Nikki Giovanni’s Butter-Fried Chicken

Great food, a bottle of wine and great literature go hand in hand…….

New York Time journalist Elizabeth Harris interviewed the poet Nikki Giovanni for an article that appeared in the newspaper during the week of December 14,2020. Giovanni, 77, whose 19th collection of poems, “Make Me Rain,” came out this Fall. In the course of their discussion, Giovanni told  Harris about the butter-fried chicken she makes for dinner sometimes. That recipe didn’t make it into the final copy of the interview, but Harris did share Giovanni’s recipe with the rest of us in a .a brief excerpt found in the NYT Cooking column on-line.

It’s not so much a recipe as it is a no-recipe recipe, like the one’s our Grandmothers would hand down by word of mouth, and it results in an excellent chicken dish. The texture of the outer layer is crispy and the inner part is juicy and tender.  And in Giovanni’s own words:

“I’m a Southern cook so I use whatever is around. Cut the chicken up or if you are lucky and working purchase wings. There is no such thing as too much butter. A half stick is usually good, though. Put a couple of cloves of garlic in the skillet to let them simmer. I like to rub the wings with ginger but I forgot to tell you a shake or two of nutmeg really helps. If summer, get your rosemary from the garden or your tarragon or whatever is green growing. Do not roll a lot of flour on them. Just enough to cover then shake off. Do not batter them. You are not, after all, a chef trying to stretch your money.”
“Cook that floured chicken slowly,” Giovanni emphasized. “If you don’t have time to slowly fry,” she wrote, “then remember the old blues song: ‘Come back tomorrow and try it again.’   

It really takes the hand of an experienced cook to fry chicken in butter as it is a slow and tedious process. Scientifically, it is possible to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts in butter, provided the temperature is kept below the 350° F frying point without danger of burning the chicken and the milk proteins found in the butter, as you find in Italian cuisine. As for bone-in chicken with the skin on, butter helps the skin to go brown because the milk solids in the butter brown, but it doesn’t make the chicken crispier by any means. Butter is used for colour and flavor. For that very reason, we adapted Nikki Giovanni’s recipe and we recommend frying the chicken in a combination of vegetable oil and butter, after thoroughly drying your bird, and reducing the temperature while frying the chicken to a slow simmer. This slow simmering of the chicken in butter is reminiscent of the term, à la meunière, which can be roughly translated as, in the manner of miller’s wifein reference to a French cooking technique in which a whole fish or  fish fillets are lightly dusted in flour and then sautéed in butter. The technique is easily adapted by replacing the main ingredients or incorporating additional elements.

Try it for dinner and see if it doesn’t suit your taste. We think it’s delicious, warm and fragrant, and is most  excellent when paired with  a nice Chardonnay! 

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
One 3-4 lb chicken cut up, or 3 pounds of thighs, drumsticks and wings
1 cup all purpose flour
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 garlic cloves
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 stalk of celery
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 stick of unsalted butter
 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 175 º F.

To prepare a draining station, set a wire rack in a rimmed baking pan. lined with paper towels; set aside.

Using clean paper towels, pat the chicken dry. Season with salt and pepper and set aside on a clean plate.

In a large bowl, add flour, salt, pepper, paprika, nutmeg, allspice and oregano. Mix them well until it is all incorporated.

Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour mixture. Shake off the excess flour and set aside on a rack to dry. Repeat the same dredging process for the remainder of the chicken pieces.

Add the  vegetable oil to a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven to a depth of 2 inches. Heat the  oil  to 350 ºF. Add the butter, garlic cloves, rosemary and celery stalk. Add the chicken, and shallow fry for 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to fry the chicken for 15 to 20 minutes. Using tongs, turn and rotate the chicken pieces every few minutes to ensure even cooking and prevent the skin from burning, until the chicken is golden brown in color and the internal temperature of the chicken is 165° F (See Cook’s Notes Below).  

Transfer chicken to the prepared paper towel lined tray, and drain the chicken. Transfer the chicken to the oven to keep warm and repeat frying the rest of the chicken.

Serve immediately with your choice of tabasco sauce and side dishes, like potato salad, coleslaw, collard greens, or green beans.

 

Cook’s Notes:

As an alternative to using a mix of vegetable oil and butter, you can also use Crisco Butter Flavor Shortening. For the record, Crisco shortening has 50 percent less saturated fat than butter and 0g trans fat per serving. It is excellent for frying, and great for baking – giving you higher, lighter-textured baked goods, in addition to adding  a rich buttery flavor to foods.

