Categories
beef Best of Inuyaki chocolate dessert Northern California reviews

Alexander’s Steakhouse

Special occasions call for special restaurants, and when a friend and former coworker decided he was going to pack it up and move back home to the ATL, it was the perfect time for some old friends to get together, reminisce about the good old days and send him off in style. We quickly came to a consensus on Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino, a modern American steakhouse with Japanese influences that does some pretty amazing things with meat.

The first thing you notice when you walk into the restaurant is the meat locker on the left that contains huge slabs of dry-aged beef. It’s always nice to know when a restaurant is aging its own beef, and as a meat lover, it’s really a sight to behold.


Beautiful Aged Meat

We were presented with a really nice ahi tartare amuse bouche to kick off the meal. A few of us decided to try the Hamachi Shot off the small plates menu, one of Alexander’s most popular appetizers (it’s also the cheapest at $4). It’s a shot glass filled with hamachi, red chili, frizzled ginger, avocado, and truffled ponzu, and you simply stir it up a bit and then shoot it. It’s quite a rush, and I loved the slight kick you get from the chili.

Salads quickly followed, including my Baby Lettuce salad with yuzu vinaigrette, red radish, ten kasu, and the optional bacon lardons (of course!). The Iceberg Lettuce salad featured living watercress, point reyes blue cheese, and apples and was plated beautifully. Before our main courses arrived, we cleansed our palates with an intermezzo—a refreshing shot of mango juice and chopped strawberries.


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Between the eight of us, only three different entrees were ordered—five orders of the 10 oz. filet mignon, two orders of the Melange a Trois (including mine) and one Misoyaki Sea Bass. The filets were excellent and topped with shiitakes and candied bacon. The sea bass was served with sansho crispy squid, tempura green beans, curried trout roe, beurre noir, and their crunchiness was a nice contrast to the buttery, melt-in-your-mouth fish.

The guest of honor and I both ordered the Melange for its variety—Prime Rib in Natural Jus, Braised Shortrib with Brie en Cocette, and Bavette Steak with Green Olives and Bleu Cheese. I also added a piece of Seared Foie Gras to “round out” the meal. :-)

Categories
bacon Best of Inuyaki eggs sandwiches

The B.E.P. (Bacon, Egg & Pepper Jack)

When I walked in the door tonight, my brilliant wife presented me with this amazing sandwich of fried egg topped with two slices of bacon and melted Pepper Jack cheese on a Dutch Crunch roll.


The B.E.P.

My wife grilled the inside of the bread with some butter, filled it with the bacon, eggs and cheese, and then put it in the toaster oven to melt the cheese and toast the bread. She made the whole thing up on the fly, but it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. Bacon and eggs are a given, but I really loved the spicy kick from the Pepper Jack.

Categories
beef Best of Inuyaki David Chang Momofuku recipes Thomas Keller

Braised Beef Short Ribs

A couple weeks ago, I bought some short ribs but was at a loss at how I was going to prepare them. Normally I prepare them sous vide, but I wanted to do a traditional braise this time. I contemplated doing the Beef Bourgignon recipe in Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook, but I didn’t really have the time to do such a meticulous recipe.

I was reminded of the soy/sake short ribs I had at Maru and set out to find something similar, eventually stumbling upon an easy recipe by Momofuku’s David Chang on the New York Times Web site. I’m a big fan of Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar, where I had the perfect bowl of noodles on our New York trip last May, so I was pretty excited to give this recipe a try.


braised beef short ribs

Overall, the dish turned out great. The meat was fork tender and delicious, and we even had fun with the plating. It was a bit on the sweet side, so next time, I think I’m going to cut the sugar since there’s already a lot sweetness from the apple juice and mirin.

Categories
Best of Inuyaki Italian Neapolitan Northern California pizza reviews

Pizzeria Picco

In the April 2006 issue of Gourmet magazine, Mario Batali declared the pizzas at Larkspur’s Pizzeria Picco “the best in the country—the margherita pizza is so good, it’s enough to make you cry.” That’s a big statement from Batali, who happens to own a few pizza places himself, including my own personal favorite, Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles.

