Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nashville-Style Hot Fried Chicken ala Bon Appetit


Let's take a break from all this travel to talk about something else.  Namely, one of  my favorite subjects - fried chicken.  There's a running joke among my friends that I can eat a lot of it.  It started at the lunch buffet at Dooky Chase in New Orleans - where, according to my husband - I ate five pieces of chicken.  Of course, they cut the chicken into small pieces for the buffet, so it wasn't like I ate a whole bucket of KFC...  Yeah, I know - the more I try to explain it the worse it gets...  In any event, good fried chicken is a little harder to find around here than it is in NOLA, so I decided to go ahead and make my own after seeing the photos of the Nashville Hot Chicken in this month's Bon Appetit.  (I want to make the cherry pie on the cover too - but haven't been able to find any sour cherries in SD!)

This is a pretty traditional recipe, right up to the point where you whisk a bunch of spices into some of the frying oil, and brush it over the top.  I was a little skeptical about using the cooking oil for this - thinking it might be bitter or greasy, but it was just fine. I changed a few things here to reflect some things I learned in the cooking process.  I found the cooking time suggested in the magazine of 15-18 minutes too long.  The coating started to burn before that.  Around 13 minutes was just right - cooked through but not burnt to a crisp.  Since I fried this in four batches I kept the cooked chicken hot on a rack in the oven, where it had plenty of time to finish cooking if it needed to.  It actually improves a bit while it sits.

I reduced the amount of cayenne, because six tablespoons is just RIDICULOUS - it was still plenty spicy with half that amount - and I don't own garlic powder, so I just smashed a clove of garlic to flavor the oil. You could certainly play around with the seasonings to suit your taste too, making it more or less spicy or sweet.  The hardest part of this might be finding chickens that are small enough - you want the pieces the right size to cook through without burning on the outside. If yours are a little big, I think you could just crank up the oven to 300 and give them a few minutes to finish cooking in there once the coating is as dark as you want it.  Enjoy!
Untitled
Nashville-Style Hot Fried Chicken - adapted from Bon Appetit

2 small (3½–4-lb.) chickens - preferably kosher or pre-brined, each cut into 10 pieces (breasts halved)  (If you are not proficient at cutting up a chicken, there's a great tutorial here.)
1 tablespoon finely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons (if not using pre-brined chicken) plus 4 tsp. kosher salt
4 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1/4-1/2 cup whole milk (if your buttermilk is really thick)
 2 tablespoons Crystal or other vinegar-based hot sauce
4 cups all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil (for frying; about 10 cups)
3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 clove fresh garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon paprika
White bread and bread & butter pickles (for serving)

If your chicken is brined - toss it with the pepper in a large bowl about 1 hour before frying - leave out to come to room temperature.  If the chicken isn't brined - toss with both 2 Tbs salt and pepper and chill for a few hours before cooking.  Pull out of the fridge about an hour before you plan to start frying.

Whisk eggs, buttermilk, and hot sauce in a large bowl. Whisk flour and remaining 4 tsp. salt in another large bowl.

Fit a Dutch oven with thermometer; pour in oil to measure a generous 2”. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 325°. Pat chicken dry. While the oil heats, dip each piece in the buttermilk mixture, letting excess drip back into bowl, and dredge in flour mixture and place on a baking sheet.

Heat oven to 250 degrees.  Working in 4 batches and returning oil to over 300° between batches, fry chicken, turning occasionally, until skin is deep golden brown and crisp - about 12-15 minutes. Transfer to a clean wire rack set inside a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm and continue cooking.  It will take about an hour to cook all the chicken.

