Wednesday, June 12, 2013

True Blood: Southern Fried Basket

Welcome back! This week, we're celebrating the return of the bloodiest, nakedest, Southern twangiest vampire show on television today: True Blood! Today, we're paying tribute to everyone's favorite back-water bar and grill, Merlotte's, with a fry basket good enough to make Lafayette blush. You ain't gonna see nothin' green but the garnish here, honey. So, brace your arteries, fire up that stove and get out that cast iron skillet because we're gonna bread and fry everything but the coffin!

What's in the basket? Well, we have fried chicken strips, fried shrimp, french fries and hush puppies. Don't know what a hush puppy is? Don't panic, it's fried cornbread! Once they clean up the fairy after-birth, I'm pretty sure you'll be able to order something very similar to this in Merlotte's. In this blog, you'll find the recipes and basic instruction for each item in the basket. In later posts, I'll elaborate on technique for those of you in need of more detailed instruction and break each item into a quest for those of you following along with your character tomes.

Basic Fried Chicken Strips

4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts Cut Into Strips
Vegetable or Peanut Oil for frying
2 Cups Buttermilk
3 Cups Flour
1 TBS Ground Pepper
1 TBS Salt
1 TBS Onion Powder
2 TSP Cayenne Pepper

In a shallow dish, soak your chicken in the buttermilk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Pre-Heat Oil in a heavy duty skillet (ie. cast iron)  or dutch oven to 350º  Do not fill the skillet more than halfway with oil; too much becomes dangerous.

Mix together flour, pepper, cayenne pepper, salt and onion powder in a large bowl. Trust your nose! Smell the mixture and if you feel like it needs more seasoning, don't be afraid to add it!

Transfer pre-soaked chicken strips directly from buttermilk to flour mixture and coat well. For a thicker, crunchier breading, coat again in buttermilk and return for a second time to flour mixture.

Fry chicken until golden brown and crunchy, roughly 8 to 10 minutes. Make sure you turn the strips over halfway through cooking. Do not cook more than three strips at a time. Overloading the oil will drive down the temperature and effect the cooking time and greasiness of your chicken. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain grease.

Crispy Fried Shrimp

1 Pound Uncooked Shrimp, peeled & deveined
Vegetable or Peanut Oil for Frying
1 Cup Buttermilk
2 Tsp Tabasco Sauce
1 Cup Self-Rising Flour
2 TBS Cornmeal 
1 Tsp Salt
2 Tsp Ground Pepper
1 Tsp Onion Powder

Pre-heat Oil in skillet or dutch oven to 350º

Whisk together buttermilk and Tabasco sauce in a shallow dish.

Mix together self-rising flour, cornmeal, salt, ground pepper and onion powder in a separate dish.

Rinse shrimp and pat dry with paper towels. 

Dredge shrimp FIRST in flour mixture, then transfer to buttermilk mixture and coat well. Return shrimp to flour mixture and set aside until all shrimp are breaded.

Fry until crispy and golden brown in small batches, roughly 5 minutes per batch. Be sure to turn the shrimp over halfway through cooking. Transfer to a paper towel lined baking sheet to drain grease.

Hush Puppies

3/4 Cup Self-Rising Cornmeal (or 3/4 Cup regular cornmeal + 1 tsp baking powder)
1/2 Cup Self-Rising Flour
Vegetable or Peanut Oil for frying
1/4 Cup minced onion
1/2 Cup Creamed Corn (canned)
1 Large Egg (beaten)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper

In a skillet or dutch oven, fill a little under halfway with oil. Pre-Heat Oil to 350º

Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl until a smooth, thick batter forms. Let it stand for about five minutes

Carefully drop spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil. A good rule of thumb is not to go over a tablespoon per hush puppy. Fry in batches of 5 or 6. Again, overloading the oil will drive down the temperature of the oil and effect cooking time and greasiness. Fry until golden brown and crunchy, roughly 3 to 4 minutes. Be sure to turn the hush puppies halfway through for even cooking. Transfer to a paper towel lined baking sheet to drain grease.

French Fries

5 Pounds Russet Potatoes
Vegetable or Peanut Oil for Frying
Salt & Pepper to taste
Large bowl of cold water

Peel and cut potatoes into sticks. 

Transfer potato sticks to bowl of cold water and let soak for at least 2 hours. Why? Well, soaking the potatoes (fries) in cold water gets rid of a lot of the starch and helps achieve delicious, crunchy french fries. You can soak them all night if you feel like it. But I recommend at LEAST 2 hours. Also, if your water isn't cold enough, add ice cubes and stick it in the fridge.

Remove from bowl to a paper towel lined baking sheet and pat dry, removing any excess water. 

Get ready! You're going to fry these bad-boys twice for maximum crispy deliciousness!

Pre-Heat Oil to 300º in a deep skillet or dutch oven

In small batches, fry potato sticks until tender. Test them with a metal spatula or knife. When you can easily slice through a stick, pull them from the oil and transfer to a paper towel lined pan. Pat away the excess grease with a dry paper towel. Repeat until you have lightly fried the entire batch. 

Increase oil temperature to 375º

Again, in small batches, fry the potato sticks until golden brown and crispy. About 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined baking sheet to drain the grease. Season with salt and pepper or other seasonings (garlic, cayenne, onion powder, etc.).

And that's the fry basket in a nutshell!  Don't fix it too often or you might find yourself wheezing the next time you're running from a hungry vampire. Be sure to pop in tomorrow because I'll be posting my special True Blood cocktail, the Fizzy Fang. And Friday, we're turning a traditional Southern salad on its head with Ambrosia Ice Cream! 

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