Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Seabrook's Chicken Tenders

AYUP! And what, might you ask is Ayup? Of course, it's an all-purpose word that Yorkshire folk use to say "hi, what's happening?", "what are you doing?", "how's the family?", "where are you going?", etc.

Today's recipe is all about the goodness of Yorkshire's own, Seabrook Potato Crisps, or as they are affectionately known, Seabrooks. Seabrooks are produced in the Yorkshire town of Bradford (where the Hubs and 1 tied the knot, so they gotta be great, no?) and according to the Hubs, are the best crisps in all of England...and that is saying a lot, considering there are some three kazillion varities of potato snacky goodness. Seabrooks alone makes some twenty different varieties ranging from Smoky Bacon, to Prawn Cocktail, Chicken & Stuffing, Cream Cheese & Chives to their newer hot and spicy wasabi assortment.

The thing about Seabrooks is that they aren't widely available. Even in the UK, they are difficult to find in the southern counties. And forget trying to find them in the states. When we went to England last Christmas, the Hubs decided he would stock up and bring two cases back with us and he would enjoy them VERY sparingly. Well, he did great on the sparingly part, usually only partaking of a packet during an episode of Dr. Who or some other British TV program he'd downloaded. Well, this was good as far as having the crisps last a long time, but not so good for the quality of the crisps, which don't have a bunch of preservative additives and well, they lost a bit of their crunchy ooomph.

Sooooooo, I thought....what can I do with some of these crisps and I came up with the idea to use them as a breadcrumb-like coating for baked chicken tenders. I rummaged through the Hubs stash of crisps to come up with a variety that would go with the chicken. For example, I thought the Bacon & Brown Sauce, Tomato Ketchup, Beefy, and Sea Salt and Vinegar varities weren't quite right. So I settled on Cheese & Onion. The "recipe" follows...

Ingredients (approximate measures since I didn't use any measuring cups or spoons)
1 lb chicken tenders
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
2 cups (or 4 packets) crushed Seabrooks crisps
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp parsley flakes
Black pepper to taste

I put the crisps into a plastic bag and crushed them into tiny pieces. I don't think it's necessary to grind them up or pulverize them in a blender. The bigger pieces will make for a crunchier coating, the same way panko bread crumbs make a crunchier coating over finer ground bread crumbs.

This next picture really is for my father-in-law, who would be glad to know we are eating free-range, no antibiotic, no hormone, organic chicken, but he'd be even more thrilled that I spied a bargain and got the chicken for 50% off the regular price!!!

Gently beat the egg and milk together in a bowl.

I didn't want to take away from the flavor of the crisps by adding too many seasonings, so I added just a bit more onion flavor with the onion powder and then the parsley and pepper.

Next, I dipped each chicken tender in the egg mixture and coated it in the crisp mixture. The chicken pieces were then placed on a cookie sheet that had been lightly sprayed with an olive oil spray, just so tenders wouldn't stick to the pan.

I baked the chicken crispy critters at 400 degrees for 20 minutes and hoped this experiment would work!
I served the Seabrooks chicken with a side dish of potatos, onions, mushrooms and green beans and presented it to the Hubs as a surprise with a pint of Riggwelter, a Yorkshire ale produced at the Black Sheep Brewery.
The Hubs was indeed surprised, the experiment worked and it was a bit of a fun meal!! The chicken came out pretty crispy and he guessed what the flavor was on the third guess!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cranberry Cardamom Muffins

These are really nice moist muffins that have a nicely distinct flavor that comes from the cardamom. And I've become a bit picky about cardamom, preferring to grind the cardamom seeds myself in my mortar and pestle. The seeds are very hard and it takes a while to get them ground, but it's worth it and it's a good way to work out frustrations.

People usually think of cardamom as a spice used in savory Indian dishes or Indian sweets, but it's a favorite spice used by Scandinavians in their pastries.

One baking secret I'll share is my fairly recent discovery of vanilla bean paste. It's used as a substitue for vanilla extract. It gives baked goods a richer taste.

(for 2 dozen muffins)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
4 eggs
2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

I started this recipe by cracking open the green cardamom pods to reveal the dark brown to black seeds within. I popped them in the mortar and started the grinding.
As the seeds grind the aroma of the cardamom fills the kitchen. It has such a strong scent, but is quite pleasant. I grind the seeds until I have a dark brown to black powder. I set those aside and gathered all of the dry ingredients together for mixing. At the same time I put the butter in a bowl and set it on the stove to start melting. It's nice to have a gas stove that has pilot lights underneath for gentle melting like this.

Ok, on to the muffins...

I measured out the dry ingredients, the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cardamom powder in one bowl and mix it all together really well.

Then I tossed in the cranberries and coat them with the dry mixture. You can toss frozen cranberries directly into the mix without thawing them.

Next, I mixed all of the wet ingredients. I slightly beat eggs and added the sour cream, mixing the two together well. Then I added the melted butter and finally the vanilla paste. And because the vanilla paste is soooo thick, it doesn't all come off the measuring spoon, so I get a taste of the vanilla...yum. This is something I don't think you could do with vanilla extract. It just doesn't taste the same.

Then I added the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Now with muffins, you don't want to over mix the wet and dry ingredients. You want to mix it just enough so that you don't see any dry ingredients and it's perfetly fine for the batter to be lumpy. In fact, the lumpier, the better. It gives the muffins their texture.

This batter is real thick, as it should be and almost a bit annoyingly sticky and difficult to scoop into the muffin tins. But anyway...

I filled muffin tins with paper liners or you could lightly grease the tin so the muffins don't stick. It's best to fill the tins about 2/3 deep, but I know these muffins aren't high risers (probably because of all the moisture from the sour cream...not sure), so I take it a smidge higher.

I popped the muffins into the oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. But I did the first toothpick test around 15 minutes to see how they were going. The toothpick test is where you take a toothpick and slide it into the center of the muffin and see if the toothpick comes out with batter on it, or if it comes out clean. If it's clean, the muffins are done.

These are so yummy strainght out of the oven warm. With a cold glass of milk....nice!