Friday, January 22, 2010

Bakesale Betty's Fried Chicken Sandwich

If you happen to make it to San Francisco, a short trip across the bay brings you to Oakland. Oakland has a rich selection of restaurant choices, from amazing Ethiopian food to seriously good pizza to delicious spicy bbq. I could go on and on about the delicious things to eat in Berkeley and Oakland, but there are a few must-eat institutions, and Bakesale Betty's is one of them.

Is it the charm of eating on the sidewalk on an ironing board? Or when waiting in line (and the line is often LONG), the cheerful Betty's staff handing out cookies and lemon bars? Or when you first lay your eyes on an enormous chicken sandwich? Or better yet, you first sink your teeth into said chicken sandwich covered in cool coleslaw, and immediately a protective instinct washes over you so that if anyone so dares to even *think* about taking a bite of YOUR sandwich, they better think again or risk bodily harm? And did I mention that they taste even better the next day?

If you are not convinced enough to take a trip to Oakland, then lucky for you, the SF Chronicle posted a recipe a few years back for these beauties. Now you can have Betty at home! And you just might want to pull out your ironing board, you know, for the experience.

Bakesale Betty's Fried Chicken Sandwich
recipe originally posted on SF Gate
serves 4

You'll have some breading left over, even after dipping twice. This makes a hefty sandwich in all regards - you'll need two hands to eat it.

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 6 ounces each
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 quart buttermilk
The vinaigrette
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
The coleslaw
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 c. red wine vinegar
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded, cut in half and sliced crosswise
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley
  • 1/2 green cabbage, core and outer leaves removed, and very thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
The breading
  • 1 pound all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt + more to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying
  • 4 Acme Bakery torpedo rolls, sliced lengthwise (or french sandwich rolls)
  1. Chicken: Season chicken breasts with kosher salt. Let sit at least 5 minutes. Fill a wide, shallow nonreactive bowl or casserole dish with buttermilk. Add the chicken and soak in the refrigerator for 1 hour up to overnight.
  2. For the vinaigrette: Combine mustard, vinegar and salt in a bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil until well blended.
  3. For the coleslaw: Soak onions in red wine vinegar, and let sit at least 20 minutes. Remove onions and discard vinegar. Toss onions with jalapeno, parsley, cabbage and salt. Toss with vinaigrette until evenly coated.
  4. To fry chicken: Pour vegetable oil into a large stockpot. Do not fill up more than halfway, or the oil could splatter. Bring oil up to 365°F, using a digital thermometer/candy thermometer to monitor the heat. Prepare the the breading while waiting for oil to heat up.
  5. Breading: In a wide shallow bowl, mix flour, cayenne, salt and pepper. Pull a chicken breast out of the buttermilk one by one, letting excess drip off, and dredge completely in flour. To create a thick crust, place in buttermilk and dredge in flour a second time. Do not drain or shake off excess buttermilk or flour during the breading process.
  6. When the oil is at 365°F, carefully place chicken pieces into oil one by one. Let it cook for a minute before disturbing chicken, then help it "swim" in the oil with tongs, until it is evenly cooked, about 5-7 minutes. Remove chicken from oil and drain on paper towels. Season immediately with salt.
  7. For the sandwich: Place fried chicken breast on bottom of torpedo roll and top generously with coleslaw.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Butterscotch Sauce

I've been holding out on you. A couple of weeks ago (oh my gosh how time flies!) my very good friend Mika came to visit San Francisco. So of course, I invited her over for dinner. Mika reads this blog (hi Mika!! I'm so glad you came to visit!) and I really wanted to cook something fabulous for her, but it was a Monday night after work, and I was exhausted. There was no time for a big, fancy meal, but thankfully, I had a trick up my sleeve: butterscotch sauce.

After our quick dinner, I retreated to the kitchen and a few minutes later reappeared with some ice cream topped with fresh butterscotch. Did you even know that was possible? Butterscotch... In your kitchen...In minutes!!