Whisk cayenne, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika in a medium bowl; carefully ladle in 1 cup frying oil and whisk to blend. Brush fried chicken with spicy oil. Serve with bread and pickles.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Glastonbury 2014, Part II - What I Learned

From the Top of the Ribbon Tower
First off, there is no shortage of blog posts and articles out there offering advice and guidance on Glastonbury.  The best of the best is probably GlastoEarth, with an FAQ that answers every question you could possibly have.  His descriptions of the different areas and campgrounds are almost as good as being there.  Others are more funny than helpful, like this one, and still others are funny and helpful, like this one.  I've seen lots of blog posts about what to and not to bring and I think this is an especially good one - particularly if you're camping.  Even with all that information though, there are a few things we learned over the course of our five days at the festival that I thought might benefit another lucky duck who manages to snag one of the 170,000 tickets available to approximately 1,000,000 registrants. So here goes...
The Tipi Field
1.  Stay on site, or at least as close as possible.  We stayed at a really nice "glamping" campsite just outside the car parks on the east side of the festival, at Lower Hedge Farm. I can't say I regret it, especially since it was our first time. We had no idea what we were doing, and we weren't going to pack a tent and sleeping bags in our suitcase in any case.  Even so, I found myself wishing we were staying inside the fence by about the 2nd day.  It really is an immersive experience, and we wound up spending about an hour of each day getting to and from the Festival grounds, whether we walked or drove.  If pitching your own tent doesn't sound fun or isn't practical, the Festival offers Tipis in Tipi Field, and pre-set up camping in Worthy View, conveniently located just above the Stone Circle.  You'll still need to bring your own bedding and whatever else you need for the interior though.  Camplight offers pre-pitched tents as well as air mattresses and sleeping bags inside the event in a pre-selected location. They repair and recycle tents left behind in past years and rent them out for between 100-400 pounds for up to 9 people. Medium-level glamping options like Zooloos and Tangerine Fields set up just outside the fences with showers, breakfast, and different levels of accommodations from two man tents on up to bell tents.  If you stay in a place that doesn't have power outlets, pack a solar or battery powered phone charger, because charging stations are few and far between.  You probably won't have much data service inside the event anyway though (luckily the app with the lineup and map doesn't require data service to run.)
The Bimble Inn
2.  Don't worry about the lineup.  Before we went, I read a lot of comments to the effect that the lineup doesn't matter, the festival is about more than that, yadda yadda...  Since the lineup is all you hear about from the outside, I didn't understand what that meant, and I was a little concerned that I wasn't super jazzed about the lineup going in.  In the end though, I was glad I felt free to explore rather than knocking myself out running around to the stages.  The truth is the festival is so huge that the big stages are only part of what is going on at any given time. What I enjoyed most was walking around and ducking into the smaller venues -  like the Bimble Inn, Avalon Cafe & Beat Hotel - to hear the huge variety of smaller acts performing. It was so much more intimate and comfortable than standing outside in the rain at the larger stages - though that experience had its charms too.
Huge crowds surging up to Arcadia & the Park after Arcade Fire on Saturday night
3.  Surf ahead of the crowds and get to the late night areas early. One thing that was not fun about the big stages was the crowd surge after they let out.  I snapped this picture from the main walkway (Railway Line) on Saturday night.  All of the stages had let out and everyone was trying to get to the late night areas - The Park, Arcadia and Shangri La - to party 'til dawn.  We were headed to Silver Hayes to see Fatboy Slim and just had to give up.  It wasn't too big a deal since we were planning on going to bed early anyway, but we learned a lesson.  At least on Saturday night, don't get involved in this mess - get where you're going by 10:30 or 11 and stay there. Even during the rest of the day, the stages have about a 45 minute to hour break between artists, during which everyone tries to go get a beer or use the loo.  If you go too deep in you could spend an hour trying to get out and back in for the next set.
Glastonbury Long Drop

