Well this was bound to happen.
Fried food is the food of my soul. Fried chicken is the way to my heart. I like fried chicken in buckets, fried chicken in nugget form, and fried chicken in the Nashville Hot style, but put it on a roll with some pickles and mayo and we've reached B&G nirvana.
When I was in college, we got our first fast food chain on campus. I was from the north, and I had never heard of this particular chain, but all my southern brethren were EXCITED. I was mostly confused as to why a fast food chain serving delicious fried chicken sandwiches and crazy good fried chicken breakfast biscuits, and located on a college campus, was not open on Sundays. Sundays were the prime fried food days of my college career. Later on, I discovered that I was not a huge fan of how the owners of this chain spent their expendable cash, and eating there became morally squicky. But those sandwiches were delicious. TO THE KITCHEN!
I love pickles almost as much as I love fried stuff, so I wanted to pump up the pickle flavor as much as possible. Rather than brining in buttermilk, I brined boneless chicken thighs in pickle juice. Pick your favorite. I like Claussen and that's what I always have in the house but I have had fried chicken brined in Vlasic as well, and it was mighty tasty. The difference in flavor is noticeable, so use whatever you like best and brine away. (Fun tip, when I finish the pickles I keep the juice in the jar in the fridge for the perfect fried chicken situation. I like to be always at the ready.) I brine the thighs for at least six hours, and up to 24.
The crust is just your basic flour and cayenne mixture, with a little drizzle of pickle juice to give it some good clumps that make the final product really crispy and craggy. I fry them in my cast iron pan in canola oil heated to 375 degrees for 8-9 minutes, flipping them several times.
Once they are fried, I toast the roll in a little butter, add some mayo and some sliced pickles and voila! A really good, basic fried chicken sandwich with a lot of pickle-y goodness! I like Martin's Potato Rolls, but you can use whatever your favorites are, or even make your own!
Pickle-Brined Fried Chicken Sandwiches (makes 6)
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 cups of your favorite pickle juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3-4 cups canola or other high smoke point oil for frying
2 tbl butter for toasting rolls
Your favorite pickle slices
Special Equipment: Heavy-duty high sided frying pan, like cast iron and a deep fry thermometer
Submerge the chicken thighs in the pickle juice so they are completely covered. Refrigerate at least 6 hours, no more than 24.
When you are ready to serve the sandwiches, preheat the oven to 200 degrees (if you are going to need to fry the chicken in batches.) Place a metal cooling rack over a cookie sheet and set aside. Heat oil in a cast iron or other high-sided heavy pan, over medium-high heat until it reaches 375 on a deep-fry thermometer.
While oil is heating, mix flour, salt and cayenne in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle three tablespoons of the pickle brine over the flour mixture, and combine with a fork to form some lumps. Remove chicken thighs from the brine, and coat completely in the flour mixture.
When oil is at temperature, add as many of the thighs as fit in the pan without overcrowding. I can fit three to four in my 10 inch pan comfortably, and fry for 8-9 minutes, flipping after the first minute, and then again a couple more times during frying, until the chicken thighs are brown, crispy and cooked through. Remove the chicken from the oil, and let rest and drain the waiting cooling rack. If you are cooking the chicken in batches, place the first batch in the warmed oven to stay warm while you cook the second batch.
When all the chicken is fried, melt half the butter over medium low heat in a large frying pan, open the rolls and toast the inside in the butter until warm and browned. Melt the remaining butter and repeat with the rest of the rolls.
When the rolls are toasted, slather on the mayo to your liking, top with pickle slices and a fried chicken thigh and ENJOY!
If we're going on weather alone, I think October is my favorite month, but cooking wise, September definitely has it beat. The stifling heat is starting to disappear, which means I start turning my mind towards food and cooking with a little more heft, which I love, BUT the produce is still amazing. Tomatoes and corn might be at their peak in the first couple weeks of September, and the farmers markets are overloaded with them. It's the most wonderful time of the year. (I say this about a lot of times of the year, if we are being really honest. Most times of the year. But I mean it the most in the fall.)
Before I was cooking for clients, despite cooking for myself ALL THE TIME, I did not cook and eat a ton of vegetables. If I was making fried chicken for dinner, I ate fried chicken for dinner. Vegetables took up too much room. This is not a great philosophy for a long and happy life. And I actually really like vegetables. I am not veggie-averse at all. Brussels sprouts are up there on the list of things I will order off a menu anytime I see them, and I have a recipe for them that I adore. But when I have decided I want to cook something for dinner, (fried chicken/pasta/octopus/steak) that something is typically my focus, and everything else falls to the wayside. Now that I cook for clients, I need to think a lot more about vegetables, and it is the hardest part of my menu planning. Again, not because they are not delicious, but mostly because I feel like I need to change it up all the time, and my mind just gets stuck.
