07 October 2009

Food: Bird's the word

While not exactly a Jewish genealogy story, this story provides some genuine food for thought, given our people's affectionate connection to the chicken.

I'm not sure if these recipes will help cold or flu symptoms, but they are certainly different!

Tracing the Tribe used to have a cookbook purporting 101 ways to cook chicken. I think it is actually 1,001 ways to prepare this fowl, once you figure in all the ethnic recipes.

Today's New York Times food section offers a great fowl story here.

While US-style Southern fried chicken may include milk or buttermilk in the process - a big problem for those observing kashrut or who are lactose-intolerant - here are a bunch of possibilities with nary a cow in sight. But MSG may figure in.

There are many questions and varying opinions, such as which is better, buttermilk or brine, batter or dry dredging, shallow or deep fry? But without seasoning, fried chicken is blah.

Some of these are rather labor intensive, so the best way of enjoying them is in the restaurants given at the end of the story.

How about:

- Fried chicken with Thai chilies, a thin-crusted, spice-rubbed project that takes five days, begins in a steam oven, ends in a wok, flavored with turmeric, fennel seed, ginger, fish sauce and smoked simple syrup.

-Rub a whole chicken with white vinegar and malt syrup; season inside bird with five-spice powder, poultry seasoning, ginger and garlic; hang it for five hours in front of a fan to dry skin. Deep-fry whole. Glaze with sugar, Thai fish sauce, sesame oil, white pepper and soy sauce with with slices of deep-fried garlic. Hack bird to pieces and pour glaze on top.

- Dark-meat double-fried pieces, brushed with a spicy Korean-influenced glaze.

- A variation on American fried chicken has rice flour in the batter and Old Bay seasoning, and comes with four sauces, Chinese-style mu shu pancakes for wrapping; and a bowl of raw vegetables like baby carrots, radishes and fushimi peppers, plus leaves of shiso, basil and mint.

- Three Japanese styles for marinated wings. Katsu, with crisp panko (light Japanese bread crumbs) for pounded breasts; karaage, ginger-and-garlic-marinated thighs, with a light sweet potato crust; and nagoya, marinated in soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), black pepper and sesame seeds, and two trips to the deep fryer.

- In the Philippines, fried wings are tossed with roasted salt and black pepper, fish sauce and thin slices of fresh green chili, or another mix contains garlic, fermented fish sauce, lemon grass and palm vinegar.

- A Latin version offers small chicken pieces marinated in garlic, lime juice, black pepper and sazón Goya (Latin-Caribbean mix of MSG, cumin, coriander seed and annatto), served with lime wedges and pickled onion rings.

Tracing the Tribe is also very partial to Persian jujeh-kabob - not fried, no MSG, no dairy - which marinates boneless chicken breast in fresh lime juice, oil, saffron (a must), chopped onion and some garlic, salt and pepper. Marinate chicken breast cubes for two days, place on skewers, grill over a real charcoal fire (in a pinch, use oven broiler). Serve with lots of lime wedges, if you have them, or lemon. The taste is something else and two days of marination is really required (refrigerator, of course, with frequent mixing) for full flavor.

One dish I haven't made since we lived in Los Angeles is Asian marinated drumettes that I would make for parties. Drumettes are chicken wings with the top joint removed and look like miniature drumsticks with a ball of meat at the top - easy to eat and perfect finger food.

There are a million recipes for this, and it takes well to any combination of marinating sauces (soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sweet chili sauce, teriyaki sauce, with or without sweet rice wine or sherry, garlic, honey, mustard, etc.). Mix all the sauce ingredients together, bring to boil and cool, pour over the wings in a heavy aluminum foil pan lined with parchment baking paper (to prevent sticking - these are REALLY sticky) and refrigerate overnight. Bake them at 375 (make sure they don't burn) for about an hour. Cool, refrigerate and heat-up again before serving the next day. The continuing marination and two bakings give the wings a deep rich mahogany color and are absolutely delicious. I used to make big pans of these for parties. they don't sell ready-made drumettes in Israel (or at least I haven't found them yet) and I'm not about to cut tons of them myself. One can either blog or make drumettes!

However you prepare your chicken, do not simply "kill it and grill it."

If you are in range of New York City, the article gives a list of restaurants for these chicken delights.

Not hungry yet? Today's NYT also has a great Jewish deli story here. If you can't resist running out to the nearest deli after reading that one, put in my order for a fresh roast turkey breast on rye, Russian on the side, a large whole sour and some really good coleslaw.

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