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NewChief
04-22-2010, 01:31 PM
I know there are some other Planeteers into cooking. I found this article about their two styles of cooking are received by those eating the recipes fascinating. I idolize Thomas Keller.... but I cook a hell of a lot more of Pioneer Woman's recipes.

http://www.slate.com/id/2251528/pagenum/all/#p2

Which chef has the better recipe for fried chicken?
By Jennifer Reese
Posted Wednesday, April 21, 2010, at 1:33 PM ET
Before you take the trouble of preparing a fried-chicken dinner, there's a decision to make: Just how much trouble? There are populist cookbooks that promise basic recipes for basic people. These take shortcuts and try to speed the process. Meanwhile, lots of fancy, big-name chefs write folksy cookbooks for the little guy, too. But it's a very specific sort of little guy they have in mind—the kind willing to toil for days on end just to get food on the table.

Representing the populists, armed with a shaker of Lawry's seasoned salt, we have Ree Drummond, the Oklahoma ranch wife best known for her chatty, open-hearted blog, the Pioneer Woman, in which she documents her daily life frosting cinnamon rolls and herding cattle. Published last fall, Drummond's best-selling The Pioneer Woman Cooks offers recipes for easy, family-style comfort food, like pot pie and cobbler.
In the other corner, with his fleur de sel and palette knife, hovers Thomas Keller, the perfectionist founder of hallowed Napa Valley restaurants, including the French Laundry. Published last fall, Keller's best-selling Ad Hoc at Home promises recipes for "doable" family-style comfort food, like pot pie and cobbler.

