sweet bell peppers and/or red onions.

Place the scallop skewers onto a preheated grill on medium heat and grill for only 2 to 3 minutes per side depending on the size of scallops that you are using. 

Soy and Ginger Grilled Scallops

Brownie Cheesecake

Brownie Cheesecake
Brownie Cheesecake
I've tried a few brownie cheesecakes in my day and experimented with making several. Sometimes with a brownie base, sometimes with chunks of brownie baked into the cheesecake itself. My final version of this recipe settled on a chocolate cookie crumb base, to add a little crunch to this cheesecake. 

I chose to bake little bite size brownies to top the cake in order to preserve their chewy, fudgy texture. I found baking them into the cheesecake resulted in them only sinking to the bottom anyway and I like this presentation much better. The creaminess of a perfectly baked cheesecake is also maintained and the mix of textures and flavors is simply outstanding in this amazing dessert.
A word about baking a cheesecake in a bain marie before starting the recipe. A bain marie is simply a water bath that buffers the direct heat from the sides and bottom of the baking pan to more evenly bake the cheesecake from the sides to the center.

I bake my cheesecakes in a 9 inch springform pan that has the bottom and sides wrapped in multiple layers of wide heavy duty aluminum foil which forms a sort of boat that the cheesecake pan sits in. The roll of aluminum foil that I use is about 16 inches wide. I use at least 4 layers of foil to make sure that no water leaks in and ruins the crust of my cheesecake. The aluminum foil wrapped pan is then placed inside a larger baking pan; I use a 12 inch cake pan. Boiling water is then poured into the larger pan filling it from 1/2 to 2/3 of the way to the top.

I find it best to pour the boiling water into the pan after it is placed on the rack in the oven as you are less likely to splash water onto the cheesecake or inside the aluminum foil. I reuse the aluminum foil for several future cheesecakes, adding a couple of layers to it each time just to be safe.

Brownie Cheesecake
Cheesecake

In a small bowl, combine:
  • 1 1/3 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter

Press into the bottom of a lightly greased or parchment lined 9 inch springform pan. (Grease bottom only!) Parchment paper is ideal here because it makes it very easy to release the cheesecake from the bottom of the pan.

Cream together:

  • 3 eight ounce packages ounces cream cheese
  • 1 cup sugar

Add, one at a time
  • 3 eggs

beating well after each addition. Add

  • 3 tsp vanilla extract

Finally blend in
  • 1 cup whipping cream

Pour over the prepared base and bake in a bain marie at 300 degrees F for 60 minutes to 70 minutes. The cheesecake does not have to brown at all in order to be fully baked; the surface of the cheesecake should lose any shine when the cake is properly baked. It can still be slightly wobbly just at the center at this point.

Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp knife completely around the edge of the pan. This will allow for the cheesecake to shrink as it cools and hopefully not crack (but who cares if it does? I am never bothered by a crack or two in the surface) Allow the cheesecake to cool thoroughly on a wire rack at room temperature. (NOT in the fridge). Refrigerate after fully cooled.
Top with the mini brownies and drizzle with chocolate ganache before serving. 
Mini Brownies
  • 1/3 cup plus one rounded tablespoon of flour
  • 2 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 1/2 squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/3 cup plus one rounded tablespoon of granulated sugar
  • 2 rounded tbsp light-brown sugar
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift together flour, cocoa and salt. Melt together butter and unsweetened chocolate over low heat. Remove from heat
and cool to lukewarm. Add egg, vanilla and sugars. Stir very well until sugars are almost dissolved.

Gently fold in dry ingredients.

Pour batter into a 8 inch square baking pan that has been greased
and lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 15-18 minutes at 325 degrees F or until the surface of the center of the brownies appears dry and firm. Toothpick test will not work for this recipe but it will tell you if the middle is still liquid. Do not over bake these brownies or they will be dry rather than moist and chewy. Cool completely before cutting into 1/2 inch squares.


