I am a scientist who loves to cook because there are many similarities between working in a lab and cooking in a kitchen. I love to share my cooking experience with you and to inspire others to cook.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Classic Chili

I was given the task to bring chili for the Thanksgiving dinner and I turned to my go-to recipe book nowadays, which was written by America's Test Kitchen.

After a quick look at the recipe and a searched of my pantry, I realized I have most of the things already. All I need are ground beef, canned kidney beans, and red bell pepper.

I followed the instructions as close as possible which I reproduced bellow. It is a pretty simple dish to make and it can be generally boil down to 4 steps. 1) cook the aromatics, 2) add the vegetable, 3) add the meat, 4) season with spices.

Ingredients: (10 medium servings)
2 onions
1 red bell pepper
4 tbsp chili powder (quantity adjustable)
1 tbsp cumin
1.2 tsp cayenne pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs ground beef
2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed
1 can (28 ounce) diced tomatoes

Instructions: (I changed the order/timing of adding/cooking each component slightly)
1. Heat the oil in a large pot and add the onions until it turns translucent. Then add the garlic, and red bell pepper. Cook these for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the beef in small batches and cook until the beef is no longer pink.
3. Stir in the beans, diced tomatoes with all the juice.
4. Season with cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper and chili powder. I also added some dried crushed pepper.
5. Cook this for 45-60 minutes in medium heat. At this point, the chili will become gooey and not watery/stewy, which is the right consistency for chili.

 I was told that chili taste better after storage, and that's what I did. This chili is fantastic and my friends who had said it was the best they have had. I will not take any credit for this, it all belongs to America's Test Kitchen's carefully crafted recipe. It is a full-proofed recipe!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Korean "Fried" Chicken with Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce

Back in the days, my friend told me about korean fried chicken that taste like nothing I have ever tasted before. He said it will changed the way I look at fried chicken. He is right.

The Koreans (term used loosely) invented, perfected, or innovated (don't quote me on food history) the art of frying chicken. No other people make fried chicken like the Koreans do.

I, for one, am not prepare to make fried chicken in my apartment that requires lots and lots of oil. I looked for the easiest way to make fried chicken and I landed on America's Test Kitchen's cookbook which has the following recipe "Easy fried chicken".

1.2 cup plus 2. tbsp buttermilk
(I don't have buttermilk so I mixed 3/4 cup plain yogurt with 1/4 cup of milk courtesy this recipe Buttermilk substitute)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
10-12 chicken wings (approximately 1lb)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of salt, black pepper
1.5 cups cooking oil
(this is significantly lower than the traditional way)

1. Mix the buttermilk, salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika in a large mixing bowl.
2. Add the chicken and coat the chicken evenly. Store in refrigerator for at least 1-24 hours (I did it for 2 hours)

3. Combine flour, baking powder, a pinch of paprika, a pinch of cayenne together.
4. Dredge chicken in flour mixture, coat the chicken evenly with the flour mixture. Set aside.

(while working in small batches)

5. Heat oil in a large pan and carefully place the chicken skin side down in the hot oil. Cook for 3-5 minutes.

6. Flip the chicken and cook for another 5 minutes.
7. Make sure the chicken is cooked through before transferring out of the pan.

(please read the note at the very bottom of this post for details that I omitted here)

Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce (recipe Source)
My version, which I adapted slightly from my Honey Soy Scallops recipe.
1. pince of red chili flakes
2. 2 tbsp soy sauce
3. 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar or any vinegar
4. 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
5. 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
6. 1 tbsp sesame oil
7. 1 tbsp honey

Mix everything together, heat the mixture for a couple of minutes in a shallow pan using low heat. Drizzle over chicken.

The exterior of the chicken is crispy but I find that this crispiness is a result of the fried flour mixture. The skin of the wing isn't fried at all. When I removed this layer of fried exterior, I see a layer of skin. This is definitely not what I wanted and not how the Koreans do it. I am not even sure if America's Test Kitchen got this right. However, the sweet and spicy sauce works wonderfully on the chicken. If I were to do this again, I am going to remove the flour mixture COMPLETELY and simply "fry" the marinated chicken in hot oil. That way, the skin is guarantee to make contact with hot oil.

If you want to make Korean Fried Chicken as close as possible to the original, check out this elaborate and scientific experiment by the folks at Serious Eats. The Recipe and The Experiment.

According the America's Test Kitchen's Easy Fried Chicken recipe, they included one last step which is to transfer the cooked chicken into a 160 degree oven and bake the chicken for an extra 15-20 minutes. One caveat in that recipe is that they used chicken breast, which is thicker than wings, and this is the reason why I omitted the final baking step.