tiA few weeks ago I wrote about the #Harvest Exhibition being presented by QAGOMA. Where has that time gone? Some of it at least has been spent in front of the silver screen in the QAGOMA cinema, watching food themed films. Since last I wrote about Harvest, I’ve seen Ang Lee’s ‘Eat, Drink, Man, Woman’, the comedic ‘Soul Kitchen’ from Germany by way of Greece and at last, ‘Babette’s Feast’. I’ve also been to see the amazing documentary ‘Spinning Plates’.
(2012/ Dir: Joseph Levy/95 mins)
If there’s one thing you know from the outset of Spinning Plates, it’s that these people are passionate. Passionate about food, passionate about community and passionate about family. The documentary focuses on three very different restaurants as they go about the business of creating food for their customers. There’s 3 Michelin starred ‘Alinea’ head chef Grant Achatz with the most fantastical molecular gastronomy meals who still has time to teach his kids how to make Nitrogen Pineapple (cool dad!). We also visit first time restaurant owners who start Mexican diner ‘La Cocina Gaby’ in the apparent middle of the desert in Tucson. ‘She cooks like an angel’, says husband Francisco. ‘I could tell you the recipes but the seasoning is in one’s hand’, Gaby says as she deftly rolls a burrito. Finally there’s ‘Breitbach’s Country Dining’, a 150 year old family diner in the hamlet of Balltown, Iowa with a population of 70 but can serve over 1000 people on a weekend. When they’re not serving country potatoes and bacon, they’re shovelling the snow from neighbours driveways. Following these restaurants and their owners is compelling enough but along the way, each will face a life changing event that they handle with aplomb. There is a second event for one restaurant that made the audience audibly gasp when we learn of the misfortune. A fascinating movie.
Equally as fascinating as the movie was the menu at Breitbach’s. It really is in the middle of nowhere in small town America. Having said that, people come from neighbouring states to eat there. It’s nothing fancy but just good home style cooking in gargantuan proportions. No only do they have an ala carte menu, there’s a buffet and quite frankly, for $14, why would you bother ordering ala carte? This is no ordinary buffet though. It includes whole catfish, beer battered codfish and glazed ham amongst other things. As the camera pans around you see plates of devilled eggs and soup served from a slow cooker that gives the atmosphere of a village pot luck dinner. Above everything else though, they come for the ‘Broasted Chicken’. No, I’d never heard of it either. Broasted chicken is essentially crumbed and fried chicken but it’s cooked in a pressure cooker style fryer called a ‘Broaster’. This locks in the juices and reduces cooking time. Broaster is a proprietary name of a company started just a stones throw from Breitbach’s in Belloit, Wisconsin. Restaurants and food service companies that use the Broaster to cook their chicken are entitled to use the name in their marketing. Breitbach’s serves it by the bucketload and I have to tell you, it looked delicious.
I don’t have a Broaster, or even a deep fryer but I can give you a recipe for Fried Chicken ‘Iowa Style’ that keeps the chicken moist and everyone coming back for more.
Iowa Style Fried Chicken
The buttermilk helps to tendersise the chicken during marinating and keeps it juicy whilst cooking.
- 6 x chicken thigh fillets, skinless
- 300ml buttermilk
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 tspn salt
- 1 tspn black pepper
- 2 tspn paprika (smoked or plain)
- 2 tspn fresh thyme leaves
- Oil for frying
- Place buttermilk and Worcestershire sauce in a baking dish and mix.
- Lay chicken thighs flat and cut in two where thigh starts to raise and is thicker. Repeat with other thighs.
- You will have 12 pieces of chicken. Six will be relatively flat and slightly smaller, six will be the fatter ‘fist shaped’ end.
- Gently flatten the six fat pieces of chicken. They do not need to be thin like escalopes, just relatively consistent so they cook evenly.
- Place chicken pieces in the baking dish, making sure they are covered in buttermilk. Set aside for at least 30 minutes but 6 – 8 hours is even better.
- Mix fresh breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, paprika and thyme leaves together in a bag or bowl.
- When you are ready to cook the chicken, scoop a couple of tablespoons of breadcrumb mix onto a dinner plate.
- Using tongs, remove a chicken piece from the buttermilk, allowing excess to drip off before placing onto breadcrumbs.
- Sprinkle another tablespoon of crumbs on top of the chicken and press in. Gently pick up chicken and press into breadcrumbs so it is coated all over. Set aside and repeat with remaining chicken.
- Heat approx two cups of oil in a heavy based frying pan. The oil needs to sizzle when a few breadcrumbs are tossed in. You are not deep frying the chicken but are using more oil than in a shallow pan fry.
- Place a few piece of chicken in the pan and gently fry on one side for 4-5 minutes until golden.
- Gently turn chicken over in pan and fry other side. This will take less time as the chicken is already half-cooked. Approximately 3 minutes. Pierce the chicken with a sharp knife or skewer – if the juices run clear, it is cooked. If the juices are pink, allow it to cook for a few more minutes.
- Remove the chicken from pan and place on a plate on paper towels to drain off excess oil. Keep warm in a low oven whilst you cook the other pieces.
- Serve with a squeeze of lemon and a fresh garden salad or coleslaw.
Makes 12 pieces
- The chicken is not coated in the traditional manner of flour, egg and breadcrumbs. In this recipe the breadcrumbs adhere to the buttermilk so when you remove the chicken from the marinade, just shake off the excess, not all of the buttermilk entirely.
- The chicken takes less time to cook than you think as it has been tenderised by the buttermilk.
- ‘Fresh Breadcrumbs’ are pieces of bread that have gone stale or been left on the bench to dry out a bit and then blitzed in the food processor or, as I do, simply turned into crumbs using a box grater. I always have a container of crumbs in the freezer and simply top it up with the ends of stale bread.