4.  Bring wipes and kleenex packs* - Ahh the long drops... an unpleasant but necessary evil.  Go when you can, especially if there isn't a line, and go early.  They get exponentially worse as the evening wears on.  The bank of long drops near Gate C was especially clean and uncrowded - the ones along the railway line are the worst since they are the busiest.  Regardless, there will be no toilet paper.  You can get some at the property lockups and carry it with you, or do what I did and bring mini Kleenex packets and Cottonelle wipes.  There are no hooks in the stalls, but you can hang your bag on the door fastener hook.  I figured that out on the last day - until then I was hanging my purse around my neck.  Carrying your own hand sanitizer or wipes is a good idea too - it's not always easy to wash your hands.  Oh, and one last tip - if you're the kind of person who beer or cider goes right through, hard liquor is the way to go.
The Green Fields
5.  Explore explore explore - then explore some more. There is so much to see - and there are things you will never find no matter how much you look. I really enjoyed the Green Fields and Park areas, they're pretty with a crunchy hippie vibe and look out over the rest of the festival - the high ground, if you will. There are magical little hidden spots -  little dug out resting spots with firepits, the secret area of the Rabbit Hole (that really isn't a secret anymore) and the hidden underground piano bar which changes location every year.  There's a club with an entrance behind a water fall, a bar and dance club in a tree complete with disco ball dappling the leaves, a sauna in the Tipi Field, a venue high on the hill above the Park, the list goes on. Just spend some time exploring - chances are the best moments you'll have will happen when you least expect them.  Talk to people too.  People were hugely amused by us Americans coming all the way to Glastonbury "just for this??" One thing Glasto does not lack for is conversation starters - ask people about their favorites places and things, who they saw, how many times they've been, where they're camping, the list goes on. People are generally very open and friendly - it's that "Glasto Spirit."
The Diner in Shangri La
6.  Eat and drink on site. I wrote a whole separate post about the food, but it bears repeating.  Even if you are camping, you don't need to bring food, except maybe some minimal snacks.  If you're on a budget then sure, bring booze - but if you're not, you won't lack for choices or access in the festival. There are bars everywhere you look.  Many of the food stalls offer full breakfast - some all day - and there are literally thousands of choices for meals throughout the day. There are even some sit down cafes in the festival, like the Diner in Shangri La, the Tree House bar in the Park and the Avalon Cafe, if you get tired of eating standing up or balancing a plate on your knee (it does get old.)  DO pack lots of ibuprofen, blister bandaids and whatever hangover cure works for you. (I swear by Pink Lemonade Emergen-C with added Vitamin B12 drops.)
Wellies at the ready
7.  Prepare for all kinds of weather -  We brought wellies and rain gear, and were afraid it wouldn't rain.  HA.  It started right after I took this picture, and my boots were never this clean again.  They were absolutely covered with mud by Sunday.  I read some advice list that said don't bring an umbrella.  That's bunk - I wished I had one.  You can get by with the plastic ponchos they sell at the sundry stalls if you have to, and in fact you should buy the plastic ponchos even if you have a rain coat - they're a good top layer and are great for sitting on when things get muddy.  The problem with the mud is that it gets on things, and then it gets on you.  You sit on it or put your hand in it, and suddenly it's all over you.  God forbid you should fall in it.  I packed a change of clothes in my bag on Sunday just in case - then wound up putting them all on when it got cold late at night.  You really don't need Hunter wellies, but make sure whatever you are wearing fits, because you'll be walking in them a LOT.  I saw a lot of people in hiking boots, which are a good choice too as long as they keep your feet dry.  Don't worry too much about fashion at Glastonbury.  Unless you're Kate Moss or Alexa Chung nobody will be paying attention - take care of your comfort first.  Wear layers and keep a jacket or sweater with you too since it gets chilly at night.  They sell warm, fuzzy ponchos for around 15 pounds if you need one.  You'll want a sun hat and high SPF sunscreen too - we saw a lot of sunburned people walking around on the 2nd and 3rd days.
The Dandy Lion Vintage Shop - Field of Avalon
8.  If you see something you like, buy it.  Don't assume you'll be able to come back and look at something later, or that it will be there if you do.  The shop stalls have the best displays and selection on Wednesday and Thursday before the bands start, and you'll have too much going on later to prioritize shopping.  If you want to shop at all do it early, and if you see something you want, get it.  If you don't want to carry it around you can check it at the property lockup.
Elbow at the Pyramid Stage
9.  Spend at least one sunset at the Pyramid Stage. Maybe it was just a lucky break, but the sunset behind the Pyramid stage during Elbow's set on Friday night was so spectacular that it turned their set into a true Glastonbury magic moment.  I suspect that sunset behind just about any band would have a similar salutary effect - it's that beautiful.  Glastonbury involves a lot of choices, but should one of the bands on your list be scheduled around 9 PM at the Pyramid Stage, take that into consideration.
The Healing Field
10.  Make time for the Healing Fields.  Even if you've paced yourself well and you're feeling good, five days is a long time to be on the go, and you'll need to take care of yourself.  I had heard about the Healing Fields and I vaguely knew they offered massages, but I wasn't quite sure what to expect.   It turns out it's a field where individual practitioners of the healing arts set up their yurts and tents and offer their services in exchange for donations.  You make arrangements with them individually - mostly by just walking up and speaking to them quietly while they are already working on someone else.  There's also a larger yurt for craniosacral work that you can just wait in line for.  I moseyed up there at about 5:30 on Sunday and found that most of the practitioners were already closed for the weekend - so getting there earlier would be a good idea.  I got a massage from a woman who it turns out I had met when she was performing with her friends at the Tipi Fields campfire on Friday. I didn't remember her until she recognized me, which she did because I was American. They have a nice little chill out garden and shelter in the center where you could relax for a while.  There are also two saunas you can seek out - Sam's near the Railway Line, and the Lost Horizon Sauna in the Tipi Field (aka the "naked sauna.") Both were recommended, but I didn't get a chance to try them.  Next year, for sure. :)