  • Chocolate Ganache

In a double boiler, melt together 


  • 1 ounce whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

 Drizzle over the brownies and cheesecake.

Lemon Rosemary Brined Roasted Turkey


Lemon Rosemary Brined Roasted Turkey

Lemon Rosemary Brined Roasted Turkey

We may be well into June and our family does a lot of barbequing over the summer months but it's not all about the backyard grill just yet. There is still plenty of time to enjoy a good roast dinner as we did last night with this very flavorful roast turkey dinner. Juicy roast turkey with roasted potatoes, gravy and traditional Newfoundland summer savoury stuffing is probably my favorite meal and my preferred method for getting a perfectly roasted juicy turkey to brine it overnight.

Brining will add extra moisture to the meat and deeply season it at the same time. At the same time it is very easy to infuse the meat with subtle herb, citrus or other flavors by inviting them into the pool along with the salt and pepper. To extract all that flavor, I like to steep the herbs and other ingredients into a sort of tea to add to the brining mixture. 

The brining is best done overnight but a minimum of 6 - 8 hours in the brine will be required for the turkey so plan well in advance for this recipe. For a little extra citrus boost, I roast the turkey with a lemon stuffed into the cavity along with some onions, garlic and rosemary. This recipe does not overwhelm the natural flavor of the turkey at all but gently compliments it with aromatic scent and flavor.

10-12 pound fresh turkey

You will need a food grade plastic bucket or large pan, big enough to completely submerge the turkey in the brine for this recipe.

Brine Mixture

6 quarts or liters of very cold water (A little more if needed to cover the turkey completely)
1/2 cup table salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey

Stir well to completely dissolve the sugar and salt.

Add 1 liter of this mixture to a pot along with:

6 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 large sliced onion
4 cloves garlic sliced thin
zest and juice of two large lemons
6 tbsp whole black peppercorns

Simmer for just 5 minutes before returning it to the rest of the brine mixture.

Wash the turkey well and completely submerge the turkey in the bucket of brine. A plate with a couple of heavy cans of tomatoes or beans placed over the turkey will help keep it submerged. Place in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 6 - 8 hours. I remove one of the shelves in the fridge to fit my bucket in.

After brining the turkey, remove it from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Place on a rack in a roasting pan, truss the turkey with butcher twine (or just tuck the wing tips in under the turkey and tie the legs together to simplify things.) There is no need to add additional salt or pepper, the brine has already seasoned the meat throughout. Rub the surface of the turkey with a couple of tablespoons of butter. To the cavity add:

1 onion quartered
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 whole lemon, stabbed with a fork several times
2 sprigs rosemary

Do not cover the turkey. Open roast the turkey in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 1/2 an hour before reducing the temperature to 350 degrees F. Brush the turkey with melted butter about every 30-45 minutes to get a nicely browned skin. After reducing the heat, continue roasting for about an additional 2 hours or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast meat reaches 185 degrees F on a meat thermometer; this could be more or less time depending on the actual size of the turkey you are roasting. Using a meat thermometer is the best way to make sure your turkey is  completely and safely cooked. Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil and allow the turkey to rest for 20 minutes before carving. This resting period is ESSENTIAL!

NOTE: Although it is traditional in Newfoundland cooking to roast a turkey in a covered roaster, this is a sure way to ensure a dry, overcooked turkey. I NEVER roast a turkey covered, always leaving it to open roast in the oven. This crisps the skin and seals in all the natural juices, creating a turkey that bastes in its own juices. I also ALWAYS use a meat thermometer to test if the turkey is cooked. Open roasting as well as getting the meat to 185 degrees F and properly resting the turkey before carving, is the best way to prepare a juicy, succulent turkey. If you don't own a meat thermometer, you should. It is the safest way to ensure poultry is fully cooked and very useful for getting that perfect medium rare prime rib roast beef too; it's a kitchen essential for sure.

