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What recipe is your Unicorn?

Donny, " Eleanor’s Memphis's unicorn."
Freb, " What's a unicorn?"
Donny, "Fable creature you know the horse with the horn impossible to capture, it's the one car no matter how many times you try to boost something always happens."

So what recipe is your unicorn? What recipe is it that no matter how many times you try it, it never comes out right.?

I have made complicated birthday cakes for my wife's office mates, I have made Rum Cupcakes with Sabayonne frosting, just in the past month or so I made Lavender Creme Brulee and Baklava without fear or error. But (hanging my head in shame) this southern boy can not seem to properly fry a chicken. I believe it comes from the dual fears of burning the exterior and under cooking the interior.

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    1. Fried chicken is mine too! Beautiful exterior, bloody interior.

      Now, I haven't attempted it in 30 years. I'm a more knowledgeable cook than I used to be so perhaps it could be conquered. I doubt I'll try - less messy to eat it out the few times each year I indulge!

      12 Replies
      1. re: meatn3

        Agreed, fried chicken, but for the opposite reason. Moist, perfect interior, bland, heavy coating.

        1. re: meatn3

          I think the perfect fried chicken would be slow cooked somehow. Either slow cooked in oil, or, if that would yield a greasy result, slow cooked and then flash fried. I wonder how Popeyes does it.

          1. re: jvanderh

            I believe Popeyes uses a pressure fryer, like the Colonel.

            Incidentally, there are various recipes out there for slow cooking chicken sous vide, then battering and quickly frying. I've messed around with em - different kind of result usually, but that's because the batter is typically different than what you'd use traditionally.

            OTOH, It's not at all impossible to get fried chicken to be cooked all the way through, not overcooked, and with a nice crispy exterior frying traditionally. Slow cooking has a few upsides, but traditional frying can still lead to juicy chicken.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              Dang. Those seem to be terrifying and like 10 grand.

              1. re: jvanderh

                With a good thermometer and a stock pot, you can fudge it on the stovetop. Or you poach in oil kept at 150 deg F or so for a similar effect (though this would also require a good thermometer, and I don't know if it might make it harder for batter to adhere to the chicken later on).

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  What advantage would that have over braising until tender and then breading and frying?

                  1. re: jvanderh

                    Not an advantage exactly - just different. Braised chicken is cooked at a higher temperature. Braised breast meat tends to be dry and grainy, whereas breast meat cooked slowly to lower temperature is extremely tender and moist. Braised dark meat is good and tender, but has a different texture than slow cooked dark meat - matter of preference. Slow cooking tends to increase the intensity of the chicken's own flavor while braising tends to use flavorful liquids to flavor the chicken.

                    1. re: jvanderh

                      I've done that. It works great. Just be extra careful not to over braise. It's fine if the pieces are still a bit under cooked. The frying will finish the job. There again be careful not to over fry. If the oil is the correct temp by the time the outside is a nice golden brown the inside's done.

                  2. re: jvanderh

                    Fagor has a stovetop pressure fryer (with a serious-looking clamp mechanism) for about $300. Not sure that addresses "terrifying," though.

              2. re: meatn3

                When I was vegan I would make fried chicken for my non veg friends, completely blind, unable to test it or anything, and they told me it came out great, I had at least one southerner telling me it was the best they ever had. I used Cook's Illustrated's recipe, the buttermilk brine one right here: http://whatsonmyplate.net/2009/07/29/... I've made it twice now, it's worked perfectly every time.

                If I as a vegan could do it on my first try, I'm sure it couldn't be too hard.

                1. re: jujuthomas

                  I second this one - have never managed to achieve something that was neither glue or crunchy.

                  1. re: cresyd

                    It's so funny how we all differ in our strengths and weakness. Me, I can make risotto in my sleep and it would be delicious. But I just think of making any bread-related product and I fail miserably, but from reading a lot of post on CH, it seems like there are plenty of bread bakers among us,

                    1. re: ttoommyy

                      It is interesting because I, too, could make a beautiful risotto in my sleep. And I am a very good bread maker (but now I must make GF as I have celiac which is a tricky process). However, what I struggled with before my diagnosis was phyllo pastry. The stupid dumb dough kept tearing on me.

                      1. re: ttoommyy

                        I REALLY want to try again, my mother made a lovely sounding butternut risotto the other night.

                        1. re: jujuthomas

                          Yes, do. A great risotto can be such a sublime experience! :-)

                          1. re: chefathome

                            i love eating it... had a butternut squash risotto recently with grilled grouper. oh, divine. I wanted to lick the plate. I'll have to look up a simple recipe and start there - I think I tried to do something fancy the first few times and got it wrong. or impatient.... or some of each. LOL

                            1. re: jujuthomas

                              That sounds amazing. I make a delicious butternut squash risotto. I can do some snooping around for a few recipes to get you started if you wish. Maybe a nice mushroom risotto with thyme, using mushroom "stock" you make by reconstituting dried mushrooms.

                              1. re: jujuthomas

                                The Khantessa made a lemon risotto last night. I made mustard-roasted salmon with a lingonberry glaze. We had a bottle of sauvignon blanc. One of the better meals I've had in a while.

                          2. re: ttoommyy

                            I love to bake. Make sourdough bread in and out of the bread machine without added yeast. Can't make a decent pie pastry. I've tried various recipes and they are never as good as others make. The only partial success is using a food processor to make pie dough.

                        2. re: jujuthomas

                          Risotto is hit and miss with me. I can't count on it for dinner. I love it, but about 50% of the time it just doesn't come out. I don't get why because I make it the same way every time.

                        3. Umm. The hubster says mine is buttermilk biscuits.

                          3 Replies
                            1. re: jmcarthur8

                              +1 on any kind of biscuits. I have tried them many times, and they never, ever come out light or fluffy.

                              1. re: sunflwrsdh

                                What stinks is that I can make scones just fine, but the biscuits are never quite up to Southern snuff.

                            2. chicken is easy, soak it in saltwater to draw the blood, par boil, pat dry and then bread and fry it until it's the right color. I just don't do it cause of the f***ing mess it makes.

                              now tempura ANYTHING I screw up, I just. can. not. get that batter right. still working on figuring out bread that won't double as a doorstop. and flipping a Spanish tortilla, just not bold enough I guess

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: hill food

                                I have never heard of parboiling fried chicken. I do agree with brining it. Sometimes I soak it in buttermilk instead. I have been cooking killer fried chicken for years. You have to use plenty of seasoning. Another trick is cooking it low a and slow and using a thermometer to gauge the oil temperature. When it is too crispy outside and raw inside, the heat was too high, or maybe the chicken was too thick. I also put a lid on the skillet for much of the frying process. It really is an art. It involves a lot of babysitting. Sometimes, I am not sure it is worth it.

                                1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                  I know it's cheating, but I was raised on endless undercooked, pink, bloody, chicken.

                                  beef I like almost raw, duck and pork rare, sashimi? bring it on. but chicken I get really wound up about.