While frying the chicken, cook slowly of medium-low heat, just about to a simmer, to prevent the flour from burning.

Use thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken, being careful not to touch the bones. Don’t be afraid to break the chicken’s crust to take the meat’s internal temperature; it should read 165 ° F.  Drumsticks/thighs are also done at 175 ° F.  Being on the safe side, a broken crust is vastly preferable to undercooked chicken. Plan on the whole process of  frying chicken to taking around 15–25 minutes, keeping in mind that white meat will cook faster than dark.

 

Recommended Products:

We are starting a new feature with this blog.  We get so many questions in our emails about the products we used in our recipes as well as the styling featuring our plates and props in the photographs. And running a free blog is not cheap endeavor, with  researching our favorite dishes, purchasing food props, and eventually cooking the dish and writing it up for your enjoyment.

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, we earn a very small commission from qualifying purchases.  These commissions help support  our blog in  providing you, our loyal followers, free access to our content.

Thank you for browsing and shopping! It is greatly appreciated.

Make Me Rain: Poems & Prose by Nikki Giovanni 

Butter Flavor Crisco All Vegetable Shortening, 48 oz.

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Combo Cooker, 2-Piece Set 

Saferell Instant Read Digital Food Thermometer

 

 

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Lemon Lavender Berry Cake

Culinary Lavender is an incredibly versatile herb for cooking.  In today’s  home kitchens, fresh edible flowers are making a comeback as enhancements to both the flavor and appearance of food. As a member of the  mint family  it  is also  closely related to rosemary, sage, and thyme.   It is best used with fennel, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, and savory.

Lavender has been a favorite herb for centuries. The historic use and recognition of lavender is almost as old the history of man.  As an herb, lavender has been in documented use for over 2,500 years. In ancient times lavender was used for mummification and perfume by the Egyptian’s, Phoenicians, and peoples of Arabia.  The Greeks and the Romans bathed in lavender scented water and it was from the Latin word “lavo” meaning “to wash” that the herb took it’s name.  Perhaps first domesticated by the Arabians, lavender spread across Europe from Greece.  Around 600 BC lavender may have come from the Greek Hyeres Islands into France and is now common in France, Spain, Italy and England.

The ‘English’ lavender varieties were not locally developed in England but rather introduced in the 1600s right around the time the first lavender plants were making their way to the Americas. English Lavender (l. angustifolia and munstead) has the sweetest fragrance of all the lavenders and is the one most commonly used in cooking.  The uses of lavender are limited only by your imagination.  Culinary Lavender has a sweet, floral flavor, with lemon and citrus notes.  The potency of the lavender flowers increases with drying.

Queen Elizabeth I of England valued lavender as a conserve and a perfume.  It has been said that she commanded that the royal table should never be without conserve of lavender and she issued orders to her gardeners that fresh lavender flowers should be available all year round!  She also drank an abundance of Lavender tea to help ease her migraines and used it as a body perfume. Queen Victoria of England is most notable for making Lavender popular across England and it could be found, in one form or another, in every one of her rooms, as she used it to wash floors and furniture, freshen the air, and had it strewn among the linens. During the First World War, nurses bathed soldiers’ wounds with lavender washes.  To this day, the French continue to send baby lamb to graze in fields of lavender, so their meat will be tender and fragrant.

But I digress……the subject at hand was desserts.

This lemon lavender berry cake is soooooo good. It is not too sweet, but just sweet and savory  enough to satisfy your sweet tooth. Sometimes, Bundt cakes can end up heavy, dry and tasteless. This one, I promise you, is neither of those things. Buttermilk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and plenty of butter make sure the cake remains light and airy and moist and full of flavor. The cake is perfect for tea time or even served for brunch on a Sunday morning.

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 egg whites, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lavender extract (See Cook’s Notes)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup fresh raspberries, optional

Confectioner’s sugar, for  dusting

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Using vegetable cooking spray, coat a 10 cup capacity Bundt cake pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Whisk until completely mixed.
In a standing mixer or with a hand held mixer and a large bowl, cream butter, sugar, and lemon zest until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Whisk in eggs, egg whites, vanilla extract, and lavender extract on a high speed until combined, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides as needed.

On a low speed, whisk the flour mixture to the egg mixture until just combined.

Still on a low speed, pour in the buttermilk and lemon juice, mixing until just combined. Gently fold in blueberries and raspberries until just combined.

Pour batter evenly into the prepared. Gently tap the pan on the counter top to release any air bubbles. Place the cake in the oven. Bake for 30 -45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of each cake. Set on a wire rack to cool, at least one hour and remove from the cake pan

Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar. Garnish with berries, if desired and serve.

