Fried Chicken & German Potato Salad

Tomatoes not included in either recipe, but we ate them with the fried chicken in lieu of the tomato juice recommended by the recipe card, and i couldn't help but include them because of how beautiful they are this time of year.

Tomatoes not included in either recipe, but we ate them with the fried chicken in lieu of the tomato juice recommended by the recipe card, and i couldn't help but include them because of how beautiful they are this time of year.

When I was a kid, I always thought I hated potato salad. Generally it includes mayo, it never stays cold enough at picnics in Florida to make me feel safe, often there are bits of raw onion hiding in there… all of which were super off-putting to a wee Blair growing up.

Since then, I’ve expanded my palate (quite a bit, in fact), and I’ve learned to appreciate it when it’s homemade or a particularly good restaurant-style. But I never would have called myself a ‘fan,’ per se, until one night last November.

As previously discussed, Judson surprised me with the absolute best 30th birthday I could ever have dreamed of, in the company of three of my best friends in Paris and Berlin. The night we arrived in Berlin, we took naps after our late afternoon arrival and then took off to wander around the city. It was cold and dark, and Berlin is a city that does cosy well. So we wandered past restaurant after restaurant that had blazing fires, dark wood furniture, and hearty plates of food being served to rosy-cheeked diners. But everywhere we stopped was full to capacity even though it was just a random Wednesday night. We wandered farther and farther from our rented flat until we stumbled upon a place called Henne, which, we found out later, is literally just German for ‘chicken.’

We walked in and sipped (giant) steins of beer next to a woodstove while we waited for our table to open up, and when we sat down, we found out that their entire menu was: fried chicken, either a half or a whole, served with sauerkraut or potato salad. Naturally we ordered a few chickens and some of each side, then chowed down like there was no tomorrow. I don’t think in the entirety of my 30 years on this planet I have ever smelled anything that smelled as delicious as that restaurant. I don’t know that I will ever be as contented or as cosy as I was that night, and I don’t know if I will ever taste better fried chicken or potato salad. So recently when I realised that I have recipes for both fried chicken and ‘german’ potato salad in the box, I got excited. It’s my time to re-create the perfection of that night!

That said, having only made fried chicken once in my life, in the company of a seasoned expert in—I kid you not—Kentucky, I wasn’t super excited about attempting it on my own. I’ve never deep-fried anything on my own, and I’ve definitely never bought a 2 litre bottle of oil before. But, here we are, in a kitchen with no exhaust fan and a wall of ceramic plates above the stove that are now a little more coated in grease. Luckily, the weather has finally turned around here in Edinburgh, so when we made this chicken on Sunday night, we shut ourselves in the kitchen and threw the kitchen window open to air it out. I’d be lying if I said the kitchen didn’t smell like fried food for the rest of the night, but by the morning it was fresh and clean-smelling, and the house was none the worse for wear.

But I’m getting ahead of myself: making fried chicken wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I thought it would be, despite the very vague directives provided in the recipe. I did some additional research just to be sure I wasn’t going to start a grease fire, and despite checking with Alton Brown (king of all things) and Paula Deen (queen of all fried things), the best guidance I got was from a Jamie Oliver recipe, which replicated more or less what was included in the recipe but in further detail and with enough safety precautions to make me feel certain I wasn’t going to burn down my flat. It definitely took longer than I thought (I guess I’m used to ‘things I make on the stove’ being quicker than ‘things I make in the oven), but the result was so thoroughly satisfying that I regret nothing, I won’t be buying myself a deep-fryer anytime soon, but it’s nice to know that I at least have the capability to fry things. (Full disclosure: Judson was the one deciding when things were ‘done’ enough to remove from the oil, as well as the one who chopped up the chicken. But it was ALL ME who figured out the best way to finish the chicken in the oven without having a grease fire to contend with).