This salad is kind of perfect both because it is interesting and vegetable heavy, and because it bridges the gap between summer and fall, so is pretty great for this time of year.
Pearl couscous is one of my favorite "fillers" for a vegetable salad, I love the texture and heft, though I wish it was as good for me as all the grains I could be using instead. You could absolutely use farro here instead, and it would be very delicious.
This salad is substantial enough for lunch, and would be great to make at the beginning of the week and pack for a couple days. It would also be a great side for the end of season barbecues or a delightful fall picnic.
Pearl Couscous Salad with Corn and Sweet Potato (serves 8)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced in 1/2 inch pieces
2 ears of corn, cut from the cob
2/3 plus 1/4 cups olive oil, divided
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup pearl couscous
2 large shallots, one minced, one sliced
1 cup crumbled feta
One handful dill, chopped (adjust amount to your liking.)
2 cloves garlic, smashed into a paste with a pinch of coarse salt
juice of 2 lemons
Preheat oven to 400. Toss sweet potato and corn separately with 2 tbl of olive oil each, on sheet pans with a pinch of salt and pepper, and roast until cooked through and starting to brown, 20-30 minutes, depending on size. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
While the vegetables are roasting, heat a splash of olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat and sauté minced shallot until starting to soften. Add couscous and stir until couscous is coated in oil and shallot and starting to brown. Add 1 1/2 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Allow couscous to cook through, 5-6 minutes, removing cover about half way through.
While couscous is cooking, add sliced shallot to large bowl. When couscous is cooked, toss with shallot while still warm. Add roasted vegetables, feta and dill to the couscous.
Combine lemon juice, 2/3 cups olive oil, mashed garlic and additional salt and pepper to taste to make a lemony dressing. Toss with couscous and let the salad cool to room temperature before serving. Can be made a day ahead and served cold!
Let's get this out there right off the bat. This is a salad like ambrosia is a salad, which is to say, not so much at all like one. It starts with a vegetable, surely, but veers quickly off course.
One of my favorite restaurants in this fair city is Toro, the tapas mainstay in the South End. It is incredibly delicious and incredibly fun and incredibly busy, even though it's been around for lots of years at this point. One of the dishes I get every time I go is Maíz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija - which is Toro's version of Elote, Mexican street corn - grilled with aioli, lime, chile pepper and cheese. Eating it is messy and undignified and so so so delicious. Street corn salad is my homage to that. It is not quite the same, but it is easier to eat, and it will definitely tide you over until you can get to Toro for the real thing. (Incidentally, I was at Brewer's Fork the other night and there is also a very delicious wood-oven roasted version there.)
I love this, it's a fantastic side dish for a barbecue or taco night or any old Wednesday, and it is a very excellent topping for black bean burgers or carnitas rice bowls. It also can be adapted for a filling for pierogis, apparently, which is now top on my list of things to try. For my black bean burgers, I used this recipe (which is a really good one) and topped them with American cheese, chipotle mayo, lettuce and a big old scoop of corn salad and served them on a buttered toasted roll. It was glorious (see evidence above.) The next day, I used some leftover carnitas and fashioned quite the rice bowl, with Mexican rice, black beans, avocado, pickled onions and the corn salad. ALSO GLORIOUS.
What I am saying to you is that you should make this. It is not diet food, but it is delicious food, and that's really what counts around here.
Things About Things
Street Corn Salad (serves 6-8)
5 cups corn kernels (approximately five ears)
1 tbl canola or vegetable oil (optional)
1 clove garlic
Pinch of kosher salt
2 scallions, white and light green parts, chopped
1/2 cup mayo
1 cup shredded or grated cotija
3 tbl lime juice from one juicy lime
1 tsp aleppo pepper (or use 1/2 - 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Corn can be cooked either in the husks or cut off the cob and roasted in pieces. Corn cooked off the cob will develop some crunchy pieces, which is a nice textural variation. To roast the corn in the husk, remove some of of the outside husk and pull off the top of the corn silk. Roast on a cookie sheet for about 20 minutes until the husks start to brown. To cook off the cob, toss the corn with the canola oil and roast for about 20 minutes until some of the pieces start to brown and crisp up.
While the corn is roasting, mash the garlic to a fine paste with the kosher salt. Mix the garlic with the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. When the corn is cooked, peel and remove from cobs if necessary, and toss with the dressing. Let cool and season with salt to taste.