Ironically, Pizzeria Picco first appeared on my radar when I saw a tantalizing picture Picco’s housemade salumi plate on Susannah’s blog, Amuses Bouche. Considering that Susannah and I share a love for Grimaldi’s Pizza in Brooklyn, Pizzeria Picco instantly joined our list of places we had to visit.

As luck would have it, my friend Nina Storey, an incredible singer/songwriter based in L.A., was in the Bay Area a few weekends ago to play a show in Larkspur just down the street from Picco, so our Friday night was destined to be great. The pizza was so good, we returned the next weekend with a friend (another Pizzeria Mozza fan) for more.


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Picco specializes in authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas that are baked in a 900-degree wood-burning oven for around 90 seconds (but never exceeding 105 seconds). What results is a crust that’s crispy and still has bite to it, and I always love seeing the beautiful black spots of char on pizza. Combine that with fresh local ingredients, including a really nice housemade sausage, and you really can’t go wrong with anything you order. During our two visits we sampled four of their pizzas.

  • Marin (roasted garlic, young potatoes, mozzarella, parmesan, rosemary oil)
  • Cannondale (sausage, roasted peppers, seasonal onions, mozzarella, basil)
  • Margherita (tomato, basil, hand-pulled mozzarella, parmesan
  • Pizza of the Day (sausage, tomato sauce, garlic, mozzarella, and wild nettles)

While all of these pizzas were excellent, the Marin was a standout and the only pizza we felt compelled to order on both visits. There’s just something about potatoes on pizza, and the rosemary oil added a depth and flavor that made us say “ooooh” while we were eating it. I haven’t been a fan of white pizzas until recently, but with the Bianco Pizza at Mozza and Picco’s Marin, let’s just say I’m officially a convert. The Pizza of the Day is probably my second favorite of the bunch and was as beautiful as it was tasty. It was a perfect combination of sauce, cheese, meat and veggies. This is to take nothing away from the Margherita or the Cannondale, which are great pizzas in their own right. In fact, the Margherita might be the finest cheese pizza I’ve ever had (if you think of a classic cheese pizza from your childhood that’s just tomato sauce and cheese).

Aside from pizza, the aforementioned salumi plate was another decadent treat. All the meats are made in house and feature lardo, salumi, soppresata, coppa, and mortadella. When our plate arrived though, the lardo was missing. We asked our server and she said that they didn’t include it because most of the time, it’s just left on the plate. She told us that she’d have the lardo brought out to us, and when it arrived, the chef that delivered it cheerfully thanked us for requesting it. It’s a shame that a majority of their customers seemingly have no appreciation for this beautiful fatty goodness.


salumi plate   lardo

We finished off our respective meals with some incredible soft serve ice cream. Normally, I don’t really go for soft serve, but when it comes from Straus Dairy, that’s a different story. We tried the chocolate soft serve on our first visit (because they were out of vanilla) and got it drizzled with some pumpkin seed oil and sea salt. The chocolate was rich and smooth and didn’t really need the other additives, although the sea salt was a pretty nice combo. The combination they’re famous for is the vanilla ice cream with olive oil and sea salt, which we got on the return visit, and it’s amazing. If you only come here once, that’s the dessert to get.



So is Pizzeria Picco the best pizza in America? That’s a really loaded question, and I’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourself. Personally, I still like Pizzeria Mozza a little better mainly because of the wider selection of high-quality toppings and the more diverse menu. My wife and friend also put Mozza ahead because they liked Mozza’s crust better than Picco’s. If we’re just talking about the Bay Area, I’d put Pizzeria Picco at the top of the list.

How long will it reign? I’ll let you know after I visit Pizzaiolo in Oakland.