Honestly, though: the main memory I have of the first time I made fried chicken is getting burned like crazy from the popping oil, because we made it in a skillet. This time around, with the aid of my trusty Staub cocotte, neither of us got splattered even once (though we both had on aprons, just in case). It may not be the healthiest meal that we’ve ever eaten, but I can’t tell you the last time I had fried chicken (I KNOW it was before I moved to Scotland), so I’m not holding onto a lot of guilt about this one. Pair this with this impeccable (and mayonnaise-free!) German potato salad for the ultimate in picnic fare. Bonus points for eating it outside in the sunshine!

The verdict:
Fried chicken:

5 spoons out of five. This is a relatively simple way to celebrate spring (ok, ok, the start of summer if you live anywhere outside the UK), and it’s seriously just so tasty—plus, unlike chicken nuggets or fried chicken from restaurants, you know exactly what goes into this batch so at least it’s a little less unhealthy than the store-bought alternatives!

German Potato Salad:

4 spoons out of five. It's delicious, super easy, and perfect for this time of year. Enjoy!

one year ago: Oatmeal Toffee Lace Cookies (still an all-time fave in the Cowan kitchen!)

The recipe:

Fried Chicken

the directions:

Blend flour, salt, and pepper in a zippy bag.
Place a few pieces of chicken into the bag at a time and shake it up, pressing the flour into any non-coated parts.
Gently tap the chicken pieces as you remove them and set them aside while you heat the oil.
Pour oil into a skillet to the depth of 1-inch and heat over medium heat until shimmering.
(If you have a piece of bread handy, you can toss a bread cube into the oil to test the heat-- if it starts sizzling immediately, you're good to go!)
Once oil is hot, begin by putting the meaty pieces of chicken into the oil, a few at a time, making sure to not crowd the pan..
They'll sizzle and pop a lot, so it's worth wearing an apron or at least a t-shirt you don't care about.
While the chicken sizzles, preheat the oven to 160C/325F and place an oven-safe cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet.
Once chicken is golden-brown on the bottom, turn it over and continue to cook until cooked through-- this will take 8-10 minutes.
Remove chicken from oil using tongs, and place chicken on cooling rack positioned over cookie sheet.
Place the cookie sheet/cooling rack combo in the oven (DO NOT omit the cookie sheet or the chicken will drip oil into the oven and catch fire) and allow to cook while you finish the remaining chicken pieces in the oil, adding each piece to the tray in the oven as you finish it.
By the time you finish frying all of the pieces, the chicken should only need another 2-5 minutes in the oven. Check for doneness by pricking the thickest part of the leg with a sharp knife-- if juices run clear, you're good to go!

the ingredients:

½ c flour
4 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 chicken, cut into pieces
Vegetable or Peanut oil (a fresh bottle, as you're going to need a lot)

The recipe:

German Potato Salad

the directions:

Combine flour, sugar, 2 tbsp of the bacon drippings, salt, pepper, water, and vinegar.
Stir and cook until thickened.
Add mustard and onions and mix well.
Pour mixture over potatoes, and stir gently just until potatoes are coated.
Sprinkle with pancetta or lardons and garnish with the hard-boiled egg slices.

the ingredients:

1 ½ tbsp flour
1 tbsp sugar
6 oz pancetta or lardons, pan-fried until crisp, drippings reserved
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ c water
1/3 c cider vinegar
4 tsp mustard
3 tbsp onions, minced
3 c potatoes, sliced, boiled, and drained
2 eggs, hard-boiled and sliced

'Flavours In The Round,' or Corned Beef Sandwiches and Continental Salad

Alright, give me your opinions on corned beef. I'll be the first to admit I don't understand it. As a kid, I was repelled by the name (beef with corn in it?!), then as a grown-up I lumped it in with green beer on the list of things you only really eat once a year. But then I went to Ireland two years ago and realised that, holy moly, corned beef is magnificent. It's perfect and tender, flavourful and perfect with a pint of Guiness and a pile of mashed potatoes on an icy autumn day.

