Pickle Brined Chicken Tenders

Alright y’all, listen.

I know what you may be thinking, but before you say anything or just click away because you feel like this is just a bad idea, just stay for a few minutes hear me out.

Yes, I mean you too. Stay.

So, I too was skeptical when I first heard about this. Not gonna lie, I was even a tad bit grossed out. I like pickles on my sandwiches, but the idea of my chicken tasting like a pickle? Not so appetizing.

But fortunately, that’s not what’s going on here at all. Let me be clear: you are not going to take a bite of this and just taste pickle.

I promise, you won’t.

The whole purpose of brining in the first place is to flavor and tenderize the meat so that it stays juicy and doesn’t dry out while frying. Most times people do this by brining their chicken in buttermilk. I’ve brined chicken in both buttermilk and now, pickle juice.

Would you like to try and guess which one that I prefer?

Yep. The pickle juice. Seriously.

Normally when I did my buttermilk brines before, I would flavor the buttermilk with some spices, just to try and get some extra flavor infused into the meat. But this time, I didn’t have to bother; the pickle juice does all the work for me. All I did to prepare the chicken for the brine was throw it in a gallon size Ziploc bag, then pour the pickle juice over it, seal the bag, then put it in the fridge and walk away. That’s literally it. The spices in the pre-made pickle juices worked together to not only keep the meat moist, but they infused incredible flavor into it as well.

Once the chicken is taken out of the brine, it gets tossed into my tried & true flour mix & batter. This is the best fried chicken batter I’ve ever had or made, bar none. The crust is just out of this world. It crunches in your mouth. It’s full of flavor. It stays absolutely PUT. Even when it gets cold. Even after it’s been refrigerated, OVERNIGHT. Believe me, once you’ve made it this way, you will never go back to another fried chicken batter as long as you live.

I’m not worried about sharing this recipe with y’all because I know that once you put aside your doubts and just try this out, I’m going to make pickle brining believers out of all you. The results will speak for themselves. Your meat is going to be so tender and juicy, with just the *faintest* tang from the pickle juice. That tang is offset perfectly by the savory saltiness of the crust. It works– I was honestly surprised by how well it works.

You know how much I was won over by this? Every time we finish off a jar of pickles now, I keep the jar of juice in the back of my fridge, impatiently waiting until we go through enough of them to have enough juice to brine another batch of chicken so I can fry it up again. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what it is. Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #237, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

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Pickle Brined Chicken Tenders

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Ingredients

  • About 3-4 lbs of chicken tenderloins
  • Up to 3 cups of pickle juice (enough to fully submerge the chicken, but if you don’t have enough then supplement with buttermilk)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of Lawry’s or other seasoning salt
  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite mix of dry herbs (like basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary)
  • Plenty of seasoning salt & pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon of onion powder
  • Vegetable, Canola or Peanut oil for frying (4-6 cups)

Directions

Place the chicken inside gallon size resealable plastic bags, or a large shallow dish with a lid. Pour the pickle juice over the chicken, seal and refrigerate overnight.

In a medium size, shallow bowl/baking dish, combine the all purpose flour with the seasoning salt, pepper,  and dried herbs. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch, rice flour, onion powder and water with a large whisk or flour until thoroughly combined (it’ll be thick, like tempura batter. If need be, you can thin it out with a few tablespoons of additional water).

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with wax paper or plastic wrap on the bottom, then place a wire rack on top.

Remove the chicken from the pickle juice and discard it. Dip each piece of chicken in the shallow dish of all purpose flour with a fork to get a light dusting on both sides, then dip it into batter, holding it up to allow some of the excess to drip off. Then, re dip it into the all purpose flour until the wet batter is sufficiently covered. Place the chicken on the wire rack to allow batter to set, about 2-3 minutes.