* - I didn't take a picture of the loos, so I pinched this one from the Guardian (photo cred:  Matt Crossick.) If they object I'll take it down, or I could just forward all of my profits from this post to them as payment. ;)   (p.s. - I actually saw that Korean band and they were amazing.)


Monday, July 14, 2014

Glastonbury 2014, Part I - Festival Food! (& Drink)

Food stalls by the Pyramid stage
Oh Glasto... I hardly know where to start with you.  I thought five days would be so long, and instead it was so short.  I fretted that I wouldn't get a chance to wear my wellies - then put them on Thursday morning and wore them straight through until Monday. I worried that there wasn't enough music we would like.  I thought we might get bored.  Lord have mercy, I had NO IDEA. Two weeks later, having mostly recovered from the "Glasto Blues" I'm ready to talk about it. Seeing as this IS a food blog, I think it only fitting that I start with the food.
Burrito from Carlito Burrito (& a Cider)
I read a few blog posts and articles about Glastonbury before we went. Some of them offered great advice and some not so much - but I didn't see a lot of detailed information about the food. There was a blog post by a girl who seemed too afraid she might gain weight to actually eat the food, so she just talked about what she wished she had eaten. I got a few good ideas from her, including the burrito pictured above.  Beyond that, the message seemed to be "The food is good! Don't bring your own food!" So I at least got that much.  Having experienced it now, I can say it is absolutely true that you do not need to bring your own food. Most people camp for Glastonbury, and have to carry or wheel their gear quite a distance from the car.  The last thing you want to do is burden yourself with more than you need.  We brought some minimal snacks, a bottle of Cuban rum and a few ginger ales/mixers we thought we could use at our campsite, and we didn't even need that.  I brought some home and the rest we gave away or left behind.
"Wrappers Delight"
Food at Glastonbury is mostly provided by outside catering vendors who set up their own stalls.  There are so many festivals in England in the summertime, that many of them make a business of going around to different festivals and dishing up food - others are restaurants, and a few are festival-specific venues.  There are a few vendors who have only one outlet, some have a few scattered about, and others are all over the place.  Scarcity is not necessarily the best sign of quality, but there seemed to be a slight correlation.
"Piggie Smalls"
One of the first places I experienced was the Jiggery Pokery Parlour in the "Shangri La" area, themed Heaven and Hell. This was clearly meant to be heaven - offering ice cream, fresh waffles, espresso and cocktails.  The espresso was nothing to write home about, but the waffles looked great and the ice cream cone I had was lovely.
Jiggery Pokery Parlour
Since the festival is so huge, location is likely to play a big part in your meal selection, whether you like it or not.  If you're at the Pyramid stage waiting for a band and you need some lunch, you're not going to hike to the mezze stand in the Park for it, no matter how much you like their hummous (as the Brits spell it). The two ubiquitous options I liked the best were the "Moorish" stall, which makes a delicious, hearty phyllo crusted goat cheese and lamb-sausage stuffed pie called a bourek. I neglected to take a picture of mine, but you can see an example here.  This was actually a lucky discovery for me because I just asked my friend Ben to suprise me while we were waiting in front of the West Holts stage, and this is what he came back with.  It's probably not something I would have chosen on my own but it's definitely not to be missed.
Jerk Chicken in Shangri La
Another good ubiquitous option is the jerk chicken vendor - I was drawn here based on the smell and it did not disappoint.  The chicken was meltingly tender and the sauce sweet and sticky.   This is a great bite with a cocktail - just what I needed at the time.  Another stall I saw many times but did not try was the Hog Roast. I am sure it's good - it's hard to go wrong with roast pork sliced and mixed with cracklin' skin and applesauce on a roll - but I had already had Hog Roast a couple of times on the trip so I passed it up.  The Grand Bouffe was another stall we saw quite a lot of - James liked it, but I was less impressed with the slightly gamey sausage, hearty serving of potatoes and salad.