Ireland is not that far from Scotland, so I figured our corned beef here would be similar... which was my first mistake. To be fair to Scotland and it's potential corned beef supporters, I had no choice but to buy the corned beef used in this sandwich from the grocery store deli section, as everything else was already closed by the time I decided to make this sandwich. It's like a totally different meat, though. Judson referred to it, tactfully, as 'the tuna fish of lunchmeats,' but I, less gracefully, responded, 'I think you mean cat food of lunchmeats.' It had that processed look that all canned meats have (even though it didn't come in a can!) and it was so thin that it just kind of tasted like poor man's paté. The bright spot of this ordeal is twofold, though.

First, I have found a substitute for my beloved banana peppers-- a pickled vegetable that I always had a jar of when I lived in the US. Since moving to Scotland, I haven't been able to find them at the store, so I've had to go without. In the effort to make this sandwich, though, I found the super-strange long and spindly peppers pictured here. The bottle is labelled merely 'pickled peppers,' and I've only found one middle-eastern grocery store that sells them, but I HAVE THEM and they taste like banana peppers, so I'm happy. Additionally, it turns out pickled peppers are awesome on sandwiches! I've spent all my life putting them on salads, tacos, pizzas, etc., but it never occurred to me to try them on sandwiches. Well, now I know and so do you, so go get yourself a bottle of pickled peppers, skip the corned beef, and go to town.

Second, I learned why corned beef is called 'corned,' after a certain husband who shall remain nameless tried to convince me that it somehow involved actual corn. (It patently does not.) As it happens, corned beef is just a tough cut of meat similar to brisket that is marinated or rubbed with 'corns' of kosher salt to render it more flavourful and tender. So now you know, and knowing is half the battle of convincing yourself to make this sandwich.

You could pair your sandwich with this salad... but I have to warn you: I love artichokes. I love them on pizza, or with butter, sautéed or canned or fried, it doesn't matter. But I've successfully found an artichoke recipe even I am pretty meh about, and it's this salad. There's nothing inherently wrong with it... there's just also nothing right about it, and now I'm stuck with a bottle of 'French' dressing I'm never going to make it through because of this recipe. (Incidentally, I ended up with a bottle of creamy white French because the actual recipe calls for a 1:1 ratio of blue cheese dressing and red French dressing, which doesn't exist in Scotland, so I figured creamy French would do the job. It didn't.)

I do have to say, though-- swap out the weird bottled dressing for a honeyed-balsamic vinaigrette, and this salad would be just amazing. Paired for dinner, as we did, with the odd dressing combination and the only mediocre sandwich and we had a thoroughly disappointing dinner. You don't have to, though! Make yourself some homemade dressing and whip up this salad-- it's got at least two servings of veggies in it, so your body will thank you!

The verdict:

2 spoons out of five on the sandwich; 3 spoons out of five on the salad, given that you make it with better dressing than what I did. As for the sandwich, if you like corned beef, you'll love it. But if you're not sold on the need in the world for corned beef, then you might want to save your banana peppers for something more reasonable.

The recipe:

Corned Beef Sandwiches & Continental Salad

The directions:
SANDWICH:

Spread two slices of bread with mayonnaise.
Layer two slices of corned beef on each slice of bread.
Cover with a slice of cheese on each sandwich, then top with remaining bread slices.
Garnish with banana peppers.
 

 

SAlad:

Tear greens into bite-size pieces into two salad bowls.
Add artichoke hearts, sliced mushrooms, halved tomatoes, onion slices, and cucumber slices.
Toss lightly, then add cheese and drizzle with dressing.

 

 

the ingredients:
the sandwich:

4 slices of bread
Mayonnaise
4 slices of corned beef
2 slices provolone or emmenthal if you live in Scotland and can't find provolone anywhere
4 banana peppers

 

the salad:

2 little gems
1 can artichoke hearts
1 handful white mushrooms
1 handful grape tomatoes
½ red onion, sliced as thinly as possible
1 small cucumber
2 heaping spoonfuls blue cheese, crumbled
Dressing of your choice

Seven Layer Salad

Recently I was having a conversation with some friends about strange things to eat-- we were exchanging meal recipes from our childhood that our parents forced us into (scrambled eggs with ketchup), things our friends ate that boggled our minds (Eggo waffles with maple syrup and ketchup), and things we had read that just sounded terrible (lots of things from this blog, and anything involving canned pineapple).

