Category Archives: Meta

My Love Affair with Parchment Paper

I can’t imagine a day in the kitchen without parchment paper

Here’s more than you probably want to know about how parchment paper is made from Wikipedia:

Modern parchment paper is made by running sheets of paper pulp through a bath of sulfuric acid (a method similar to how tracing paper is made) or sometimes zinc chloride. This process partially dissolves or gelatinizes the paper, a process which is reversed by washing the chemicals off followed by drying. This treatment forms a sulfurized cross-linked material with high density, stability, and heat resistance, and low surface energy—thereby imparting good non-stick or release properties. The treated paper has an appearance similar to that of traditional parchment.

Mostly I use the parchment that comes in rolls, tearing off pieces to fit into and up the sides of rimmed sheet pans. Sometimes I use the rolled paper to line cookie sheets, but I also keep a box of the pre-cut paper on hand for such things as biscuits or cookies. I use a paper cutter to cut smaller pieces to set between layers of roasted vegetables, like tomatoes or peppers, to store in freezer containers, and I have even used squares of parchment to line muffin cups, where it does a much better job than those purchased paper liners.

I use it in the prep stage, to line pans that I’m carrying out to the grill, especially those carrying foods to be drizzled with olive oil, and to line pastry crusts for blind baking:

I use it for roasting vegetables and meats:

I use it like a funnel to pour foods, like after I’ve toasted the oats and coconut for my muesli:

And, of course, I use it for the typical things you would bake—cookies, muffins, biscuits—and even such things as breaded veggies and pastries, like empanadas:

 

Organizing Your Grilling Stuff

Especially when you have to run back and forth to the kitchen to tend to things on the stove—note to self: move the patio door—you can help yourself by having all your grilling items available and organized. I used to keep most of the stuff in the little room that leads to the patio, but, darn, those patio sliding doors are heavy and annoying to open and close 25 times during one meal prep.

So, two years ago, I bought a folding prep table, and then re-purposed a big 25 gallon Rubbermaid® Roughneck™ storage box to hold the charcoal. I don’t just throw a bag of charcoal in the box or store a large bag in it, though. When I get a new bag, I divvy it up in 50-briquette paper bags, enough for a typical quick grilling of burgers and veggies. If I need something for long cooking, like a charcoal snake for a whole chicken or ribs, I can use two bags. For anything in between, I keep one bag to steal from. That means I seldom have to deal with those heavy charcoal bags, and I always know how far one bag will go. I get about 6-7 bags of 50 briquettes from a 15 lb bag, and I usually divide two of those bags at one time. I think a lot of people waste coals by just pouring from the bag. Fifty to 60 briquettes is a typical amount to put in the chimney I use to start the fires—I keep the cooled chimney in the box, too.

Tip: Wear plastic gloves when filling the bags of charcoal 😉

That helped some, but didn’t help with all the cooking tools, heavy cast-iron or oversized pans, and cleaning supplies. So this year, I splurged on a Keter storage/prep station with a nice stainless steel top. It was easy to put together, as most  of the sturdy resin pieces just snap together, and it holds everything I need.

I still wish the kitchen were closer to the patio, though.

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Best Butcher/Chef Videos: The Scott Rea Project

If you haven’t run across these videos on your own, check out The Scott Rea Project on YouTube. Whether you want to learn how to butcher a cow—well, that’s too big a job for my kitchen—or how to make a rack of hare, Rea’s channel is your video library:

Rea is easy to follow because he gives all the details and shows all the steps, taking his time so you can see what’s in store for you when you try it. It’s one of the places I went to learn how to debone a turkey a couple of years ago:

Sometimes he even takes you hunting first, as in this video on rabbit kebabs:

Rea takes the mystery out of how to tackle those meat butchering skills that will make you a more interesting cook, and I recommend the videos to you, even if you just want to be entertained.

Recipe Review: Crispy Fried Chicken

I’ve tried many methods for fried chicken. The ones that use only flour, or the three stage flour–egg–breadcrumb process, or the buttermilk marinade followed by breading, but it seems like the crispness doesn’t hold up for more than a minute or two past frying. They all taste good, but I really expect a crisp coating if I’m going to go to the trouble of frying. This recipe—Crispy Fried Chicken from Taste of Home—delivers. The name says it all.

What they do differently than most recipes is add flour to the egg wash, so that you are really dipping it in a batter before adding a final coating of seasoned flour. The final coating makes a shaggy layer that crisps up all over the chicken. Sometimes you get that shaggy look when you start with a buttermilk soak, but I find this egg–water–flour batter works even better than buttermilk.

I usually use an electric deep fryer, but I only made four pieces today, so I used a high-sided stock pot with a couple inches of oil. Unlike the original recipe, I did not use bone-in chicken; I used boneless thighs, which cook more quickly, about a total of five minutes in 375° oil for each piece.

Crispy Fried Chicken

  • Servings: will coat about 4 lbs
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons garlic salt or garlic powder plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons  white or black pepper
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning—I used a combination of sage and celery seed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • up to 4 lbs chicken pieces, with or without skin. I used boneless thighs.
  • cooking oil for frying
Preparation
  1. Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl for the final coating and set aside. The original recipe suggests a plastic bag, but I find patting on the flour works better, creating a shaggier coating that has lots of crispy edges.
  2. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs and water, then whisk in the second amount of flour and salt, until the batter is smooth.
  3. Coat chicken pieces in batter then dredge in seasoned flour, patting the flour on until all the batter is covered and the coating is dry enough to handle and set aside.
  4. Heat cooking oil to 375° not allowing it to fall below 350° between batches. Fry chicken in small batches, depending on the size of your fryer, so that you keep the oil temperature high throughout. My boneless thighs cooked in 5 minutes, one piece at a time. The original recipe suggests that bone-in pieces would take about 5-6 minutes per side. My oil was deep enough that I didn’t need to turn my pieces over.

★★★★★ = Five Stars

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