Tag Archives: fried chicken

Husk…. Sean Brock’s Southern Food

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Bon Appetit hailed it as the Best New Restaurant in the US…. accolades have been streaming ever since. It is not all hype, the food is amazing, creative and interesting. Husk is the love child of James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s and the Neighborhood Dining Group. Since opening Husk in Charleston he opened another outpost of Southern ingredients in Nashville. He recently opened Minero, a taqueria in the high rent district of downtown Charleston. There is word that he is also taking that concept to Atlanta where the Neighborhood Dining Group is headquartered. He transforms the essence of Southern food over and over again. Solid… delicious… promising. Sean is dedicated to bringing back old Southern grains, beans, greens and other treasures that were all but lost. He is the champion of the old non-gmo crops that were grown 200 years ago in the south. His food reflects that without being obvious. It is just delicious food, and then you learn its history and all of the work that went into bringing it to the table.

Led by Brock and Chef de Cuisine Travis Grimes, a Lowcountry native, the kitchen reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring an ingredient-driven cuisine that begins in the rediscovery of heirloom products and redefines what it means to cook and eat in Charleston.

Starting with a larder of ingredients indigenous to the South, and set within a building complex dating to the late 19th century, Brock crafts menus throughout the day, responding to what local purveyors are supplying the kitchen at any given moment. The entrance beckons with a rustic wall of firewood to fuel the wood-fired oven and a large chalkboard listing artisanal products currently provisioning the kitchen, but like the décor that inhabits the historic building, the food is modern in style and interpretation.

At Husk there are some rules about what can go on the plate. “If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door,” says Brock, who has even stricken olive oil from the kitchen. As he explains, the resulting cuisine “is not about rediscovering Southern cooking, but exploring the reality of Southern food.” This modern approach results in playful dishes such as Deviled Eggs with Pickled Okra and Trout Roe, and new classics like South Carolina Shrimp and Choppee Okra Stew with Carolina Gold Rice and Flowering Basil.

Seed-saving, heirloom husbandry, and in-house pickling and charcuterie efforts by the culinary team are the basis of the cuisine at Husk. The restaurant is as casual as it is chic, evoking a way of life centered on seasonality and the grand traditions of Charleston life—one lived at a slower pace, preferably with a cocktail and a wide porch in the late afternoon. It is a neighborhood gathering place for friends, and a destination dining spot for travelers, with a little bite of the South for everyone’s palates.

These photos are from my lunch there with Nathalie Dupree and Holly Herrick, two Charleston based friends of mine than rank in the upper echelons of Food Writers.  And so we were treated to many things that we did not order. On of the most amazing things that day was totally unexpected, the fried chicken skin with honey and hot sauce. It is a dish I have reconstructed at home a few times. I also reconstructed Husk’s Sweet Tea Brined Kentuckyaki Chicken Wings and you can get the recipe here.

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Best Fried Chicken EVER: French Laundry Style

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This is the first fried chicken I have had since moving to Charleston. Nothing says the south quite like fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. Thomas Keller of the French Laundry  fame serves this chicken at Ad Hoc every Tuesday. This is quite simply the best fried chicken ever. I have tweaked it a bit from the original recipe after making it a few times. Less bay leaves, added peppers, fresh turmeric, honey in the buttermilk and some other changes. The brine maintains texture and flavors the chicken. It is delicious hot or cold. The buttermilk and honey impart a tang and sweetness. The coating fries perfectly if you maintain the temperature of the oil.
You need to start this ahead of time, it takes two days to make. The first 24 hours is brining in the refrigerator, but the active time for frying the chicken is no longer than any other recipe of fried chicken.
In my house it is for special occasions, as each piece is about 500-700 calories depending on if you eat the skin (and WHY wouldn’t you?).

For the Brine:

1 gallon water
1c kosher salt
1/2cup of honey
1/2 cup raw sugar
2 bay leaves
2 heads of garlic cut in half
¼ cup yellow mustard seeds
1 finger of fresh turmeric grated (2 Tablespoons of ground turmeric if you cannot find fresh)
1 small hand full of whole black peppercorns
2 large stalks of lemon grass bruised
5 large rosemary sprigs
1 bunch thyme
1 bunch parsley
Zest, juice and rind of 3 Meyer lemons
5 habanero chiles cut in half
4-6 # of chicken parts (Split breasts are quite large these days, so if you find yours extra large, use a cleaver and cut each breast in half)

For Frying:
6c flour
3T garlic salt
5T onion powder
2 T paprika
4t cayenne
1T fresh black pepper
2t kosher salt (I use smoked Hawaiian salt)
6c buttermilk
1/2 cup of honey
12c peanut oil (or freshly rendered lard)

Method:

Place all of the brine ingredients in a large pot and heat till the sugar and honey melt. Remove from stove and allow to cool. To speed this process up, you can use ¾ gallon of water and then add 4 cups of ice cubes after cooking.
When completely cool add chicken parts. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
Mix together the honey and buttermilk.
Buttermilk Bath
Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels
Add to the honey and buttermilk and allow to soak for at least one hour and up to 12 hours.
Heat the oil/lard in a very large deep pot to 300˚, try to maintain this heat during cooking, do not let the oil get too hot.
Mix together the flour and seasonings in a large pan.
One piece at a time, take each chicken piece out of the buttermilk mixture, coat with flour, shake off excess and then dunk again in the buttermilk and coat again in flour.