Lebanese Mezze in the Park
Speaking of that Mezze in the park...  It was a lovely stand, and I was served a good sized plate of very filling food, but the falafel were cold and the rest was a bit bland.  I feel like there must have been better places for this type of food in the festival, but I didn't have a chance to try them.
Lebanese Mezze in the Park
In the Park and elsewhere you'll also find little yellow little caravans offering cheese toasties (grilled cheese sandwiches) I highly recommend the combo of an aged Somerset cheddar cheese and onion toastie with a tall cold cider.
Tapas Stand
The "Tapas Stall" is very popular and one of the most picturesque of the festival with the lovely flamenco dancer on the roof. They offer a "tapas platter" with various small snacks including meatballs, pasta, marinated peppers, olives and other bites for around 10 pounds.  I liked the sound of it and had to try it, but I wasn't impressed in the end.  The churros were a nice idea, but the dough was a bit soggy and the chocolate was bitter and lumpy.  Maybe it was an off day, as this place is very popular, but I would pass it up next time.
Avalon Cafe lunch
On the Saturday, I stumbled on the Avalon Cafe - a large tented music venue in the Field of Avalon with a popular vegetarian cafeteria.  They monitor the access so you can't walk in and sit down without going through the line and ordering something.  I was in search of a little hangover relief, and found it in the form of a pie and chips, Greek salad and peppermint tea.  They had a selection of nicely displayed desserts, sandwiches and salads as well as the hot food - macaroni & cheese, pies, curry and veg. They also serve drip coffee, which is as rare as hens teeth in these parts.
Pizza Tabun - Woodfired Pizza & Monmouth Coffee
Just down the way from Avalon near the Greenpeace area I found Pizza Tabun -  a festival circuit regular offering woodfired pizzas, Monmouth coffee and cakes.  It was the Monmouth coffee that caught my eye - I had heard about it in London but we never made it there since they only have three outlets in town.  I ordered an iced cold brew and a brownie - both were terrific and the pizzas looked good too.  If we are lucky enough to go back I'll be making a beeline for this place straightaway.
Woodfired Pizza at Pizza Tabun
Around the corner in the Greenpeace area I found a trove of stalls selling cakes, fresh fruits and vegetables, meals and handmade drinks. Everything at these stalls looked fresh and plentiful and as far as I could tell they were one-offs - not to be found elsewhere.
Food stalls in the Greenpeace area
"Greens of Glastonbury" sold Ploughman's lunches - cheese, onion, apple, butter and pickles?  Um, YES.  Next door to that was a stall selling homemade cordials and drinks that sounded fantastic, and then there were the desserts ("cakes" here).  If I wasn't already holding a brownie in my hand, you can bet I would have bought a piece of this Naughty Chocolate Tiffin.  I did not make that up, it is exactly what the sign said.
"Naughty Chocolate Tiffin" in Greenpeace
I am a complete sucker for hippie food and homemade desserts so I was loving this little area. Everything was displayed prettily too - stacked on trays with flowers, etc.
Cakes in the Greenpeace area
The little farmers market stall was heaped with fresh fruits and vegetables - a good resource when the fried and/or baked food at the stalls starts to get you down.  Another stall offered bulk trail mix, nuts and snacks from big glass jars.
Fruit & Veg Market in the Greenpeace Area
As I mentioned earlier, timing and proximity are big factors, and since our campsite provided us with breakfast daily and dinner on the first two nights, I probably only ate four or five meals in the festival altogether.  Needless to say, I saw a lot of places that I didn't get a chance to try.  One notable spot in this category was the Sushi Bar in the park.  I only walked by once when they were open, and snapped these pictures.
The Sushi Bar in the Park