Working in batches of no more than 3 pieces at a time, fry the chicken in the oil. Turn it occasionally and monitor the temperature of the oil (a instant read thermometer works GREAT for this) as you work until it is golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. (It may look a little pale, but it browns more when you take it out, so don’t worry) When finished remove chicken to another sheet pan lined with paper towels and a wire rack to drain.

Glazed Yeast Doughnuts

One of the earliest food memories that I have is a love for glazed doughnuts. My mom’s taught Sunday School for practically my entire life and every Sunday morning on the drive to church I remember sitting in the back seat, still groggy, but also silently praying in my mind that she would stop by a cornerstore down the street from the church that sold the most delicious doughnuts for dirt cheap. My favorite one to get would be a plain glazed doughnut ring.

No sprinkles. No frills. No bells & whistles. A plain, glazed yeast doughnut was really all I would want. The Sundays when I got one were instantly brighter Sundays. Perfectly glazed doughnuts were delicious enough to do that all on their own–they still are.

I know there’s nothing quite like a glazed Krispy Kreme, especially when it comes hot off the belt. (Seriously, I’m drooling just thinking about it now), but I will also say that making glazed doughnuts at home can deliver the goods as well.

Last week, I gave my own personal definitions/differences between donuts and doughnuts: donuts are those made without using yeast as a leavening agent, much like these cake donuts. Doughnuts do use yeast as a leavening agent. In any case, that’s how I choose to define them.

I thought that a perfect glazed doughnut would be the perfect example to use for today’s post.

So aside from the inclusion of yeast, what makes yeast doughnuts different from cake donuts? The biggest difference is texture. Cake donuts are given that name for a reason: the texture is going to be soft, but dense. I think of it almost being like a coffee cake that gets deep fried, then dunked in cinnamon sugar. Yeast doughnuts are much more lighter and airier on the inside. See what I mean?

With yeast, there’s going to be a bit more time needed to set aside for the dough because unlike cake donuts, the yeast will need two rising times. The first is for the whole mass of dough, the second is for after you’ve shaped them into rings–OR, if you wanted to get creative with it, you can form them into cruller twists like you see in the pictures.

This dough is admittedly, lightly sweetened. It’s main flavors are vanilla and nutmeg–they’re simple flavors that leave plenty of room for the real star of the show: that glaze. After you dunk the still warm doughnuts in the glaze,  you then allow them to sit for a few minutes so that they can drip off the excess and allow the residual glaze to set.

Don’t they look just divine? I promise you that they tasted even better than they look, which is why I encourage all of you to give them a shot yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #236, co-hosted this week by Julianna @ Foodie on Board and Debanita @ Canvassed Recipes.

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Glazed Yeast Doughnuts

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Doughnuts

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk, warmed to about 110° F
  • 2 tablespoons melted and cooled butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1—2 tablespoons milk (or enough to make a smooth glaze)

Directions

In a small bowl pour the warm milk. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Sprinkle the 1 tablespoon of white sugar on top of that. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until proofed and frothy.

In a small bowl combine the beaten egg, melted butter and vanilla extract. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment combine the flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, salt and ground nutmeg until just blended. Switch to the dough hook. Pour in the yeast mixture as well as the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until a soft dough is formed. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes.

Knead the dough for 6-8 minutes until it’s smooth and soft. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn it over once, then cover with a piece of plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel. Allow to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2-2 hours, until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and gently deflate. Roll out to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out doughnuts with a 2 1/2″ to 3″ round cutter, or form them into cruller twists that you pinch at the ends. Remove to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and let the doughnuts rise for 30 minutes to an hour, until doubled in size.

Meanwhile heat 2 inches of oil in the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot to 350°. Prepare 2 baking sheets; one lined with paper towels, another lined with foil on the bottom & a wire rack on top. In a shallow, wide dish mix together the powdered sugar & milk with a fork. Keep the dish nearby.