Set the chicken pieces on a large baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Allow the chicken to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to one hour.

Start frying, two to three pieces at a time, do not crowd the chicken. It would be even better to do it one piece at a time so the oil maintains the 300˚ temperature, but that is time consuming. Use a candy thermometer to maintain the temperature as close to 300˚ as possible. When the chicken is golden brown (about 12 minutes for legs and thighs, 7 minutes for ½ breasts) use an instant read thermometer to check doneness. It should read 160 ˚. Remove and place on a sheet pan in a warming oven no warmer than 120 degrees.

 

Serve while warm.

Charleston’s Newest Restaurant

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There are some new kids on the block. I say kids because Nicole and Jay Kees are at least as young as my adult children. Though they are well seasoned food adventurers who arrived in Charleston, South Carolina just 12 weeks ago to open their new eatery, Angel Oak Restaurant.  I was invited to attend a media dinner at Angel Oak last night and I was pleasantly pleased. It is not just the interesting locally based seasonal food that caught my eye, but attention to the smallest details in the choices for decor and service ware. The restaurant has a very personal feel to it and that is because everything in it was hand picked from antique markets in upstate New York before the Kees moved to Charleston. Antique bottles filled with herbs are on each table and in window frames, the tables which are covered in brown paper are set with vintage china and when you order coffee, the cream comes in old pint milk bottles. The toile banquettes were hand made by the couple, chairs bought on Craigs List and antique doors provide cover for the busing station. Though the mason jar drinking glasses are a southern staple, the decor is fresh, art filled and not at all cloying.

Now, let’s talk about the food. The Angel Oak Restaurant has a seasonal locally inspired menu which is printed up daily. All pasta is made in house. Sauces & condiments are made from scratch and interestingly presented. Their supper menu includes appetizers such as oysters on the half shell with fresh horseradish, champagne mignonette ($7), deep fried bacon drizzled with a Buffalo sauce served with home made blue cheese dressing ($6), Port Wine Pate fresh creamy chicken liver pate, green tomato chow-chow, pickled vegetables, selection of mustards, toast points ($8) and Lobster Mac with fresh lobster, creamy herbed champagne cheese sauce and a baked panko crust ($12) among other offerings.

Port Wine Pate~fresh creamy chicken liver pate, green tomato chow-chow
pickled vegetables, selection of mustards, toast points

They also have a fun “snack” menu for just $3 you can have a taste of House-Made Ricotta with toast points and local honey,  Fried Green Tomatoes, Deviled Eggs and Yorkshire Pudding with Gravy. It is a playful way to taste some really interesting flavors. At our table the house made ricotta was a big hit.

House made ricotta with honey

Fried Bacon with Buffalo Sauce and house made blue cheese
Pate with house made pickles, mustard and green tomato chow chow

Entrees, salads and sandwiches fill out the rest of the supper menu. The entrees vary from Southern staples (Chef Kees is from Southern Missisippi and trained at the C.I.A.) to interesting plays of local ingredients. Their stellar Buttermilk Fried Chicken, drizzled with five spice herb honey served with  macaroni and cheese gratin and collard greens ($17) made several diners smile. Shrimp Carbonara with sautéed Low Country shrimp, house made pasta with peas, roasted lardons of local bacon tossed in a creamy herb sauce ($16). My Steak Au Poivre; seared peppercorn crusted local grass fed sirloin finished with a brandy cream sauce were served with herbed shoestring fries in a brown paper bag ($21) was a perfectly cooked medium rare. Other offerings round out the supper menu. Sides ($3) include herbed shoestring fries, macaroni and cheese gratin, roasted corn on the cob,creamed smashed potatoes, stone ground grits, braised carrots, collard greens & seasonal vegetables.

Classic Steak Au Poivre ~ seared peppercorn crusted sirloin finished with a brandy cream sauce & herbed shoestring fries

Perfectly cooked crispy fries served in a brown paper bag

After all of that good food, it might be difficult to save room for dessert, but their banana pudding served in a jelly jar was worth the extra calories.

Banana Puddiing

Restaurant owners: Executive Chef Jay Kees and Manager Nicole Kees

Sunday Brunch is served from 10-4, Lunch is served buffet style with lemonade or tea from 11-4 Tuesday-Friday ($8.95~ call for menu items as they change daily) and dinner is available Tuesday-Thursday till 9 and Friday-Saturday till 10. Angel Oak is located near Johns Island, 3669 Savannah Highway Johns Island, SC 29455. Indoor and out door seating is available. For reservations call 843) 556-7525. Go to Facebook and “like” Angel Oak Restaurant to stay in the loop on what is happening at this fun new dining spot.

If you are not from Charleston, you might want to read more about the namesake of this restaurant, the Angel Oak Tree. It is thought to be the oldest living organism East of the Mississippi River.

The original Angel Oak on Johns Island, SC

I am looking forward to return visits and having a chance to taste more of Chef Kee’s creations. I will be sharing them with you then.