There was a little anteroom for boots, and sheepskins on the floor for sitting in the yurt dining room.  The menu was small - a sushi platter and a few Japanese specialties, but I would have loved to try it, if only for a break from wearing wellies for a while.
Sushi bar in the Park
Another place I heard about but never managed to try was the lobster stand.  There was only one of these and I heard on good authority from a staff member that it was good, but they had run out of the lobster by the time I got there and I never made it back.  I met said staff member while sharing a stand-up table outside the "Carlitos Burritos" stall, which I believe is another one-off, I only saw one, close to the Pyramid Stage.  Being from California I just couldn't resist giving it a try - not to mention, what better recovery food is there than a burrito?  We had the pork pibil which is their most popular option - pictured (way) above.  It was more Mission style than So Cal - with rice, beans and lettuce inside along with the salsa and guacamole - but perfectly respectable.   They have a restaurant in the Brighton area and seem like really nice people too.
The Lobster Stand
Something else I wanted to do but didn't get around to was a Cream Tea.  There were a few places offering it around, but this spot in the Green Fields looked the most inviting.
Cream Teas in the Green Fields
Now a few words about drinking at Glastonbury...  Glastonbury is unlike any festival you will see in the U.S. because you can bring in your own alcohol in unlimited quantities, as long as it's not in glass bottles.  They don't allow glass in the festival site at all, primarily because it is dangerous to the animals which graze the land during the rest of the year.  They were randomly inspecting bags of people entering the festival to camp and confiscating drugs and glass bottles if they found them.
The Cockatoo Bar - Great Cocktails
People were swigging from plastic liter bottles and what not - and you can bring your own booze and buy mixers from the zillions of little vans parked around selling sodas and bottled water, but there are also some great options in the festival for cocktails.  My favorite bar was the Cockatoo, in the Theatre & Circus field - there's a cage on top of the van and quite often there would be a girl on a swing in the cage.  I stuck with the Cockatoo - their signature blend of rum, cherry bitters, port and "other secret ingredients" garnished with a lime wedge and fresh cherry.  I will say that they were generally at their best earlier in the day - toward the evening the staff got tired and they started to run out of things.  The drink I received at 1 PM was markedly better than the one I received at 10 PM.
Drinks from the Shangri Hell bar
Along the same line, we stopped in at the bar at Shangri Hell early in the day for a round, and I asked for a "Dark and Stormy." Brits are fans of strong ginger beer, and it was on their posted menu so I figured what the heck. When he handed it to me, James informed me that the bartender had used Worcestershire sauce in it. I tasted it and it was delicious. Any more and it would have been too much, but it gave it just the right amount of savory tang.  I ordered another one when they were slammed late at night and it was a different story - watery ginger beer & rum in a paper cup - so if you're a cocktail aficionado, maybe start early in the day.
Avalon Inn - Field of Avalon
There are bars all over the festival and in nearly every small music venue - most of which serve a short list of cocktails, cider and beer. Thatchers Cider and Carlsberg beer are available everywhere, but a few bars serve a wider selection, notably the bar near the Acoustic Tent and the Avalon Inn (above). There was also a special one-off mojito bar at Arcadia that served a really good, tall, strong mojito. It was cold and refreshing with lots of ice (which is not always easy to come by) and I would definitely seek it out again.

One post down, at least two and possibly three more to go - we did a week in London in addition to the Festival, and I have to tell you about a few things there too!  At this rate I'm never going to get caught up from last year, but I guess that's ok.  :)


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