Carefully place the doughnuts in the oil, 2 or 3 at a time, and fry until golden brown, about 60 seconds per side. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on the baking sheet lined w/paper towels. Wait 1 minute or 2 until doughnuts are warm (but no longer piping hot), then dip the tops in the glaze. Gently turn over and dip the bottom in the glaze before removing to the foil lined baking sheet on top of the rack. Allow to sit until glaze has set on doughnuts. Eat immediately or keep refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Cinnamon Cardamom Cake Donuts

I think that it’s pretty safe to say that all of us love donuts/doughnuts, right?

If you don’t then you may as well stop reading because this post (as well as next week’s) aren’t really for you. This is for all of us who love donuts/doughnuts.

Why did I give it two spellings? Is there a difference between donuts and doughnuts? I’m not sure if there’s an actual technical difference in the terms, but I do know how *I* personally distinguish the difference.

For me, it really just comes down to the method/ingredients. When I think of ‘Donuts’, I think about the method that does not include yeast. ‘Doughnuts’ do include the yeast in the dough. Don’t ask me why this is. Both donuts and doughnuts create ‘doughs’, but my mind just automatically associates the yeast with the ‘dough’, so there it is.

One big difference between donuts made without yeast and doughnuts that are made with yeast is the inner texture. The donuts made without yeast usually use baking powder/baking soda as their leavening and produce a denser, ‘cake-like’ texture. As a result, these are often called cake donuts. Donuts made with yeast have a lighter, airier texture.

A few weeks back, my niece was asking me if we could make doughnuts together. Because I like giving her what she wants and because it had been a while since I’d made doughnuts myself, I decided to make a day long project of it. She couldn’t decide which one she wanted, so we ended up making two different kinds–Cake Donuts AND Yeast Doughnuts. Cake Donuts will be today’s post. (Yeast Doughnuts will be next week’s, so stay tuned for that.)

Cake donuts are a tad bit easier than yeast doughnuts to make since you don’t have to worry about dealing with yeast and rising times. I already described the interior as dense and cakey, while the outside is rough and craggy–this is perfect for catching up whatever topping you choose to put on them, whether it’s icing or sugar. The dough itself for these is flavored with lemon and vanilla. The cinnamon sugar topping I flavored with both cinnamon and cardamom, just to give it an extra spicy note to complement the sweet. In short, these were great. The sugary topping gave a nice crunch to the soft inside and the flavors were spot on. I really wouldn’t change a thing.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #235Fiesta Friday #235, co-hosted this week by Mara @ Put on Your Cake Pants and Hilda @ Along the Grapevine.

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Cinnamon Cardamom Cake Donuts

Recipe Courtesy of “Glazed, Filled, Sugared & Dipped” by Stephen Collucci

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Ingredients

For Donuts

  • 3 cups cake flour (all purpose flour will work as well)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Cinnamon Cardamom Sugar

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a medium size bowl, combine the buttermilk, melted butter, egg yolks and vanilla extract with a fork. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest. Add the beaten egg and mix on low for a few seconds. Add the buttermilk mixture and mix until just combined into a stiffish dough.

Place a piece of parchment paper on clean work surface and sprinkle it with flour. Flour your hands or a spatula and scrape out the dough onto the piece of parchment paper. Flour a second sheet of parchment paper and place it on top of the top. Use a rolling pin to flatten it out until it’s 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick. Place the dough on a baking sheet and refrigerate it for 45 minutes to an hour (it’s ready when it no longer sticks to the parchment paper when you peel it away).

Towards the end of the refrigeration, heat 1 1/2-2 inches of oil in a heavy bottomed pot to 350°. Prepare 2 sheet pans; one lined with paper towels and the other with a piece of foil on the bottom and a baking rack on top. In a shallow dish, combine all the ingredients for the cinnamon cardamom sugar together with a fork. Keep the dish near your frying station.

Peel off the top sheet of parchment paper and flip the dough over onto your clean work surface that you’ve dusted with flour. Peel off the second sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle the dough with more flour. Flour your cookie/donut cutter and cut the dough into 2 1/2-3 inch rounds.