INFORMATION
Pizzeria Picco
320 Magnolia Avenue
Larkspur, CA 94939 map
415.945.8900
Web site

Categories
bacon Best of Inuyaki hot dog musings Southern California street food

The Los Angeles Bacon Hot Dog War

I had my very first bacon dog right on Hollywood Blvd. I walked out of a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live! and this amazing smell overcame me, and I said, “Goddamn! What smells so good?” This guy on the stairs pointed me toward this woman selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs from a sidewalk cart. Let’s just say that I bought and devoured one immediately.


Bacon Hot Dog Cart

Folks in San Francisco may want to claim the bacon dog cart (above) as their own because they’re pretty popular with weekend drunks leaving bars and clubs after 10pm in the Mission District. The truth is, bacon-wrapped hot dogs really belong to L.A., and you can get them from lunchtime till the wee hours of the morning (if you know where to look).

But things are not good for the bacon hot dog cart vendors in La-La Land. The L.A. Weekly recently chronicled the plight of hot dog vendors in L.A., who are now forbidden from using bacon AND grilling their hot dogs. (Boiling and steaming are the only acceptable cooking methods.)

Sound ridiculous?

They’ve actually jailed hot dog vendors like Elizabeth Palacios, who is featured in the article, for selling grilled bacon hot dogs. Palacios once served 45 days for health code violations, a sentence she said was orchestrated to “make an example” of her.

From the article:

“Honestly, I can tell you, I’ve been a working person all my life, I’ve worked since I was 9 years old,” Palacios says. “I don’t like being bothered, I don’t like being arrested. Never in my life had I been to jail, and they threw me in jail for violating the laws of the health department.”

There’s also a racial element to this story as the City of Los Angeles tries to revitalize and gentrify the downtown area and likely considers it in their best interests to “clean up” downtown for future investment and development.

“They told me, ‘The mayor wants to make this area like New York, Times Square,’ but I told them, ‘Who told him we want that? The people who come here are not like that.’ Ninety-nine percent of the people here are mexicanos. Here, you don’t really see americanos. One or two,” she says. “Why are they coming now to get us out of here? Why the abuse? Why the abuse?”

What’s worse is that while licensed hot dog vendors see the business suffer due to the restrictions, fees, and threats placed on them by overzealous city health inspectors, police and gangs, they have to watch their customers flock to the illegal bacon hot dog carts that have flourished since the ban, serving a customer base that probably doesn’t care where they come from…they just want their bacon dogs.

Will there ever be justice for the L.A.’s bacon hot dog vendors?

UPDATE: Drew Carey joins the fight.

Categories
bakeries Best of Inuyaki chocolate dessert recipes Thomas Keller

Christmas Cookies – Thomas Keller Oreos

If you’ve ever been to Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery, chances are you’ve seen or eaten one of his famous TKOs, a.k.a. Thomas Keller Oreos (below).


TKO

Like most of Keller’s food, his take on the classic Oreo is a textbook example of refined simplicity — white chocolate ganache sandwiched between two chocolate shortbread cookies. They’re one of our favorite cookies, and I thought it would be fun to make them for Christmas presents.


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The Las Vegas NBC affiliate, KVBC, posted the TKO recipe on their Web site, which I thought was odd, but then I remembered that Keller opened a Bouchon Bakery in The Venetian a few years ago. We lengthened the the baking time from 8 minutes to 20 minutes after an unsuccessful first batch and the 20-minute baking time worked out much better. We also made a seasonal, mint-flavored TKO by adding some mint extract, peppermint extract and green food coloring to the ganache.

CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD COOKIES
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 pound (4 sticks) butter
18 oz (by weight) all purpose flour
12 oz (by weight) sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
6 oz Cocoa powder

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cream butter with paddle on mixer until smooth, then add sugar and mix until combined, scraping down the mixing bowl.
3. Sift dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to mixing bowl and work dough until just combines. (it should look kind of like brown sand)
4. Roll dough between two sheets of parchment paper until 1/4 inch thick. Cut each cookie with scalloped cutter.
5. Bake at 325 F for approximately 20 minutes
6. Let cookies cool and then sandwich together with the following filling:

GANACHE FILLING
4 oz white chocolate (cut into small pieces or buy white chocolate chips)
1 oz heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon mint extract (optional, for mint filling)
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract (optional, for mint filling)
green food coloring (optional, for mint filling)

DIRECTIONS
Bring cream to a boil and pour over chocolate, then mix until emulsified. Allow ganache to set up for at least an hour before using. Ganache should be spreadable, kind of like peanut butter.

To make the mint ganache, add mint extracts to ganache along with food coloring just before placing between the chocolate shortbread cookies.

The white chocolate ganache is perishable, so if you’re making these, make sure their consumed within three days. This can be difficult, because these cookies are really rich and it’s sometimes hard to eat just one. Enjoy!

Categories
Best of Inuyaki fried chicken reviews soul food waffles

Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles

If you ask me what my favorite restaurant in the whole world is, I will immediately say “Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles.” Aside from my parents, it’s the one thing I truly miss about living in Southern California. There are some places here in the Bay Area that have tried to capture the magic—Home of Chicken and Waffles in Oakland being the most prominent—but it’s just not the same.

The concept of eating fried chicken and waffles on the same plate sounds crazy to most people at first, but for some reason, the salty/sweet combination works. Like sex, it’s all about chemistry, and Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles is a 20-minute food orgasm on a plate.


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Now I’ll be the first to admit that Roscoe’s doesn’t have the best fried chicken, but it’s very good, and I usually get mine smothered in gravy. The waffles on the other hand are really, really good…slightly crispy on the outside and served with LOTS of butter and warm syrup (a lot of people like to pour the syrup all over their chicken, as well). From what I’ve been told Roscoe’s syrup is their own secret recipe, and I actually think the syrup is the key to their success.

There are several ways to order at Roscoe’s. My old standby is the #2 Scoe’s Special, 1/4 dark meat fried chicken smothered in gravy with two huge waffles. I generally eat the chicken first and then have the waffles for dessert, but sometimes I mix it up a bit. When I’m with a large group of people, I like to order some of the sides, like red beans and rice, mac and cheese, smothered potatoes, and cornbread.

I’ve been a Roscoe’s whore since the mid 90’s and over the years, I’ve brought almost all my friends, coworkers when we were in town for trade shows (including our Japanese CEO who loved the food but was mad that they don’t serve alcohol), and I even took my parents to the more ghetto Pico/La Brea location. (They got over their initial fears and really enjoyed their food, and my mom asked “why haven’t you brought me here before?”).

It’s also the only place I’ve ever brought anyone where the food was so good, it reduced them to cursing after every bite, i.e. “Goddamn, this is muthafuckin’ good” or “Muthafucker, this is the best food I’ve ever had.”

If that’s not endorsement enough, then what is? :-)

INFORMATION
Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles
Hollywood
1518 N Gower St
Los Angeles, CA 90028 map
323.466.7453

Los Angeles
5006 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019 map
323.934.4405

Pasadena
830 N Lake Ave
Pasadena, CA 91104 map
626.791.4890

Inglewood
106 W Manchester Ave #F map
Los Angeles, CA 90003
323.752.6211

Long Beach
730 E Broadway Blvd
Long Beach, CA 90802 map
562.437.8355

Categories
Best of Inuyaki entertainment recipes Thomas Keller

Confit Byaldi (a.k.a. Ratatouille a la Remy)

In the movie Ratatouille, Pixar succeeded in making animated food almost as delectable as the real thing. By seeking the technical assistance of Thomas Keller, one of the world’s greatest and most meticulous chefs, Pixar gave the movie instant credibility to food lovers, critics and chefs around the world.


ratatouille

Remy the Rat’s ratatouille (above) is technically Keller’s interpretation of Confit Byaldi, a Turkish dish with the same flavor profile as ratatouille. We made the dish this weekend in preparation for Thanksgiving, and it’s definitely going on our menu. The recipe, originally published in the New York Times, follows the pictures.