But why have I been holding out on you? It feels like a trick that this sauce was so easy. This is a food blog, for goodness sake, and you have some expectations. Maybe a little bit of effort on my part? But really...there is no effort with this butterscotch. It takes literally five minutes, and then you have ice cream topped with a seriously delicious sauce. Or even just some butterscotch to eat with a spoon...your choice. I won't tell :)

Ridiculously Easy Butterscotch Sauce
from SmittenKitchen

Yield: About 2/3 to 3/4 cup sauce
  • 1/4 c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c. packed dark or light brown sugar (I used light)
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt (or 1/4 tsp regular salt), plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, plus more to taste
  1. Melt butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the sugar, cream and salt and whisk until well blended.
  3. Bring to a very gentle boil and cook for about five minutes, whisking occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat and add one teaspoon of the vanilla extract, stirring to combine.
  5. Dip a spoon in the sauce and carefully taste the sauce (without burning your tongue!) to see if you want to add additional pinches or salt or splashes of vanilla. Tweak it to your taste, whisking well after each addition.
  6. Serve cold or warm over vanilla ice cream, roasted pears or pound cake. The sauce will thicken as it cools. It can be refrigerated in an airtight container and reheated in a microwave or small saucepan.
Or, to do ahead: This sauce will keep at least two weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.

Monday, January 11, 2010

walnut brownie cookies

This was a bit of an oops. I tried to make these cookies out of Martha Stewart Baking Handbook this weekend for a friend's birthday. I think I've said before that I have a fear of cookies. Cakes are docile, sweet tempered, forgiving things. Cookies appear that way on the surface, but really they are temperamental, finicky and oddly time consuming. This view may not be totally defensible, and Erin has tried to convince me many times that cookies can be easy, it does explain why I'm a bit of a novice at them.

This recipe seemed very simple. And it was, until I got to the final step of adding flour. Then, in all my wisdom, I decided the batter seemed all too thin and SURELY needed more flour. So I added some. And then the whole thing got too dry, and the cookies were not melty and awesome like they COULD have been. They were alright to eat, but I'm determined to make them again soon and get it right. Of course, the walnut in chocolate combination was still divine. Mmmmm.

May you and your level-headed flour measuring fare better, my friends. Enjoy.

Walnut Brownie Cookies
from Martha Stewart Baking Handbook

9 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4 inch chunks
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sifted all purpose flower
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a heat proof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water, melt 5 ounces of semisweet chocolate, the unsweetened chocolate, and the butter. Set aside to cool for five minutes.
3. With an electric mixer, beat chocolate mixture and sugar on medium until well combined, about 3 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Add eggs, and mix until combined. Beat in vanilla.
4. Add flour and salt, beat until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate pieces and walnuts.
5. Shape into two teaspoon-ful balls, and place 1.5 inches apart on cookie sheets. Bake, until edges are set but centers are soft, about 9 to 11 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

baked chicken meatballs

Naturally, after a write a rambling entry on going veg, let me give you a recipe for meatballs.

This was my first time making meatballs, especially of a western variety. When I was young, my mom made a chinese version of meatball soup. I remember watching her make spoonful rounds of the meat and drop them into the soup. Like magic, they stayed round and cooked before my eyes.

These are totally different, but also totally delicious. For starters, they are baked, which made them really easy. I've also never used ground chicken. It definitely made for a more subtle flavor compared to pork or beef, and I didn't feel so bad eating....many...of them.

I really enjoy this type of cooking because you can get creative and add whatever spices strike your fancy. For these, I added thyme, rosemary and cumin. These three all remind me of savory warmth that's perfect for the wintertime.

You can make these large to serve for dinner, or smaller to serve for appetizers or for a party. While they are baking, make some pasta and a salad and you're golden. Enjoy!

Baked Chicken Meatballs
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Gourmet

Serves 4, or more as appetizers or sliders
3 slices Italian bread, torn into small bits (1 cup)
1/3 cup milk
1 small onion, finely chopped
thyme, rosemary, cumin to taste
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large egg
1 pound ground chicken
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tomato paste, divided*
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 400°F with a racks the upper thirds. Soak bread in milk in a small bowl until softened, about four minutes.
Cook onion, spices, and garlic in one tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat until onion is softened, about 6 minutes. Cool slightly.
Squeeze bread to remove excess milk, then discard milk. Lightly beat egg in a large bowl, then combine with chicken, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, pancetta mixture, bread, and parsley. Form 12 meatballs and arrange in another 4-sided sheet pan (I used a cookie sheet instead).
Stir together remaining tablespoons of tomato paste and oil and brush over meatballs (the paste/oil does not mix in any cohesive manner, but just smoosh it on and run with it) , then bake in upper third of oven until meatballs are just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes (mine took 20).