Fry the donuts in batches (don’t crowd the pot, no more than 3 at a time) until golden brown, 1-2 minutes per side. Drain on the paper towel lined baking sheet. While the donuts are still warm (but not piping hot) toss them in the cinnamon cardamom sugar and place them on the baking rack lined sheet pan. Eat immediately, or store for up to 2 days.

Orange Spice Babka Ring

It’s been quite a week.

First, our A/C had a malfunction. Broken air conditioning + tiny apartment + upper floor = stuffy, hot misery. Plus, turning on the oven to cook or bake anything just wasn’t an option. Which, wasn’t fun.

Fortunately after 3 days, it was fixed and now things can get back to normal.

Orange Spice Babka Ring5

There’s a story behind today’s recipe. Ready to hear it?

I really needed to wash/condition my hair, but I also really wanted to bake. So I decided to do both. I made the dough, then left it for it’s first rise. I went away to wash/condition my hair. I came back, shaped it, then left it for it’s second rise. I rinsed the conditioner out of my hair. I came back and put the bread in the oven to bake. I blow-dried my hair. The bread finished baking.

And that’s it. That’s the whole story. I was multi-tasking. Pretty exciting, huh?

The ‘how’ may not be too enthralling, but I promise you everything else about this babka certainly is.

Babka’s made an appearance before on this blog a few years ago during the 12 Days of Christmas with this Sticky Caramel Pecan Babka Loaf. The word ‘Babka’ itself derives from Bábovka, a yeast based cake from Eastern Europe that manifests in German, Jewish and Polish baking. The dough is usually very enriched, buttery, eggy and spiced. There are countless variations out there and this time I decided to put a little different spin on it from the one I did before.

The last babka was flavored with cinnamon brown sugar and pecans. This one’s filling has a bit more: there’s brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger inside, along with some orange zest. If you’re fond of them, I did include an option to include golden raisins and walnuts to that mixture (I left them out of this loaf, but please do include them in yours in you’re a fan). As you can see, the filling forms a lovely ribbon on the inside once it’s baked, which brings me to the next step.

The method starts out the same as before: the babka dough is rolled out into a large rectangle after the first rise, the filling is sprinkled on top, then the whole thing gets rolled tightly into a thick cylinder. Then, you take a pair of kitchen shears or a very sharp knife and cut down the middle of the cylinder to create two halves. Those two halves get braided together.

Now, whereas before I arranged the braid straight into a loaf pan, this time I laid the braid into my tube pan and smushed the two ends together to form a ring. After you let the ring rise and bake it off, you get…this.

It’s perfectly fine on its own, but if you’re feeling naughty you can go ahead and add the orange flavored icing on top that literally takes under 5 minutes to throw together and drizzle on top.

I’m telling y’all: the extra effort that comes with baking babka is SO WORTH IT. You won’t regret a single step. I never do–not even when I’m multi-tasking with other things to do around the house. And you certainly won’t regret one single bite of this rich, spiced bread that smells and tastes like pure Heaven.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #234, co-hosted this week by Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog and Deb @ Pantry Portfolio.

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Orange Spice Babka Ring

Recipe Adapted from Tyler Florence

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Ingredients

For Babka

  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For Filling

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins, optional
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
  • 1/4 cup melted butter, cooled

For Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • A few tablespoons of orange juice

Directions

In a large bowl of a standing mixer, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the white sugar on top of that. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until proofed and frothy.

Add the remaining sugar, melted butter,  eggs and vanilla extract to the bowl and use the paddle attachment to mix well until combined.

Switch to the dough hook and add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating switching to kneading with hands as dough thickens. (You may not need to use all 4 cups, this varies according to location & time of year). Continue to mix until the dough holds together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl; the dough should still be very soft.

Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto it and use your hands to knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed.  Grease the standing mixer bowl with the vegetable oil, place dough back inside and cover with plastic wrap and a damp clean cloth. Let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in bulk.