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INGREDIENTS
FOR PIPERADE

½ red pepper, seeds and ribs removed
½ yellow pepper, seeds and ribs removed
½ orange pepper, seeds and ribs removed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ cup finely diced yellow onion
3 tomatoes (about 12oz. total weight), peeled, seeded, and finely diced, juices reserved
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig flat-leaf parsley
½ a bay leaf
Kosher salt

FOR VEGETABLES
1 zucchini (4 to 5 ounces) sliced in 116-inch rounds
1 Japanese eggplant, (4 to 5 ounces) sliced into 116-inch rounds
1 yellow squash (4 to 5 ounces) sliced into 116-inch rounds
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 116-inch rounds
½ teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
18 teaspoon thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

FOR VINAIGRETTE
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Assorted fresh herbs (thyme flowers, chervil, thyme)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

DIRECTIONS
1. For piperade, heat oven to 450F. Place pepper halves on a foil-lined sheet, cut side down. Roast until skin loosens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest until cool enough to handle. Peel and chop finely.

2. Combine oil, garlic, and onion in medium skillet over low heat until very soft but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes, their juices, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. Simmer over low heat until very soft and very little liquid remains, about 10 minutes, do not brown; add peppers and simmer to soften them. Season to taste with salt, and discard herbs. Reserve tablespoon of mixture and spread remainder in bottom of an 8-inch skillet.

3. For vegetables, heat oven to 275F. Down center of pan, arrange a strip of 8 alternating slices of vegetables over piperade, overlapping so that ¼ inch of each slice is exposed. Around the center strip, overlap vegetables in a close spiral that lets slices mound slightly toward center. Repeat until pan is filled; all vegetables may not be needed.

4. Mix garlic, oil, and thyme leaves in bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle over vegetables. Cover pan with foil and crimp edges to seal well. Bake until vegetables are tender when tested with a paring knife, about 2 hours. Uncover and bake for 30 minutes more. (Lightly cover with foil if it starts to brown.) If there is excess liquid in pan, place over medium heat on stove until reduced. (At this point it may be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve cold or reheat in 350F oven until warm.)

5. For vinaigrette, combine reserved piperade, oil, vinegar, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.

6. To serve, heat broiler and place byaldi underneath until lightly browned. Slice in quarters and very carefully lift onto plate with offset spatula. Turn spatula 90 degrees, guiding byaldi into fan shape. Drizzle vinaigrette around plate. Serve hot.

Yield: 4 servings

Categories
barbecue Best of Inuyaki fried chicken fried rice recipes ribs

Arroz con Tres Carnes

Okay, so I made up this name, but it definitely fits this dish. As evidenced by my previous post on Prime Rib Garlic Fried Rice, we’ll make fried rice out of any leftover meat. This time, we had three very different meats—homemade Ad Hoc fried chicken, oven-smoked baby back ribs, and Pollo Oregano from Mi Lindo Peru—and the combination was great!


three meats

My wife took all the meats, chopped them finely and then fried them in a little vegetable oil to heat through. In addition to the plain white rice that was in the fridge for a couple days, some leftover rice from the Mi Lindo Peru leftovers helped gave the fried rice another subtle flavor. She added the rice to the wok, with some salt and pepper and some chopped green onion. The ribs had some Stubb’s Original Barbecue sauce on them, which added another dimension to the fried rice. Here’s the final product:


Arroz con Tres Carnes

I added some more Stubb’s to the fried rice and mixed it around, and it was perfect. The bits of crispy fried chicken with the smoky ribs was an awesome combination. It’s one of the best versions of fried rice my wife has ever made.


Fried Rice with Three Meats
Viva Arroz con Tres Carnes!