Overall, though, the running theme of the conversation was mayonnaise in all its possible iterations with no distinction to be made between mayo, Miracle Whip, and 'salad dressing,' a term I never heard until I moved to Kentucky and even then didn't really understand. Let's be real: use of the phrase 'salad dressing' to apply to something mayo-like is up there with 'relish' vs. 'pickle relish' on the list of Kentuckian concepts I don't understand.

I wish I liked mayonnaise, really I do. It would be nice not to have to avoid it on sandwiches every time I go out to lunch. I don't care that continental Europeans eat mayo on their french fries, I don't care that it's the main component of tartar sauce (more on that later), and I definitely don't care that there seems to be a difference, technically, between mayonnaise and Miracle Whip. I don't like it and nothing will change my mind. The weirdest part about all of this, though, is that we realised, over the course of our conversation, that all of the strangest recipes we know of are only weird because of the condiments involved... and usually, that condiment is mayonnaise. Peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches, crushed pineapple and mayonnaise on white bread, and of course the mayo-slicked strangeness of Coronation Chicken salad, almost everything we could think of was mayonnaise related.

So, because I can't ever leave well enough alone, I started to analyse what it is that makes mayonnaise so terrifically off-putting. So I listed the ingredients to myself and suddenly I realised: all of the ingredients of mayonnaise are in an average cake. If you added cocoa powder and flour and baked a jar of mayo, you'd come out with a chocolate cake! (By all likelihood, a terrible one, but a cake nonetheless). I mean, think about it: eggs, lemon juice or another acid, and oil. It's all the ingredients you add to a box of cake mix to make brownies! I'm not sure what this means, but I'm sure I've stumbled upon something, because seriously, eww.

Now don't worry, I'm not asking you to make a mayonnaise cake... yet. But I made my own rules for this blog, so I have no one to blame but myself when things go awry, and go awry they did when it came time for this salad. Luckily, I don't have a trifle dish (but I'm excusing myself since I know for a fact that Eleanor didn't have one either), and if I did, I don't think I would deign to defile it with this mayo monstrosity. Even more luckily (for you), I've tweaked the recipe below to make it less terrible and indeed, more delicious. But I'll forgive you if you don't rush right out and make it, seeing as it's more or less just 'house salad.'

Scotland's been hit by a heat wave of epic proportions this week, though-- yesterday was the hottest July 1st Britain has ever seen, and in a country where air-conditioning is considered an innovation that causes head colds, we're powering through 24 hours a day of mid-20s (Celsius) temperatures.

It's seriously amazing. So if you, too, are in the midst of a summer heatwave-- or you just need something healthy to pair with all the flag cake you're going to eat this weekend-- make this salad and enjoy it. I promise, tweaked as below, it's pretty delicious. Plus, it's an easy tweak to make it vegetarian (or vegan!) and still get all the flavour from the great veggies that are all in season this time of year.

The verdict:

3 spoons out of five. This is delicious, light, and healthy and I highly recommend it. But I have a hard time giving more than three stars to a recipe I have been making (unknowingly) since I first learned how to salad. 

The recipe:

Seven Layer Salad

the directions:

In large serving bowl, layer lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, peas, cheese, and onions.
Place dollop of mayo in the centre of the top layer.
Chill for 20 minutes, then serve with salad dressing of your choice on the side (the mayo will make any vinaigrette into a slightly creamier, less tangy dressing, instead of being the only flavour in the salad).

Yields 2 large dinner salads, or 4 petite side salads.

the ingredients:

2 little gem lettuces, shredded
1 handful smallest tomatoes
1 c sliced mushrooms
8 oz frozen peas, thawed and drained
Sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
1 heaping spoonful mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
Salad dressing of your choice (we used balsamic vinegar with honey)