Grease and flour a 16 cup tube pan. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, orange zest together in a bowl. Sprinkle the work surface with a bit more flour and roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 10 by 18-inches. Brush it down with the melted butter, then sprinkle the sugar mixture on top. (You can use a spatula to help you spread it into a even paste if you like). If you’re using the raisins and nuts, sprinkle those on top of the sugar mixture.

Starting from the short end, roll the rectangle up tightly into a log. Pinch the dough ends firmly into the log to seal. Either use a very sharp knife you’ve dipped in water, or a pair of kitchen shears to gently, but swiftly, slice the log down its entire length, creating two halves with lots of layers. Turn the halves so that the layers are facing up. Press the two halves together at the top, then twist the halves around each other, creating a spiral braid. Press the halves together again at the bottom. Gently lift the braid into the tube pan, arranging into a ring with the layers facing up, and tucking one end of the braid under the other. Cover with plastic wrap & a damp cloth and allow to rise for another 50-60 minutes until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake on the middle rack for 45 minutes to 1 hour until your babka is golden brown (covering with foil if browning too quickly if need be). Cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then turn out and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For Glaze: Mix the sugar and OJ together in a bowl, until the sugar dissolves. Whisk the glaze to smooth out any lumps; drizzle it over the top of the babka and allow to set until hardened.

Vanilla Wine Braised Beef

I remember a long time ago, way back before I could even cook at all, that I really liked vanilla extract. Whenever I saw my mom take it out, I knew that something delicious was going to get baked. You know how some little kids love the smell of permanent markers? When she wasn’t looking I would sneak into the kitchen, open her spice cabinet and just smell the vanilla extract. I’ve always loved what vanilla can do to sweet treats, and now that I bake a lot myself I absolutely will not do without it.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I first saw savory applications of vanilla in recipes. I was intrigued and admittedly, a little unsure. I tried to envision what a savory vanilla dish would taste like, but couldn’t really get a grasp on it by thinking alone. The obvious concern is that it’s going to make the food taste too sweet, which then makes me nervous about wasting money on ingredients–if you bake with vanilla often, then you know it isn’t too cheap.

But y’know, as with most other things you’re afraid of trying, the best way to get over it is to just… try it out and see what happens. This was my first attempt to put vanilla into a savory dish, and I’m happy to say that it went pretty well.

It starts out with a spice rub that you’re going to let marinade on the meat overnight. It’s also got soy sauce (my go-to ingredient for just about ALL of my marinades by the way), and a splash of orange juice. After you sear the meat the next day, you put together the braising sauce that’s made of wine, tomatoes, and the vanilla extract. Don’t worry if it seems a little…’tomato-y’ at first. Once it gets time for the flavors to develop in the oven, they do balance out.

I think that this is a very, very good recipe to use for those of us who aren’t used to eating vanilla savory-style. It’s an easy braise with easy to find ingredients, and actually very little hands-on time. I paired this beef with the Sweet Potato Challah Buns I made a little while back and they made absolutely DELICIOUS sandwiches. Just saying.

Sharing this at this week’s Fiesta Friday #233.

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Vanilla Wine Braised Beef

Recipe Adapted from Nielsen Massey

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Ingredients

For Spice Rub:

  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Seasoned salt and black pepper
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Soy Sauce
  • About 4 lbs of chuck roast, London broil, or tri-tip steak cut into large cubes

For Braise:

  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 (28 fl. oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 fl. oz.) can tomato sauce
  • juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Seasoned Salt and pepper
  • A few dashes of soy sauce

Directions

Combine the dry spices together in a small bowl with a fork. Place the beef cubes into 2 freezer gallon size bags. Sprinkle soy sauce onto the surface of the beef and use your fingers to gently massage it in. Divide the spice mix evenly between the two bags. Seal the bags, then toss around until the meat is evenly coated. Place both bags into a bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven over high heat. Sear the meat on all sides, 1-2 minutes per side until browned. Keep the seared meat in a bowl covered with foil, as you may need to do this in batches so as not to crowd the pan.

