The Fried Chicken Battle of 2014: Momofuku vs. Bon Appétit




Last year, the husbun and I started compiling a list of restaurants that served the best fried chicken in the DMV. Bonus points were given if it was served with a waffle. It is a culinary weakness of his that needs to be satiated from time to time. In the number one slot stood "Eat Bar," an American gastropub located in Arlington, VA. He was so impressed with their rendition that he ordered it twice in one sitting. 

Then one day, much to his horror, they stopped serving fried chicken and waffles. The waitress said it had to do with the waffle iron. I could hear the depressing movie music playing in Mike's head as he stared blankly at the menu, the wind stolen from his fried-chicken-eating sails. 

This would not do. This would not do at all.

We took matters into our own hands and started looking over recipes. For years, I have had my eye on Momofuku's version. It was like no other fried chicken that I had ever read! For starters, there's no breading on the bird- does that even count as fried chicken? It is steamed first, then fried, and served with a side of vinaigrette. I kept pushing away the idea because we don't own a frier. This was the ammunition that I needed to suck it up and fry up some bird!

Just as I was about to put the grocery list together, a new Bon Appétit magazine came in the mail and lo, what was on the front cover? A tantalizing picture of fried chicken covered in spices and red with desire. Well, that's the hot sauce slathered on top but we'll get to that later.

It appeared that we were at a cross road: fancy fried chicken from Momofuku or traditional American from Bon Appétit? We decided that we'd push the burden onto our friends. It was time for a Fried Chicken Battle to see "whose cuisine reigns supreme." 

Making two different kinds of fried chicken for one sitting turned out to be not as traumatic as we anticipated. Mike and I thoroughly read the recipes over and it was clear that the key to success was timing.


Momofuku's chicken needs to brine for 1 to no more than 6 hours. It is then steamed for 40 minutes and needs to cool down completely, preferably over night.  Plus, before you can fry, the chicken needs to rest outside of the fridge for another 30 minutes to get back to room temperature. By doing the brine and steaming the day before, you will save yourself a significant chunk of time on game day. I also highly recommend making the Octo Vinagrette the day before because chopping the garlic and ginger can be time consuming.

While all that noise was going on, we found that Bon Appétit's "Nashville-Style Hot Chicken" is more straightforward. This chicken needs rest in salt and pepper for at least 3 hours before being fried. So, while the Momofuku chicken cooled over night in the fridge, we let the Nashville bird marinate alongside it. We prepped the flour and dipping batter so it would be ready to go at a moment's notice.


With the foundation laid the night before, all we had to do was heat the oil and dip. For a clean taste, we used grapeseed and peanut oil. I couldn't tell the difference between these two in terms of their effect on the bird. My brother generously loaned us his fryer to ensure there was no cross contamination in flavor; the other was cooked in a good ol' fashioned pot and thermometer.

The end results were both outstanding. These recipes couldn't be more different in terms of texture and flavor. Momfuku's vinaigrette made my taste buds rejoice while the hot crispy crust of Bon Appétit's made angels sing.

We put it to the vote and the winner was.... (insert drum roll)



Bon Appétit's Nashville-Style Hot Chicken

This is a crowd of fire eaters; everybody at the table loves spicy food and the Nashville-Style had the right amount of heat to be flavorful but not overpowering.  Serve with pickles and toasted white bread for an American classic. Personally, however, I voted for Momofuku because man oh man, that vinaigrette!

So grab some friends, an old fold out table, a cheap table cloth, and put these recipes to the test. They're easy to make and completely worth the time and effort.

Special thanks to my all-star sous-chef and husbun for holding it down as always. There was a moment where I got crazy eyes but he kept things in perspective.  

Momofuku's Fried Chicken recipe can be found in their self-titled cook book, Momofuku, as well as online. Bon Appétit's Nashville-Style Hot Chicken can be found in their June 2014 edition as well as on their site.

Travel Treats: Montréal, Canada pt. 1



J'adore Montréal! The idea to visit this lovely city came about last year, after a friend watched an episode of Anthony Bordaine's, "The Layover." Suffice to say, he was instantly smitten and lobbied for a group vacation. Little did he realize that traveling across the Northern border requires a passport (oh Brandon) hence plans were put on hold for 2014. And so this past May, the four of us booked our tickets and went bon voyage.



