Brine your Chicken

This post isn’t about a specific recipe, per se.  It is about a technique for making your chicken turn out awesome.  Every time.  And it’s simple to do:  brine your chicken.

Got your attention?

Basically, you make a brine out of water, salt, and sugar (salt water is called a brine, but the sugar brings it home).  Then you put the chicken in the brine.  but all that into the fridge, and wait.  Take it out, drain the brine, cook the chicken.

It’s that easy.  It doesn’t matter if it’s thighs, breasts, backs, or wings.  And it doesn’t matter if you are pan searing, grilling, baking, microwaving, smoking, of just taking a blow torch to it.  The chicken will turn out better.  Pork chops will, too (although they take longer in the brine), but this post is about chicken.

The issue I have with cooking chicken (and pork, too, sometimes) is that you have about five seconds of perfectly cooked chicken.  Not undercooked where you will kill someone, and not overcooked where it turns into dry tasteless junk.  If you don’t take it off at just the right time, you end up with bad food.  When you brine the chicken, it adds salt and flavor to the chicken, but it also adds water.  You end up with chicken that now has about a minute, sometimes more, of perfectly cooked, not over dry, amazing food.  A little bit of planning, and everyone will know what a great cook you are.

OK, the rules.

 

1 gallon water.

1 cup salt.

1/2 cup sugar.

 

Mix that all together until the salt and sugar is dissolved.  Put in the chicken.  Put it in the fridge.  If it is a normal chicken breast, give it 45 minutes.  If it is one of those monster chicken breasts from Costco, give it an hour and a half. You know the ones, four inches wide, six inches long.  They are wonderful, but size makes a difference about how long it is in the brine.  (and yes, the pork chops will be longer, an hour for a normal 1/2 inch thick chop, and up to four hours for that monster one inch thick chop at Costco).

Oh, and if you want to just leave it over night, just half the salt and sugar, and you should be fine.

And if you don’t need that much brine, just keep the ratios.  Half gallon water, half cup salt, quarter cup sugar.  It’s that simple.

Now go!  Brine some chicken.

Spaghetti alla Bolognese

spaghetti alla bologneseI am actually not sure if this is really spaghetti alla bolognese.  But is it really tasty, and when given to me was only named Ragout.

Story time.

We always are on the lookout for good restaurants, especially those little ones in out of the ay places with really good food.  When we lived in Florida we found many like that, but one of our favorites was this small Italian place tucked into a strip mall behind a grocery store.  (It was off of Waters and Dale Mabry in Tampa, if that helps anyone with a local map).  The people running the place were very welcoming, professional, and friendly.  They spoke with a heavy accent, and I am pretty sure the lady that ran the kitchen didn’t speak much English.  It had the feel of authentic food, and everything we tried there was delicious.

The best, of course, was their Spaghetti alla Bolognese.  Rich with flavor, full of vegetables, and obviously slow cooked over a several hours, it was incredible.  I couldn’t get enough of it.

Then we moved across the country.

I have tried several recipes for Spaghetti alla Bolognese.  And they were good, but not as good as that place in Tampa.  And then my friend offered his wife’s recipe to me.  I knew it was authentic Italian, since he and his wife are authentic Italian.  In Italy.  So I made her sauce.  And it is AWESOME.  In fact, it is better than the one in Tampa (although if I find myself in Tampa, I will still go back to that restaurant).  It is one of my more cherished recipes.  And now I have permission to share it with the world.

I’ve included the original in Italian at the end of the port, plus it’s Google translated version.  My version here trades out the wine.  Feel free to use the original, as it’s even better!

Also, I usually triple the recipe, as my kids eat a lot, and for this, I like leftovers.

Start by chipping all your vegetables.

spaghetti alla bologneseMelt the butter. (I never said it was low fat)

spaghetti alla bologneseadd the vegetables.

spaghetti alla bolognese  Saute them until they are wilted, or onions are translucent.

spaghetti alla bologneseAdd pork, beef, and pancetta. Cook for ten minutes.

spaghetti alla bologneseAdd beef stock, and balsamic vinegar. Reduce slightly.

spaghetti alla bologneseAdd crushed tomatoes, and half the vegetable stock. Stir it together.  Cover, and reduce heat. Simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally, and gradually adding the other half of the vegetable stock.

spaghetti alla bolognesespaghetti alla bolognese

Once the sauce has reduced enough to be sauce, add the cream (or milk).

spaghetti alla bologneseCook the pasta al dente and season generously.

spaghetti alla bolognese

 

Spaghetti alla Bolognese
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Authentic Italian ragout
Ingredients
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 3½ ounce lean ground pork
  • 3½ ounce lean ground beef
  • 1¾ ounce pancetta
  • ½ cup beef stock
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 9 ounce crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon heavy cream (may replace with 2 Tablespoons milk)
Instructions
  1. Saute onion, celery, and carrot in the butter until wilted, or onions are translucent.
  2. Add pork, beef, and pancetta. Cook for ten minutes.
  3. Add beef stock, and balsamic vinegar. Reduce slightly.
  4. Add crushed tomatoes, and half the vegetable stock. Cover, and reduce heat. Simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally, and gradually adding the other half of the vegetable stock.
  5. Once the sauce has reduced enough to be sauce, add the cream (or milk).
  6. Cook your pasta al dente and season generously.