Deglaze the pan with about 1 cup of broth, then add the onions. Saute until the bits are loose and the onions are softened, about 5-7 minutes, then add the garlic. Continue to cook until most of the liquid is cooked off and the garlic is fragrant. Temporarily remove from the heat.

In a small saucepan combine the wine, sugar and the vanilla. Whisk together over medium heat and allow to reduce by half. Remove from heat.

Pour the rest of the broth, the dice tomatoes, tomato sauce, reduced wine, orange zest/juice, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and the rest of the spices into the Dutch oven with the onions/garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, allow to cook down for about 10-15 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning (But flavors will also further develop while braising).

Place the beef cubes back into the Dutch oven, cover then braise in the oven for 2– 2 1/2 hours until beef is fork tender.

Vanilla French Toast

When it comes to the great breakfast carb debate, there are usually three major camps of people:

Team Pancakes, Team Waffles, and Team French Toast.

I’ve said already a few times that pancakes are my one true love, so if I had to pick a team, I would be on Team Pancakes. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have love for the other ones though. I like ’em all. I’m planning on getting a waffle iron pretty soon, so I should be able to start sharing waffles recipes on the blog then. But there really is no excuse for my not having any French Toast on the blog yet. So, I’m fixing that today.

Good French Toast starts with a great loaf of bread. You want to make sure it’s got a good outer crust, a dense inner crumb and can be sliced very thick. If your bread slices are too thin, then it’ll absorb too much liquid and the finished product will be flat like pancakes. No good. A few months ago I shared a recipe for what I’m pretty positive is the easiest loaf of bread that I’ve ever made. It was called English Muffin Toasting Bread and it produced a sturdy loaf with a coarse, close-textured crumb. I said back then that it would make excellent toast and it did…I also said that it would make perfect French Toast.

Turns out, I was right about that too.

The cream in the egg mix makes the toast cook up rich and fluffy on the inside. Before you even ask if the nutmeg is *really* necessary, I’m going to just stop you  right there and say a firm ‘yes’. It gives just enough spice to compliment the sweet of the vanilla and you DO need it.

Now I just said that good French Toast starts with a good loaf of bread and I’m going to say it again: good French Toast starts with a good loaf of bread. If you don’t feel like baking the English Muffin Toasting bread, I do know that Trader Joe’s sells a challah loaf that will also work well. As will store-bought Texas Toast. Keep in mind that because this is a very simple recipe with simple flavors, they’ll taste at their best when they’re given the best foundation–in this case, bread. So go with the good stuff.

Sharing this at this week’s Fiesta Friday #232, co-hosted this week by Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog.

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Vanilla French Toast

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour Baking Companion

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) heavy cream (or half and half)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons rum (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 slices thick sliced bread (like Challah, Texas Toast, or English Muffin Toasting Bread)
  • Powdered sugar and maple syrup, for serving

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 285°. Place a rack on top of a sheet pan that you’ve lined with foil or parchment paper. Arrange the sliced bread on the rack, then place in the oven for 12-15 minutes. (This is just to dry out the top/bottom of the bread enough so that it isn’t overly soaked by the cream-egg mix).

Once the bread is done drying out, lower the oven temp to 250°.

In a shallow dish (large enough to fit about 2 slices) whisk together the eggs, cream, salt, nutmeg, rum and vanilla until smooth but not foamy.

Place the butter and oil in a heavy skillet and set it over medium heat. Don’t let it get too hot; if it starts to smoke, it means that it’s too hot and your toast will cook too quickly.

Place 2 pieces of the bread in the soaking dish, turn them over, and turn them over once more. It should take about 15 seconds, total; you want the bread to absorb the liquid, but not be too soaked/saturated.