Initially, I was going to do a single post about our trip but then I realized how many pictures of graffiti we snapped. My goodness! We communicate our creative sides through various medians but share an appreciation for urban art forms. In his younger days, my husband was a writer (aka "did graffiti") in Northern Virginia and honed his talents as a dynamic graphic designer.





This handful of select images illustrate the vast difference between graffiti used as a form of expression versus the stuff scrawled in bathroom stalls or used as sheer vandalism. It takes a special mind to do it right. You're essentially creating a unique alphabet within the parameters of a style and technique. There are pieces where I literally have to ask the husband to translate because my pea brain can't figure it out.

Clearly, these works took serious time and effort. When created with meaning, this art is valued and can bring out the character of a community.

 

There were two special treats waiting for Mike and I on the walls of Montréal. I did not realize that there is an active Portuguese community until we stumbled into their "Little Portugal" district. I was buggin out seeing the flag and various restaurants. What truly took my breath away, however, was the above image on the left. For those that don't know, the rooster is a big deal in Portuguese folklore and you can find the ceramic version in any self-respecting Portuguese family's home.  The imagery in the background represents the country's age of discoveries and the Order of Christ cross. It is a cultural piece with a touch of saudade and accurately represents the spirit of the neighborhood.

The second treat is the image pictured on the right done by one of the husband's favorite graffiti artists, El Mac. We came across this while strolling on Roy E near Coloniale corner. The pensive persona of the subject in contrast to the cool colors creates a window into another atmosphere. The artists control of the can and use of wave like style is immaculate. This is yet another example of El Mac's mastery of his median.

Preach.



Lastly, the example above is done in my favorite style which is called "Wild Style." I love its intricate lettering that combines sharp angles yet round characters. The detail of the shadowing, slight 3-d effect, and stylistic accents are standard elements. I've always had a love for arrows in graffiti. Don't know why! Plus, the piece was also done in the Portuguese district and incorporates the traditional blue and white ceramic tiles, known as  Azulejo, that are a national trademark. How this artist created the vintage look and feel of tile on a brick wall with paint boggles my mind.



I find it fascinating when a city is willing to take a gamble and permits artists to share their dreams so publicly. The results can be surprising, refreshing, confusing, and inspiring.

Thank you for indulging me in this off-beat musing about graffiti. 

Current Crack: Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Walnuts



Let's get straight to the point: these Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Walnuts are culinary crack. I enjoyed them so much, that when they're not around, I resort to eating the chocolate chunk chips and walnuts straight out of the bag. They are a match made in heaven because the slight sweetness of the chip is balanced by the earthy flavor of toasted walnut.

Combine with the usual suspects like brown sugar, butter, and vanilla extract to create what is currently in my top three of chocolate chip cookies. The other contenders include recipes from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and Alton Brown. Nipping at fourth place is a recipe from Food52 by Phyllis Grant that I greatly enjoy.  Each has their own admirable qualities but if you twist my arm, this recipe is currently the top dog.



My definition of a rock-star cookie is one that is moist and thick- I have never been keen on the thin, crispy variety. It wasn't until recently that I realized the addition of nuts took things to a whole new level, especially walnuts and pecans. I don't like anything super sugary and they provide a nice counter balance.

There are various factors that one must take into consideration to create a rock-star cookie. Make sure to not over mix and give the raw dough time to chill in the fridge to create consistency in temperature. If the dough is too warm, it will turn into a puddle while baking. One reference I find helpful is this table of cookie ailments. It doesn't seem difficult, but baking cookies is an art and I learn something new every batch.


If you're not all about walnuts, feel free to switch out with any other nut. You can also use regular chocolate chips instead of chunks if you're not into big pockets of gooey awesomeness (totally not biased). The benefit of chips is that they keep their shape better since there's less mass to melt. I love dark chocolate so I use bittersweet (67%) Chocolate Baking Chunks made by the Whole Foods generic 365 brand; it's conveniently, pre-chopped chocolate.

For this top-notch Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe, check out the post on Williams and Sonoma page.