 

Original ragout recipe:

Pulire e tritare grossolanamente  una cipolla media, una costola di sedano e una carota e farle soffriggere in 50 G di burro.

Quando si sono appassite aggiungere la carne macinata ( 100 G di polpa di maiale, 100 G di polpa di vitello, 50 G di pancetta) e cuocere per 10 minuti.

Versare un bicchiere di vino rosso e farlo evaporare per metà; aggiungere 259 G di passata di pomodoro, sale, pepe e 1/2 bicchiere di brodo vegetale (fatto facendo bollire nell”acqua le verdure: carote, patate, sedano, etc. e poi togliere le verdure e usare il brodo).

Incoperchiare eabbassare la fiamma al minimo facendo cuocere almeno per 2 ore, aggiungendo man mano 1/2 tazza di brodo.

Quando il ragout si è ristretto abbastanza (a fine cottura) aggiungere due cucchiai di latte o un cucchiaio di panna.

Cuocere la pasta al dente e condire generosamente.

Translated to English

Clean and coarsely chop a medium onion, a stick of celery and a carrot and fry them in 50 g of butter.

When you are wilted add the minced meat (100 g of lean pork, 100 g of lean beef, 50 g of bacon(panchetta)) and cook for 10 minutes.

Pour a glass of red wine and let it evaporate to half; 259 G add tomato puree, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup vegetable broth (made ​​by boiling in “water vegetables: carrots, potatoes, celery, etc.., and then remove the vegetables and use the broth).

Put the lid and reduce heat to low and cook for at least 2 hours, gradually adding 1/2 cup of broth.

When the ragout has shrunk enough (after cooking), add two tablespoons of milk or a spoonful of whipped cream.

Cook the pasta al dente and season generously.

World’s Best Pancakes

pancakesI love pancakes. In fact, I adore pancakes.  If it took no time to make them (and no calories), I would eat pancakes twice a week.  Unfortunately work and children conspire to take up my pancake time, and I settle for lesser food in the mornings.  (And I gladly make that choice, but I think it is ok to occasionally lament the good things we give up for better things).

This is another food that I would make ok at home but head to a restaurant for better on the weekends.  I even went through a phase when we used a powdered mix to save time and effort.  I learned that some things are worth the effort, or left alone until the time can be set aside to do them right.  Save yourselves from box mixes and instant foods!
So one day I finally had sufficiently bad pancakes to push me the the Internet in pursuit of the perfect recipe.  And there are a lot of them; some good, some terrible.  I tried twelve different pancake recipes, all claiming to be the best.  And some were really good.  We finally found one that headed toward great, but not quite there.  We tweaked, and we adjusted.  We tested and we adapted.  What we ended up with was different than all the others, with a little borrowed from a lot of different ideals.
We call them the World’s Best Pancakes.  It is a little bit hyperbole, but not much.  I think you’ll like what we came up with.

Notes.
We are at 4200 ft altitude.  You may need slightly less flour, and maybe a pinch less baking soda if you are at sea level.  Please post a comment on any success or failure at different elevations.
Also, this makes a LOT of pancakes.  Most people have extras at the end.  They freeze well and heat up nicely in a toaster or oven, or you can half or third the recipe.
One other thing, the syrup makes a big difference.  Either use a high end syrup, or at least get one made from sugar (like Log Cabin) and not made from corn syrup.  Or try these with strawberries and caramel sauce.

pancakes

World's Best Pancakes
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 40 - 3" pancakes
 
These pancakes are so good, they will ruin your appetite for all other pancakes.
Ingredients
  • 3¾ cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3½ cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tablespoon vinegar
  • 3 eggs
  • ⅓ cup butter, melted
Instructions
  1. In a medium glass bowl (4 cups or larger) make the sour milk, starting with the lemon juice and vinegar, and adding the milk until a you have a total of 3½ cups. Let sit at least five minutes while you mix the dry ingredients.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In the glass bowl with the sour milk, and the eggs and beat or whisk together. Once combined, slowly beat in melted butter. Keep the wet and dry mixtures separate until just before cooking.
  4. Heat your electric griddle to between 325 and 350. You know it's ready when you can flick water drops onto the surface and they bead up, sizzle, and dance for a moment before evaporating.
  5. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture, and whisk together. Do not over stir; mix just enough to bring together, a few small lumps are ok.
  6. Pour in ⅓ to ½ cup per pancake and brown on both sides, as if you are cooking pancakes. Which you are.
  7. Serve hot.

 

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