Place the bread in the preheated skillet and fry it for 3 minutes before turning. It should be golden brown before you turn it—if it isn’t, you can SLIGHTLY raise the heat. Fry on the second side for about 2 minutes. Transfer it to the rack rimmed baking sheet and keep it in the oven while you finish frying the rest of the bread.

Once it’s all done, dust it with powdered sugar and serve with syrup.

 

Asian Vinaigrette Chicken Salad

How’s it going y’all?

If you’re on my side of the planet, then the answer to that is probably…kinda hot.

Like, really really REALLY hot.  I was recently back in Michigan for a visit and the heat combined with humidity there was just unbearable. We get heat here, but because we’re in a desert valley, it’s really dry heat. The air back in the Mitten felt so noticeably wet. I’d forgotten how wet the air is there in the summer time. My hair was as unprepared as can be. Thankfully, we’re back now. But it’s still hot.

Not a lot of people out here have air conditioning, and in this type of heat the thought of turning on the oven to cook while not having A/C is just unbearable. So aside from take out, the solution to preparing food would be to opt for meals and recipes that don’t require any stove or oven so that your kitchen doesn’t turn into anymore of a sauna than it may be already. Today’s recipe is one of those meals.

The inspiration for this came from a post a few weeks back–this Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette Chicken Salad I did, where I took rotisserie chicken and mixed it with some other fresh ingredients, then tossed the whole thing with a homemade vinaigrette dressing. We really loved it, and before the leftovers were even gone I was thinking about different renditions I could give to the base idea of the recipe. Asian was a direction that I knew I wanted to take and I decided to go ahead and test some things out with it.

The base of the dressing from the first recipe is a whole head of roasted garlic. This time around I decided to use a combination of garlic cloves with fresh ginger root as the base. The ginger cuts the raw flavor of the garlic while lending a spicy sweetness that works. From there, I also added rice wine vinegar, orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil and brown sugar. It’s going to taste very strong–but keep in mind that rather than being meant to be eaten alone, the dressing is meant to season the salad, where all those assertive flavors are going to be mellowed & balanced out, especially after they’ve had time to marinate.

My mix-ins before were roasted red peppers, yellow onions, baby cucumbers and parsley. This time around I went with shredded carrots, green onions, sauteed cabbage and fresh mint. I also added some dried chow mein noodles for a crunch factor that’s supposed to mimic croutons. If you’d prefer to use different mix-ins than what I did that’s fine but one thing I absolutely insist you DO NOT try and substitute anything else for is the mint–besides the dressing, the mint is my favorite part of the salad. It gives this such a bright, fresh flavor that I don’t think can be replicated with anything else. So don’t skimp or do without it.

I’ll be sharing this at the Fiesta Friday #231, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com and Laurena @ Life Diet Health. Stay cool everyone!

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Asian Vinaigrette Chicken Salad

Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

For Dressing

  • 1/2 cup whole garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons Rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or olive oil
  • Salt and plenty of Black pepper

For Salad

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, deboned (It should yield 2 1/2-3 cups of shredded chicken)
  • About 3/4 cup (a generous handful) of fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup of matchstick carrots
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup of sautéed cabbage
  • Dried chow mein noodles, optional

 

Directions

Finely mince the garlic cloves and the fresh ginger. Place the garlic and ginger, as well as the rest of the dressing ingredients into a blender.

Process on high until smooth—taste and adjust for seasoning. If it’s still a little thick you can add a few tablespoons of water to thin it out.

Combine the chicken, mint, carrots, green onions, and cabbage together in a large bowl. Slowly drizzle in about half of the dressing and stir thoroughly to combine. Taste it—if it’s to your satisfaction, you can leave off the rest of the dressing and save it for later, or you can add and stir it into the rest of the salad mixture.

Cover the chicken salad and refrigerate for at least a few hours, but preferably overnight to allow flavors to meld. When ready to serve, sprinkle the chow mein noodles on top as croutons.