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

When it comes to baking, everyone has to start somewhere. Boxed cakes and brownies are easy, but they are like training wheels -- at some point, you have to lose the box and make it from scratch. And just like learning to ride a bike, you might fall off several times (or in this case forget to add key ingredients), but when you combine sugar and butter, you can rarely get too far off course.

My friend Heather (the one I visited in London) came to visit me for New Year's Eve. Now, I have experienced many a celebratory night (read: boozing 'til the wee hours of the morning) and breakfast the next day is always a challenge. When all you want to do is either (a) sleep or (b) recount the previous night's escapades, feeding the folks who crashed on your couch is a bit of a chore. So this NYE, I vowed to do it differently. I was not going to make the same mistake. Breakfast was going to be made beforehand. Enter cinnamon chocolate chip coffee cake (or as I fondly call this, the Quint C).

Heather arrived at about 5pm on NYE and I immediately put her to work. I was busy making caramel corn for the party we were having, and I gave her a coffee cake recipe and told her to go for it. And then came the confession: she had never baked anything from scratch before!

Does this sound familiar? Are you, dear reader, someone who looks at the mouthwatering photos on this blog but you yourself have never tried your hand at making something delicious from scratch? Well, as Linda wrote, I am not big on new year's resolutions, but if I could do one thing, it would be to remove your training wheels and get YOU into the kitchen. You'll thank me later.

To her surprise (and to her credit!), Heather did an amazing job with this coffee cake. It was a big hit on new year's day. It is dense and cinnamon-y with an almost secret layer of chocolate chips in the middle and topped with more...mmm. She kept warning everyone before they tried the coffee cake that it might be bad because it was her first time making anything like it. But she had nothing to fear -- it was really, really good. I may just have created a baker out of her :)

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake
from (surprise, surprise) Smitten Kitchen
  • 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated (which, if you are new to baking like my dear friend H, means putting the whites into one bowl and the yolks into another)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsps baking soda
  • 12 oz. chocolate chips (i always spring for the good ones. they make a difference!)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar, then mix in the egg yolks and vanilla.
  3. Mix flour, baking soda and baking powder together into another bowl.
  4. Alternating, add sour cream and then the dry ingredients into butter/sugar/egg mixture.
  5. Beat eggs whites until stiff, then fold into batter.
  6. Mix last 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon together in a separate, small dish.
  7. In a greased 9″x13″ pan, pour in half of the cake batter.
  8. Sprinkle the top with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture and half of the chocolate chips.
  9. Pour remaining batter on top, sprinkling the top with the remaining cinnamon-sugar and chocolate chips.
  10. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Monday, January 4, 2010

resolute, with cranberry cupcakes

Welcome to the new year! Heck, it’s a new decade. But honestly, I’ll spare you much musing on the significance of this new year/ new decade, because so many blogs out there have done it better, and in a more timely fashion. Like, say, on the actual first of the year.

Erin and I talked a little about resolutions this morning. Erin is not for them. My resolution this year? I’ve resolved to make 2010 the year I go to medical school. Like Eric Bana says in the end of the Star Trek trailer, “The wait is ovahh.” (Technically, seven more months to go, but let’s not get detailed.) Maybe you, like Erin, are not one for big, life-changing changes. But as this is a food blog, we can all make some food goals for 2010. Perhaps there’s a recipe, or ten, you’d like to master this year. Or just a long list of yummy foods you’d like to EAT this year. Or yummy foods you’d like to see here on Pacific Thyme. Let us know.

Actually, last year, I made a simultaneously life-changing and food-related goal: I decided to go veg. While vacationing in December of 2008, I randomly picked up a book about the wanton wastefulness of the omnivorous lifestyle. Before any republicans in the audience gets all up in a huff- here’s my disclaimer. Yes, meat is yummy. Yes, I’ve seen that picture about carnivores not needing a wimpy support group. Yes, I think that joke “PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals” is clever. And honestly, I think human beings are meant to be omnivorous, what with the hunting and the gathering. It is simply the amount that the average person consumes in the US today that is so unnatural and appalling. Omnivorous doesn’t mean meat needs to be part of every meal, or that a dinner should consist of a sixteen ounce steak (although I’ve been happily guilty of that before). (This month, Harper’s Index printed the statistic that US greenhouse gas emissions would be cut by 185 million tons if we reduced the obesity rate to 3%. Obesity is currently ten times that for adults 20 and older in the US.)