You would be hard pressed to find two books that offer more radically different interpretations of the same cuisine. Drummond's breezy volume includes snapshots of horses, kids, and her husband's Wranglers-clad butt. Keller devotes an entire page to a close-up of a soft-shell crab claw. Drummond proudly cuts corners. Keller lives to take pains. Drummond buys Reddi-wip. Keller, the patron saint of the kitchen bitch, makes his own soup crackers.
I decided to make an identical menu from each book: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, iceberg lettuce salad, and pineapple upside-down cake. Since it's family-style food, my family would serve as judges.
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Advance preparations for the Drummond feast were minimal—I just had to submerge the chicken in a bowl of buttermilk the night before. The following afternoon, I started the run-up to mealtime by getting the mashed potatoes out of the way. Her instructions: "Add the butter. Feel really guilty. Add the cream cheese. Feel even more guilty. Next, add the half-and-half and stir together. And let go of your guilt. Food is to be enjoyed!" It's hard not to like Pioneer Woman.
You then spread the potatoes in a casserole that you can pop in the oven whenever you're ready to eat. Another reason it's hard not to like Pioneer Woman. Biscuits are biscuits and Drummond treats them that way: shortening, flour, baking powder, buttermilk. Stir, shape, put in the oven. The cake, which calls for canned pineapple rings and maraschino cherries, is similarly no-frills: It requires a single bowl, and you bake it in a massive cast iron skillet. For the salad, I whacked a stiff head of iceberg into wedges and poured ranch dressing over the top.
Everything was a breeze up until the frying of the chicken, which is never a breeze. Drummond favors a clumpy batter in which Lawry's overbearing seasoned salt plays the starring role. I winced. When you're going to the hassle of frying chicken, shortcuts with the seasoning seem shortsighted. But I did as instructed and reluctantly dumped a full 3 tablespoons of Lawry's into the flour.
A stove-splattering session later, the crunchy batter clung thickly to the chicken like a mangy coat. "This tastes like Kentucky Fried Chicken," said my daughter, Isabel, then paused. "Or how I imagine it tastes." I knew what she meant; the chicken had a synthetic commercial je ne sais quoi, thanks to the Lawry's. But my husband, Mark, didn't seem to mind. And our son, Owen, was devouring his drumstick so avidly I thought he was going to eat the bone.
The side dishes are almost as important as the chicken in this kind of a feast, and Drummond's held up. "These are the best kind of mashed potatoes," said Isabel. "Buttery and plain." And everyone gobbled up the biscuits, slathering them with jam. But if a warm biscuit is irresistible, an iceberg of lettuce is easy to steer around."I like your regular salads better," said Owen, who was raised on leafy greens that don't require a steak knife.
Nobody needed to eat more, but dessert was a requirement for this particular mission. Flipping the gargantuan iron skillet to release Drummond's upside-down cake was like wrestling a steer, but what a gaudy, ravishing cake it was with its glistening pineapple rings and cherries. I didn't think it tasted especially wonderful—I've never understood the appeal of a cake built around canned pineapple. But it made my husband and children happy—which is what the Pioneer Woman is all about. I felt not so much proud of this meal, as maternal and beneficent.
Just holding Thomas Keller's opulent six-pound book, on the other hand, made me feel tired and inadequate. My resentment toward Keller began to build two days before the second fried-chicken dinner, as I mixed the gluey dough that would eventually become brioche and, even later, croutons to adorn an iceberg lettuce salad. "It delights me to offer here a big collection of family meals and everyday staples, delicious approachable food, recipes that are doable at home," Keller writes. "No complicated garnishes. I promise!" I would argue that croutons made from homemade brioche define "complicated garnish." As directed, I let the dough rise for three hours then rest in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, I baked the bread. I put tomatoes in the oven to dry for six hours—another garnish. I cut up the bread and let it air dry. I poached some garlic in oil to make a confit that would flavor both the blue cheese dressing and the mashed potatoes. I boiled together honey, fresh herbs, and lemons to make brine for the chicken.
The third day was dinner. Although Keller's biscuits call for cake flour and butter, they are as straightforward to pull together as Drummond's. While they baked, I assembled the many salad components—the croutons, the tomatoes, some applewood-smoked slab bacon (it required a trip to a special butcher), the lettuce—on a platter. The upside-down cake calls for fresh pineapple and, annoyingly, a silicone pan. I don't have one, but, for the record, the metal cake pan I used ended up working fine.
Keller calls for rolling the chicken in flour that has been generously seasoned with garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne, then dipping it in buttermilk, and then dipping it again in the flour. Simple enough. The only challenge I encountered while frying it was that I was simultaneously trying to run the potatoes and poached garlic through a food mill. Keller offers a tip for making the potatoes in advance, but I had failed to follow Keller's No. 1 rule of cooking: "Be organized."
By the time the meal was on the table, I had gone through 36 cooking vessels over three days. That compares unfavorably with Drummond's demands of two days and 17 vessels.
I was prepared to hold this against Keller until I tasted the chicken. The crust was crispy and light; the meat was firm and juicy, seasoned through to the bone. I looked around the table for confirmation that this here was some life-changing fried chicken.
"This crust stays on better," Owen said, his life unchanged.
"It's a thousand times better than Pioneer Woman's," I announced.
"I wouldn't go that far," Mark said. "It's better, but fried chicken is fried chicken. And wasn't hers less work?"
The tender, fluffy biscuits were the best biscuits I've ever baked. I expected exclamations. Again, I seemed to be the only one who noticed.
As I had anticipated, even dressed up with multiple garnishes, the iceberg lettuce remained inert and unloved. And the garlicky pureed potatoes belonged on the menu at a bistro, not alongside a fried chicken served to children. "These taste weird," Owen said. Drummond would have known better.
The cake, however, was stunning: a slender, golden disc lined with glowing yellow tiles of juicy pineapple. I took a bite. Keller's delicate cake struck me as the sublime to which tacky pineapple upside-down cake had always aspired.
"It's not as pretty," said Isabel.
"I don't know about this cake," said Mark. "I want a 1950s classic to taste like a 1950s classic. I want it to be sticky and a little bit artificial."
It's impossible to argue with nostalgia. I'm telling you, though, this cake was killer.
Keller's recipes were harder, but they were also, on the whole, better. A lot better. I'm not surprised by that. What surprises me is how little anyone—except me—cared. Apparently, when it comes to comfort food served around a kitchen table, good enough is good enough. What ultimately mattered about the fried chicken was not the seasoning but that there was fried chicken. A middling hot biscuit made with Crisco was as welcome as the perfect all-butter biscuit made with cake flour.
I will add that in the weeks since this experiment, I have not tackled another dish out of Ad Hoc at Home, gorgeous though it is. I have thought about it, but I grow weary just reading the recipes. Meanwhile, I have baked Pioneer Woman's sheet cake and brownies and scones; I have cooked her meatloaf and pizza and steak sandwich. Keller's is the superior book, but the book that helps me put a good enough dinner on the table, night after night, turns out to be the book I need.

Toadkiller
04-22-2010, 01:38 PM
I love Pioneer Woman. She was just here in Portland doing a book signing.

NewChief
04-22-2010, 01:40 PM
I love Pioneer Woman. She was just here in Portland doing a book signing.