Categories
Ad Hoc Best of Inuyaki chicken fried chicken recipes Thomas Keller

Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Recipe!

When I heard that Ad Hoc’s lemon-brined fried chicken recipe was in Food & Wine magazine, I got extremely excited. Normally, I wouldn’t go to the trouble of making this because I’d rather go to Ad Hoc (picture below) and spare myself the work, but I just had to see if I could pull this off.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Excerpt from Entertaining Napa Style in Food & Wine magazine:

To make this juicy and delectably crisp chicken, Thomas Keller soaks it in a lemony brine, then coats and fries it. The chicken, which is served every other Monday at Ad Hoc, is one of the most popular dishes at the restaurant. “Since Fried Chicken Night only happens twice a month,” Keller says, “people have a wonderful sense of anticipation.”

UPDATE (2/25/08)
I’ve had the chance to make this fried chicken a lot in the last few months and have basically finalized it for myself in the updated recipe below. I’ve included a sous vide step, an updated ingredient list and double dredging. If you want to see the original recipe, see the link to Food & Wine magazine above.

ACTIVE TIME: 1 HR 30 MIN
SERVES: 8

INGREDIENTS
16 chicken thighs and/or drumsticks (I prefer dark meat, substitute as desired)
Cooking oil for frying (peanut if you have it.)
Rosemary and thyme sprigs, for garnish

BRINE INGREDIENTS
1 gallon cold water
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
12 bay leaves
1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 large rosemary sprigs
1 small bunch of thyme
1 small bunch of parsley
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

DREDGE INGREDIENTS
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
½ teaspoon ground pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a very large pot, combine 1 quart of the water with 1 cup of the salt and the honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Add the lemon zest and juice and the lemon halves and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Let cool completely, then stir in the remaining 3 quarts of cold water. Add the chickens, being sure they’re completely submerged, and refrigerate overnight.

    Lemony Brine
  2. Drain and rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry. Make sure the chicken is really dry and that you scrape off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the skin.
  3. If you want to sous vide the chicken before frying, add two to three pieces of chicken to each Foodsaver bag, then vacuum and seal the bags. Place the chicken at 140F/60C water bath for at least 1 hour. Otherwise, skip to step 5.
  4. Remove the chicken pieces from the bag and pat dry with paper towels. Make sure chicken is very dry.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, ground black pepper and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Put the buttermilk in a large, shallow bowl. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken in the buttermilk, then dredge in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet lined with wax paper or use a wire rack. Let sit for 20 minutes and then redredge the chicken in buttermilk and flour before frying.

    The Dredge
  6. In a very large pot or dutch oven, heat oil to 360F. Use enough oil to deep fry the chicken. If you want, you can also pan fry the chicken, as seen below. Fry the chicken in 2 or 3 batches until golden and crunchy and the internal temperature is 160F/60C (about 20 minutes).

    Note: If you cooked the chicken sous vide, you can really just trust your judgement and fry until you’re statisfied with the color of the crust since the chicken is already cooked.


    Turn the chicken once
  7. Transfer the chicken to cooling rack to drain, and keep warm in a low oven (175–200F) while you fry the remaining chicken pieces. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter, garnish with the herb sprigs and serve hot or at room temperature.

    Ad Hoc's Fried Chicken

SOUS VIDE NOTES

  • Cooking the chicken sous vide ensures that it’s moist and tender.
  • 140F/60C may seem like a low temp for the chicken (160F/71.1C is considered “safe”), but the internal temperature of the chicken will rise when it’s being fried.

GENERAL NOTES

  • Chicken should be at room temperature when you’re ready to cook.
  • You can add herbs (rosemary, thyme, etc.) to the oil as it’s heating to infuse it with flavor and then use the same herbs as a garnish.
  • This fried chicken is great the next day, cold and straight out of the refrigerator.
  • See comments below for more tips…some come straight from the source!