But I digress. The point is while I don’t think everyone should be vegetarian, it seemed reasonable to do a little extra in hopes of tipping the heavily sagging “cosmic scale.” So a year ago, I decided to cut out meat and dairy products, but kept eggs, because eggs are yummy and it was my gig, so I just decided it was so. I turned a blind eye to dairy incorporated in baked goods, but I switched to soy milk and soy ice cream. Now, those who know me know that I can be…enthusiastic, but my enthusiasm can be short lived. That is to say, my attention span rivals that of a small kitten. No one really expected me to last a week on this crazy diet, let alone a year, the typical length of a new year’s resolution. I’m a realist. I told myself if I made it even six months, I would feel plenty accomplished.

I’m not sure what turned out to be more surprising – that I actually did last more than six months and or how easy it turned out to be. Given that it is now, ahem, 2010, it seems there is quite an amply stocked market for the vegetably inclined. And many of the products are really very tasty, including some easy frozen “meatball” varieties and many soy ice cream options. And what’s more, you don’t even need to get dressed up and go to a fancy-pants John Mackey joint to find these products-most are common enough to be in your local Safeway, or Kroger, or what have you.

Despite this bout of waxing nostalgic, I did indeed quit the veg gig around August, coinciding with the launch of this blog. Cooking meat can be wonderful and fun, and I like to serve to my friends, none of whom are vegetarian. Still, I think my eight month stint taught me some valuable lessons in creativity and I definitely can get by with less meat now, if not no meat.

Back to regular programming. I needed to bake something for a new year’s eve party, and I wanted to do some kind of wint'ry cupcake flavor. Erin, in her beauty and brilliance, suggested cranberry, which I loved. I decided to do a basic vanilla cupcake with a cranberry swiss meringue buttercream. (It turned out decently well, although as I was in a rush to bring them to the party, my photography session was quite lacking.) Since I started making swiss meringue buttercream in the summer, it’s been great trying out different flavors it will take, and the possibilities of this frosting, like those of the new decade, seem endless.

There, how lovely a sentiment is that?

Basic Vanilla Cupcakes
makes 12 regular cupcakes or 48 (!) mini cupcakes

My own go-to recipe for a vanilla cupcake is usually either the martha stewart version of a cupcake bakeshop version, but I decided to try one from crispy waffle. These turned out fluffy and moist, and very very buttery, but they didn't give me the lovely domes martha usually does.

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the oven rack in the middle position. Grease and flour a 12-cup muffin tin.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar until light colored and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the egg, egg yolks and vanilla and beat at medium speed until thoroughly incorporated.
  5. Add the sour cream and beat until incorporated.
  6. Add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
  8. Remove and cool to room temperature on a rack, about 45 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the frosting of your choice.

Cranberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes

1 cup cranberry sauce
4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 sticks of butter, at room temperature (I actually use salted butter)
  1. Combine the sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar and water in the stainless steel bowl of an electric mixer (i.e. your KitchenAid bowl). Bring a large pan of water to simmer, making sure that the water is a the same height as the egg whites in your stainless bowl. Set the bowl in the pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Be really careful not to curdle the egg whites-- simply remove the bowl from the heat for a bit if it feels like that's happening. Also, you'll know when it's getting close to 160 degrees; the mixture will be getting ultra foamy, like the top of a latte. (A really good latte that is-- one of those kinds where it has a leaf-pattern on top, you know what I'm talking about.)
  2. Remove the bowl to your stand mixer and beat on high speed for 3-5 minutes, until the mixture holds glossy, marshmallowy peaks. Remove the meringue to another bowl.
  3. In the standing mixer, beat half the butter and one-third of the meringue until well combined. Continue to add the remaining two-thirds of the meringue a dollop at a time. The mixture may look scarily curdled at this point; adding the remaining butter a tablespoon at a time will smooth things out. (Basically, just keep adding a bit of butter at a time until the curdling corrects itself.)
  4. With the mixer on low, add the cranberry sauce and mix until well-combined.
  5. Frost the cupcakes using an offset spatula.
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