I cook her food constantly. Like at least one recipe a week. Her blog is the shit, as is the Tasty Kitchen blog on her site. Another awesome cooking blog is http://closetcooking.blogspot.com/

MOhillbilly
04-22-2010, 01:44 PM
I just cook the way my parents and grandparents did it(sort of). Pick up things along the way and try diffrent stuff. On a whole i like to be organised and keep it simple. Prep every thing out before hand so i dont have to keep turning in circles.
Cooking for four i wanna get in, get it done, and get out.

NewChief
04-22-2010, 01:49 PM
I just cook the way my parents and grandparents did it(sort of). Pick up things along the way and try diffrent stuff. On a whole i like to be organised and keep it simple. Prep every thing out before hand so i dont have to keep turning in circles.
Cooking for four i wanna get in, get it done, and get out.

I really like traditional family recipes. I'm with the organization and simplicity. Good ingredients (farm fresh) make all the difference in the world, to me. If you have good ingredients, then you don't have to do a bunch of fancy shit. I think I am about to buy the Alice Waters technique book, though, because that's her theory of cooking. Master basic technique and apply it in simple ways to good food.

http://www.salon.com/food/feature/2010/04/21/alice_waters_in_the_green_kitchen_review_open2010/index.html

A version of this story originally appeared on Stellaa's Open Salon blog.

Mention Alice Waters, one of the founding members of the local and organic food movement, and you'll find that people either love her or they accuse her of being elitist. Waters' detractors claim that her lofty standards of eating seasonal and local food are beyond the reach of most Americans.

But if you're in the Waters-is-elitist camp, put aside your preconceived notions for a moment and consider her new cookbook, "In the Green Kitchen." "Delicious, affordable, wholesome food is the goal of the Green Kitchen," Waters writes. But more important, the book is guided by her belief that "simple cooking techniques can be learned by heart." To me, this is what counts as a manifesto for the new American food movement, a movement that is about empowering, not withering looks for eating the wrong lettuce.

Recipes are easy to find (look at the Internet -- it's filled with recipes). Technique, helping another cook break down the flavor codes, is another matter. How to extract flavor from an onion, how to dress a salad, how to cook a whole fish, how to roast a chicken, how to make a biscuit -- these are things that you have to learn from another cook. A recipe may guide you, but rarely does it teach you.

In older days, this was done in the family kitchen. Children watched their mothers and grandmothers cook the basics day in and day out. Cooking like this didn't need recipes -- the home cook developed comfort with the ingredients, dishes became second nature. We imagine that this is not possible now, that this is lost to a time long gone in our world of convenience, of processed and pre-prepared food. We've been made dependent. Twenty-five years is all it takes to disconnect generations of people from the daily making of honest food.

When I read about cooking rice in this book, how to boil pasta, how to make a salad, the message is that the basics of cooking are what matter, and even though the gang of contributors are top chefs like Thomas Keller and Linda Bastianich, it's Angelo Garro (a blacksmith, not a famous chef) who walks you through boiling, poaching, frying and scrambling an egg.

Waters is not talking about food created by chefs with a staff. She is not talking about "foodies."

The problem with chef-food is that we watch trained professionals compete and create complex food concoctions swimming in reductions, foams and garnished with exotics. How can we feel worthy of such achievements? We've lost our home-cooking heritage, and trip up trying to re-create this restaurant cuisine at home. Despondent, we go to the grocery store and settle for the pre-roasted chicken, overwhelmed by the mythology of the past and the super-experts of today.

And foodies. Do they feed families? Do they struggle to plan meals in the midst of soccer practice, homework and commutes? No, they can sit around, sip their wine, and consider their ingredients. If they do not have the 1/8 teaspoon of Aleppo pepper they need, they can just change their plans and go out for sushi. Waters writes, "cooking and eating ... is the purest pleasure, and too much fun to be reserved exclusively for 'foodies.'"

But in real life, this is a movement you can join in small steps. Start with a perfect food. Go to your local farmer's market and buy a dozen fresh chicken eggs -- not the kind produced by industrial egg production giants, just a dozen eggs from a local grower. Some will have feathers, and maybe a bit of poop.

I buy from Wild Rose Ranch. Elli and Balyn, a young couple, work their fields and come to the Santa Rosa Farmer's Market every week. Rain or shine, they are there selling what they make themselves, like wonderful sauerkraut and pickled beets.

Here, a regular dozen eggs in a supermarket is about $2.89. At the same market, the organic eggs are $4.99. Wild Rose Ranch sells its eggs for $6.

True, that's double the price. But, bear with me, and splurge one time on the $6 eggs from your local market and see how they taste. How much better can an egg taste? I will let you judge.

