Sunday 10 May 2015

The Fried Chicken and Cornbread Diet

Probably the biggest problem with my annual foodie tours of the US is my ever expanding waistline - last year's tour of Texas BBQ and New Orleans added another stone (14lbs) to a body that hadn't quite recovered from the previous year's tour of the South.
[Fried chicken, cooling]

I've always been a bit of a half hearted dieter - I love cooking, eating out and being cooked for - so the diet will always start properly tomorrow. However, I might just have found a diet that works for me - and it involves fried chicken!

Well, okay, not directly - let me explain. It's a fasting diet - the '5:2'. For five days I can eat pretty much what I want (which I'm really good at) and for two I have to eat very little indeed.

Now, this might sounds like agony - and it is - but it's more than made up for by the five days of freedom. So how do I get through those two days? Well, I fantasise about food of course! Hardcore fantasise.

Last week, I got a bee in my bonnet that I would break my fast with the best chili ever made. For all of my fast day I researched, and boy there's so many options. Beans or no beans? Minced or chopped beef? Rice or bread? (For me, the answers were beans, mince, bread - sorry Texas!)

[Chicken, frying]
I dusted off encyclopedic tomes on American cookery and I read every single blog, online recipe and forum I could find. It took an entire day to source and cook the ingredients (three different types of dried chili, and I never found the Mexican oregano - on my shopping list for Texas this year).

And I produced the best damn chili I have ever eaten. It was so good, I'd cleaned the bowl before I had remembered to photograph it! If you'd like to replicate it, it was loosely based on this article and recipe from The Guardian.

This week, I wanted fried chicken and cornbread with an almost hallucinatory passion. Again, I devoured every article and opinion I could find. I decided on a shallow fried, skillet pan method. I didn't brine, but went for an 8 hour soak in buttermilk instead. I kept my seasoning simple - just salt, pepper and smoked paprika - but I did stumble across Colonel Saunders secret recipe on my travels.

The Guardian's well researched recipe agreed with my plans - so I followed their instructions and did a test batch for my daughter's dinner, which looked seriously delicious. 

[Seriously good cornbread]
As for cornbread, again the Guardian and I agreed on approach - a simple, toasted cornmeal soaked overnight in buttermilk. But I also wanted to try and replicate something I talked about in a very early post - Lockhart's cornbread. The Telegraph suggested pouring over butter and honey, and I don't need asking twice.

So ... did I produce the best ever fried chicken and cornbread? Well, nearly. When I cooked the full batch of chicken later in the evening, it was harder to control the temperature and I nearly lost the crispy coating on some of the chicken. The cornbread was great - but you know, it would have liked more butter and honey. So one fast day soon, I know I'll be fantasising about how I'm going to make that meal again, even better.

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