Cook’s Notes:
If you are having trouble finding lavender extract in your area, do not fret. There is a relatively new product by Taylor & Colledge Lavender that manufactures lavender a paste, made from the finest Lavender (Lavandula angustifoila) grown in southern Australia. In January, flowers are harvested and distilled to capture the true essence at its source. This naturally flavored paste delivers a fresh new taste to try in your recipes. Just recently, the product is being carried in most major supermarkets in the United States and can be bought on line for a fairly reasonable price. The paste comes in a 1.4 oz (40 g) tube, and the beauty of it all is that you only need to use 1/2 teaspoon for most recipes, making it very economical.

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Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, we earn a very small commission from qualifying purchases. Thank you for browsing and shopping! It is greatly appreciated.

Taylor & Colledge Extract Paste, Lavender, 1.4 Ounce


Nordic Ware Heritage Bundt Pan, One, Gold

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Crêpes à la Sauce Camembert

crepes2.jpg

A crêpe or crepe  is a type of very thin pancake. Crêpes are usually of two types: crêpes sucrées  or sweet crepes, which are made with white flour and eaten for dessert;  and crêpes salées also known as    savoury galettes,  that are made with buckwheat flour and filled with savory fixings.

In terms of culinary etymology, crêpes belong to the general category of ancient Greek Tiganitai, from Greek tiganos (τίγανος), meaning “frying pan”, which in English is literally translated to Pancakes. The French term, crêpe, derives from the Latin crispa, meaning with “creases”. The name “galette” came from the French word galet (“pebble”) since the first gallettes were made on a large pebble heated in a fire.

britany.png

While crêpes are often associated with Brittany, a region in the northwest  of France, they are also enjoyed throughout France, Belgium, Canada, and many parts  of Europe, North Africa, Lebanon, and Argentina.

Preparing crêpes at home is also common, and very easy.  As a home cook, you have the ultimate freedom to use whatever fillings you like. In this way, crêpes salées become a wrapper for all types of leftovers. It should be noted that the addition of an egg almost always improves a savory crêpe.

This is an Americanized recipe where the crepe batter needs to be refrigerated for at least 30 minutes before cooking the crepes. As the batter chills, the flour expands and absorbs the liquid, which helps produce tender crepes. You can cook the crepes in advance and fill them just before serving.
Recipe Adapted from
Williams-Sonoma
2019

Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 eggs
2 cups milk
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3  tablespoons olive oil
3/4  pound white button mushrooms, sliced
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
3/4 pound thick-cut baked ham, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces Camembert cheese, rind removed, diced
4 green onions, white and light green portions, chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and 1 cup of the milk. Add the 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and whisk until the batter is smooth. Stir in the canola oil. Refrigerate the batter for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight before making the crepes.

In a crepe pan over medium heat, melt 1/4 Tbs. of the butter. Pour about 1/4 cup batter into the pan, then quickly tilt and turn the pan in a circular motion to spread the batter evenly to the edges. Cook until the crepe is golden underneath, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spatula, flip the crepe and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a warm plate. Repeat to make 12 crepes.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add half of the mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon the salt and pepper and sauté until the mushrooms are dark brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Push the mushrooms to the side of the pan, add the remaining mushrooms, and sauté until the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms are dark brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mushrooms to a bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the ham to the pan and sauté until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the ham to the bowl with the mushrooms.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the remaining 1 cup milk and whisk in the 3 tablespoons of flour. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Add the cream and cheese and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Add the ham, mushrooms, green onions and parsley and stir until heated through. Spoon 1/4 cup of the filling in the middle of each crepe and roll the crepe around the filling.

Cook’s Notes:

When making crêpes, you make your batter ahead of time. The night before is ideal, but at least two hours in advance is required.If you are making the crêpesbatter the night before, refrigerate it, and then let it come to room temperature before cooking. You want to give it time to relax into itself, and for the flour to absorb the liquid evenly. If the batter looks a little dry after this resting period, it’s ok to add a bit more liquid.

Another great thing: crepes freeze incredibly well. My suggestion is to make the entire batch at once, even if you will have extra. Simply layer what you won’t eat between parchment paper, move to a sealed plastic bag, and voila! Now you have crêpes for the next time too.

Sources:

Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, XIV, 645c; Galen, On the Properties of Foods, I, 3.

Cristina Sciarra (2012). “All About Crêpes“.The Roaming Kitchen.
Accessed October 19, 2019.

Williams-Sonoma (2019) Crepes a la Camembert.  Accessed September 10, 2019

 

 

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