Try what I do: Eat the expensive ones for meals and use the inexpensive market eggs for baking. Give the blacksmith's techniques a try. Fry or poach a couple of those farm-fresh eggs for your kids. Taste how rich the yolks are, see how high they sit on the white, proud and bright. And then consider that these people in your area were able to make a living by selling those eggs. As for cost, a freshly poached egg in a salad at home will cost you one-quarter of what a "gourmet" restaurant will charge you, and it's a full meal.

The proceeds from "In the Green Kitchen" will go to the Chez Panisse Foundation, in support of the Edible Gardens, a project for community gardens in schools around the country. Good food can be and should be political. It's not just for the elites. It's one sector of our economy over which we have more control than we think. We just have to take ownership of it.

I find the notion of paying $6 for a dozen eggs insane, as I can get them pasture raised for a fraction of that cost from local growers, but I don't live in a big city, either. Regardless, I like the idea of the book. The more I cook, the more I realize that the little things can make a difference.

Toadkiller
04-22-2010, 01:52 PM
I have a flock of 5 chickens in my backyard here in Portland. Gives us about 5 eggs a day, easy to take care of and there really is nothing better then a fresh free ranging chicken egg.

MOhillbilly
04-22-2010, 01:59 PM
I really like traditional family recipes. I'm with the organization and simplicity. Good ingredients (farm fresh) make all the difference in the world, to me. If you have good ingredients, then you don't have to do a bunch of fancy shit. I think I am about to buy the Alice Waters technique book, though, because that's her theory of cooking. Master basic technique and apply it in simple ways to good food.

http://www.salon.com/food/feature/2010/04/21/alice_waters_in_the_green_kitchen_review_open2010/index.html


I find the notion of paying $6 for a dozen eggs insane, as I can get them pasture raised for a fraction of that cost from local growers, but I don't live in a big city, either. Regardless, I like the idea of the book. The more I cook, the more I realize that the little things can make a difference.

without a doubt produce is key.
Things i learned are that flavor,spice, & heat all go hand in hand but are all diffrent.
farm fresh eggs a 3$ for 2 doz. here.
IDK dude i like to cook but tinker and toy with stuff untill the family is happy and then i try not to screw it up.
Where as my father and grandmother stuck with what the knew cause it was unreal how good it was.

In the end im my own worst critic but enjoy the journey.

MOhillbilly
04-22-2010, 01:59 PM
I have a flock of 5 chickens in my backyard here in Portland. Gives us about 5 eggs a day, easy to take care of and there really is nothing better then a fresh free ranging chicken egg.

What zone are you in?

Toadkiller
04-22-2010, 02:16 PM
I am smack dab in the city. Portland is a very friendly chicken place. Everyone can have 3 chickens, more if you get a permit. permit costs 30 bucks and is easy to get. No roosters within city limits.

We have a small yard and since we rent just bought a cube by Eglu since we can move it around.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3465/3900917565_143116e4ef.jpg

NewChief
04-22-2010, 02:33 PM
I am smack dab in the city. Portland is a very friendly chicken place. Everyone can have 3 chickens, more if you get a permit. permit costs 30 bucks and is easy to get. No roosters within city limits.

We have a small yard and since we rent just bought a cube by Eglu since we can move it around.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3465/3900917565_143116e4ef.jpg

We're looking at getting an eglu as well (though we'll probably get the smaller model). We have the same rules for urban chickens here, but we can have 4 instead of 3.

Toadkiller
04-22-2010, 02:36 PM
If you get 4 I recommend the cube. It really isnt that huge and the chickens will fit better, unless you are getting bantams.

NewChief
04-22-2010, 02:37 PM
If you get 4 I recommend the cube. It really isnt that huge and the chickens will fit better, unless you are getting bantams.

Thanks for the advice! The cost difference isn't that much, and we'll probably get 4. They say the smaller model is big enough for 4... but it looks pretty small to me as well. I also like that the cube is raised.

NewChief
04-22-2010, 02:38 PM
Oh god. Just went to eglu's site... they have a bee house now as well. So tempting.

Stewie
04-22-2010, 02:44 PM
I am so tempted to raise chickens. We're allowed five birds, no roosters. I have a couple of neighbors and a friend at work that do it (she also raises ducks). How much work is it, really?

NewChief
04-22-2010, 02:47 PM
I am so tempted to raise chickens. We're allowed five birds, no roosters. I have a couple of neighbors and a friend at work that do it (she also raises ducks). How much work is it, really?

Yeah, I don't think it's much work. I'd love for my kids to have chickens around as well. My main problem is when we go out of town (which we do pretty often) or travel for extended periods. I think that 1-2 days isn't a big deal... but longer than that, and someone is going to have to come take care of them for me.

