A slushy, wet and cold Thursday. What a mess! Everything from schools to the Federal government is shut down today, including lunch service here at BT. We are hoping that dinner won't suffer the same fate, and frankly it really isn't that bad out, just really sloppy. Pretty much exactly what was predicted for today...
Last night I think it was basically pre-weather fear that hurt our Wednesday, quite a bit actually, although Charlie had a nice crowd at his bar. The dining room, not so much. Still, a terrific menu went out and the dessert especially is possibly a new winner for our sweet teeth.
Starter was chickpea fritters on a mixed green salad. The little nuggets were made with chopped garbanzo beans mixed with green onion and cilantro, shaped into little balls and deep-fried. Heard they were good...
Kevin made lasagna Bolognese for the entree. House made pasta layered with veal sauce, Parmesan cheese and bechamel. Six layers. Looked fantastic, and, since I got a free sample from some of the scraps made into little cannelloni, I can attest that it tasted wonderful.
Kevin also made the dessert for last night's menu - Baba au Rhum.
Here is the finished product, still in the pan.
Next, the rum syrup is drizzled over it. And basically the yeast cake soaks it up! who wouldn't?!
It turned out to be perfect. It was reminiscent of a very moist but not soft bread pudding in texture, with a nice sweet rum flavor. You probably wouldn't want to eat a slice before an important meeting...
This is definitely going into the rotation. I can imagine adding different dried fruit to it - this one had chopped golden raisins - and even using a variety of liquors in the syrup. Apparently it was not too hard to put together, so hopefully we'll see it come around again.
Back by popular demand - the duck confit:
The hearts and gizzards were also poached with the legs, and what a great addition to a dinner salad they made last week! Only for the back of the house, of course.
Fluke with oysters and house-cured ham, spiced Creole-style, was on the weekend specials list.
One of our guests on Saturday night was this young woman you see here with Kevin. She and her husband sat at one of the tall-tops, and when I asked her how everything was, she remarked that she had the pork chop and that it was delicious. "By the way," she added, "my name is Jennifer Langenfelder". Ha! She is a Langenfelder, of Langenfelder pork fame. The Langenfelder farm, in Kennedyville, produces conventional pork for a large market, but some of it makes its way to smaller venues available to us. Kevin has been loving being able to get this local pork via United Shellfish, via Fells Point Meats. I had to bring Jennifer into the kitchen so Kevin could "meet the farmer", so to speak.
In other news, we are still holding trials for the fried chicken recipe!
We have definitely decided that brining is of the utmost importance. And, be it a soaking, as above, or a herbal/oil/salt rub as below, it makes a huge difference in flavor and moistness.
The big problem we are having is settling on a crust. We want crunch but we don't want that crust to be too thick. We want flavor without grease. We want moist chicken that stays with the coating when you take a bite. That seems to be the hardest thing to accomplish - we've gotten good tasting, juicy meat but the crust seems to separate as soon as you take a knife to it. Here are a few pictures of the most recent attempts. I cannot remember which was which done how; all I know is that we are not finished yet!
This is the third step with the dry brined bird pictured above. It was first slow roasted at a very low temperature, until it reached 150 degrees. Then it was cooled, cut into pieces, dredged with buttermilk mixed with hot sauce, and then tossed in a flour coating, before a second cooking in the deep fryer.
The wet-brined bird had a seasoned buttermilk/seasoned flour dredge, then was double fried.
Here are the results, in no apparent order:
This last one - marinated in the aromatic brine and double fried - looks exactly like the chicken from the recipe Kevin and Jay used. (You can compare it to the cover of the recent issue of Saveur that it came from and see for yourself.) It looks great, and flavor-wise, it wasn't bad, but still that coating did not stick as well as we hoped. As Kevin discovered this morning, we are not the only ones experiencing this adhesion problem. Check out this link to a PDF report concerning this very same issue, at the university level. The picture on page three is especially illuminating...Cooks are not only artists, they are scientists as well!
I am hoping that Jay and Kevin are able to keep track of all the results from these fried chicken trials and come out on top with an excellent version that we can call our own. And I am also hoping that the final recipe incorporates vodka, so we can sell "Drunk Chicks" on Friday nights! Ha!
Actually, it's sort of good we don't have any customers in the dining room for lunch right now. The fire alarm has been going off for no apparent reason for the past hour. The fire company came the first time, even though we thought we had reset the alarm in a timely fashion. It keeps going off, over and over, and now it is not even responding to being reset. The security company cannot get here soon enough! Imagine nuclear crickets sounding off inside your head, that is just what it sounds like in here.
Isn't is nice that I had all day long to write this post? Silver lining #2.
See you tonight? tomorrow night for sure!