After the turkey has rested, I still make gravy from the pan drippings and my own frozen turkey stock that I always have on hand, made from the carcass of my last roast turkey. I ALWAYS use stock and not water to make the best gravy. Low sodium or no-salt-added store bought turkey or chicken stock are also good options if you don't have your own homemade stock available but be sure to make some from the remnants of this turkey and freeze in plastic containers for soup or to make the most delicious turkey gravy next time. I still thicken my gravy the way my grandmother did with a slurry of flour and water. I despise corn starch thickened gravy; you will never find it at my house.

The Ultimate Lemon Cake

The Ultimate Lemon Cake
The Ultimate Lemon Cake
With 5 different lemon components to this cake, it is not hard to see why I have dubbed it my ultimate lemon cake. I start with a homemade lemon scratch cake which gets brushed with some tangy lemon syrup, then filled with alternating layers of rich lemon curd and lemon buttercream frosting before being covered in more of the lemon frosting and finally garnished with homemade candied lemon zest. This is the perfect celebration cake for that lemon lover in your life.

The Ultimate Lemon Cake


Lemon Cake

Sift together and set aside:

  • 2 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Cream together until fluffy:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar

Add, one at a time, beating well after every addition;

  • 4 eggs at room temperature

Beat in

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Fold in:

  • zest of one large lemon, finely minced

Gently fold in the dry ingredients in three equal portions, alternately with

  • 1 1/4 cups undiluted evaporated milk

When adding dry and wet ingredients alternately in any baking recipe, always begin and end with the dry ingredients.

Pour batter evenly into 2 well greased and floured 8 inch cake pans. Bake in a 325 degree F oven for about 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Watch it carefully, you will not want to over bake this cake, as soon as the toothpick comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven and let it rest in the pans for 5 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Candied Lemon Peel

Using a very sharp vegetable peeler remove the outside zest of 2 large lemons in large strips, avoiding the white part of the peel as much as possible. Add to a very small pot along with:

  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
Simmer together gently for about 15-20 minutes. Remove zest and let it drain on a wire rack. Reserve about half the syrup to brush on the cake layers.

Lemon Curd

In a small saucepan combine:

  • 6 lightly beaten egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon, finely minced

Cook slowly over medium low heat for about 10 minutes stirring constantly until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove from heat and stir in the butter a few pieces at a time until completely smooth.

  • 1/2 cup butter cut into small pieces

Cover with plastic wrap and chill completely in the fridge.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

  • 8 cups icing sugar (i.e. powdered sugar, confectioners' sugar)
  • 2 cups butter

Using an electric mixer on low, mix the butter and icing sugar together until the butter breaks up and get evenly dispersed throughout the sugar in small pieces. The mixture will still appear dry at this point. This stage ensures even distribution and prevents butter lumps in your frosting.

Add

  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon, finely minced
  • Approximately 4-6 tbsp milk

Both of these liquid measures can be adjusted. The milk can be adjusted to make a thicker frosting by adding less or a more spreadable frosting by adding a little more. Use your own judgement here. The lemon juice can be adjusted to your own taste too.

When the icing reaches the desired consistently continue to beat it on high speed for 5 minutes to incorporate more air into the frosting to make it lighter and fluffier.

To construct the cake:

Split the two layers of cake horizontally to create 4 layers. Brush the reserved syrup onto the cut sides of the cake layers.

Place the first layer of cake on the cake plate and top with some of the lemon buttercream frosting. Add the next layer and using a piping bag, or a heavy plastic bag with a half inch opening snipped off the corner, pipe a ring of frosting around the perimeter of the cake. Fill the ring with half of the lemon curd. Add the next layer of cake and top with more of the frosting.
Add the final layer of cake. At this point frost the sides of the cake and pipe a border on the top and bottom. Add the second half of the lemon curd to the top of the cake and garnish the top of the cake with pieces of candied lemon zest. I use kitchen scissors to cut 1/2 inch pieces to decorate the border and then add a small pile of slivered zest to the center of the cake. Chill for several hours or overnight before serving.