Toadkiller
04-22-2010, 02:58 PM
Definitely go for the cube then, I would also recommend getting the run attachment to make the run longer unless you have time to let them out for a few hours a day every day.

I really like the eglu products. Sure they are plastic but they are easy to clean, do the job and keep wild animals out. A raccoon visits nightly and after a few times of trying to yank on the fencing it gave up.

Toadkiller
04-22-2010, 03:01 PM
Chickens are very easy to raise. Feed/water and egg collecting. Let them out in the yard let them eat insects and the eggs are that much more yummy tasting.

You have to keep them warm/indoors till they get their feathers, and that is a fantastic time for the kids to hold them daily so that the chickens become friendly. We had a neighbor shut them in and out of their coop when we traveled, really easy to find someone to do that for you, especially when you tell them to keep the eggs they collect.

MOhillbilly
04-22-2010, 03:53 PM
Toadkiller zones = http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html

I ask because i wondered how hard your winters are (first and last frost dates) and if you give/gave them artificial light in winter.

A good source of reference from someone ive met is mike strecker, this is his book http://www.randallburkey.com/THE-BACKYARD-FLOCK/productinfo/36020/ . Id highly advise anyone looking into a small flock purchase this book.

PS-chickens are easy to take care of till they aint.

Toadkiller
04-22-2010, 03:58 PM
Ah thought that is what you meant but wasn't sure. Zone 8-9, doesn't get terrible but we sometimes get snow.

I didnt give them artificial light at all. They stopped laying for a good 1-2 months as they molted at the beginning of the winter.

Midway Chief
04-22-2010, 04:07 PM
I just got back from Napa Valley and ate at Bouchon (also a Thomas Keller resturant) on Monday night. It was great and it is on the same street in Yountville as Ad Hoc. My cousin used to cook at Bouchon and attended the Cullinary Institute of America out there.

MOhillbilly
04-22-2010, 04:31 PM
Ah thought that is what you meant but wasn't sure. Zone 8-9, doesn't get terrible but we sometimes get snow.

I didnt give them artificial light at all. They stopped laying for a good 1-2 months as they molted at the beginning of the winter.

weird do layers normaly molt out in winter? All the fowl ive raised started in june. Feathers get hard on pullets/hens aug/sept and stags/cocks in oct.

Groves
04-22-2010, 04:39 PM
PS-chickens are easy to take care of till they aint.

When the Springfield urban chicken law goes official, then I'll be able to officially buy some chicks/hens from you, or at least pick your brain to figure out what breeds to have/avoid.

Chicken tractor here I come.

MOhillbilly
04-22-2010, 04:49 PM
When the Springfield urban chicken law goes official, then I'll be able to officially buy some chicks/hens from you, or at least pick your brain to figure out what breeds to have/avoid.

Chicken tractor here I come.

ill help you anyway i can but you dont want the type of chickens i have, yet.

Buehler445
04-22-2010, 05:10 PM
I am so tempted to raise chickens. We're allowed five birds, no roosters. I have a couple of neighbors and a friend at work that do it (she also raises ducks). How much work is it, really?

They aren't that much work. Cleaning their shit and feathers is kind of tough, but might not be with this eglu deal. The biggest thing is their shit stinks terrible. Much much worse than a feedlot or a hog lot.

NewChief
04-22-2010, 09:31 PM
I just got back from Napa Valley and ate at Bouchon (also a Thomas Keller resturant) on Monday night. It was great and it is on the same street in Yountville as Ad Hoc. My cousin used to cook at Bouchon and attended the Cullinary Institute of America out there.

Nice! We were supposed to go out to Napa this year for our 10th anniversary, but we ended up having to cancel the trip due to family shit. I'm going to eat at French Laundry (or another Keller restaurant) one of these days. One of my former students (a complete savant) sells truffles to Keller (and tons of other badass chefs). High school kid is one of the top truffle importers in the country.

NewChief
04-22-2010, 09:47 PM
Toadkiller zones = http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html

I ask because i wondered how hard your winters are (first and last frost dates) and if you give/gave them artificial light in winter.

A good source of reference from someone ive met is mike strecker, this is his book http://www.randallburkey.com/THE-BACKYARD-FLOCK/productinfo/36020/ . Id highly advise anyone looking into a small flock purchase this book.

PS-chickens are easy to take care of till they aint.

Thanks for the book suggestion. I'll be purchasing it when we make the move to get our little backyard flock going.