Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Buttermilk Chicken and Cheesy Rice

3/26/08 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

If you love fried chicken and rice, you’re going to love today’s recipes. They are pulled straight out of my book of the month, Ruth Reichl’s “Tender at the Bone.” Her recipes are delicious, not pretentious. Both her fried chicken and con queso rice are to die for and should appeal to young and old alike.

My well-worn copy of this book attests to its compelling charm. Each chapter reads like a novel but is a true story. At times, the book is brutally truthful about her Reichl’s circumstances. But like a good meal, her life and its recipes compel you to want just another bite.

The recipe’s origins are as interesting as tales from Reichl’s youth. Due to her mother’s illness and tendency to forget taking her lithium, she spent a great deal of time living in boarding schools or with relatives and their housekeepers. Each stop along the way could have been depressing. Instead, they became opportunities to learn a new culinary art.

Her Aunt Birdie’s home was a favorite refuge. Birdie’s cooking expertise, however, was limited to a simple potato salad. Fortunately Alice, a Barbados immigrant, not only kept house for her aunt, but also reigned supreme in the kitchen.

Alice’s Fresh buttery pastry would encase apple dumplings; chicken croquets always began with poached plump chicken breasts; and fried oysters were breaded with fresh bread cups before being plunked into smoking hot Crisco.

This weekend take a little time to prepare this menu. Covering the chicken with buttermilk and onions before draining and frying makes all the difference in the world. And if you’re worried about the shortening component, cut the amount in half. After browning the meat, remove it from the skillet and finish cooking in the oven at medium-high heat. Drain well and remove the skin if you must.

Claritha’s Fried Chicken
(Ruth Reichl)

2-1/2 to 3 pound chicken, cut up
3 cups buttermilk
2 onions, sliced thin
1 cup flour
3 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1 cup vegetable shortening
¼ cup butter

Put chicken pieces in bowl and cover with salt. Let sit for 2 hours.

Remove chicken from salt, wash well, and put into a bowl with buttermilk and sliced onions. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Place flour, salt, cayenne and black pepper in paper bag and shake to combine. Drain chicken one piece at a time and put in bag. Shake to coat thoroughly. Place on waxed paper. Repeat until all chicken pieces are coated.

Leave for ½ hour to dry out and come to room temperature.

Melt shortening and butter in large skillet over high heat; add chicken pieces and cover pan. Lower heat and cook 10 minutes. Turn and cook, uncovered, 8 minutes for breasts, 12 minutes for dark meat.

Test for doneness by piercing thigh; juices should run clear. Serves 4

Con Queso Rice
(Ruth Reichl)

1 cup black beans (dry, uncooked)
1-1/2 cups white rice, uncooked
1 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
2 small onions, chopped
1 4-ounce can green chiles, chopped
1 fresh jalapeno, chopped
1 pound Jack cheese, shredded
1 pound cottage cheese

Soak beans overnight in water to cover.

In morning drain and cook beans in 4 cups fresh water for about an hour or until tender. Cool.

Meanwhile, cook rice; bring 3 cups water to boil; add rice and salt, cover and lower heat to simmer. Cook about 20 minutes or until water has evaporated. Cool slightly.

Mix rice, drained beans, garlic, onion and chilies in big bowl.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Butter a large casserole. Cover bottom with a layer of the rice and bean mixture. Cover with a layer of Jack cheese and cottage cheese. Put in another layer of rice and beans. Keep layering until all the ingredients except for the final ½ cup of cheese is used up. End with a layer of rice.

Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Add final sprinkling of cheese and cook 5 minutes more. Serves 6

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal!
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes 
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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