Vacation Stories: All I have to say about the Outerbanks…

Magic.  There be magic!

We drove down to the outer banks, enjoyed a beach house and return in under 60 hours.  I was able to stand in the waves and smell the ocean breeze for the last time for this summer.

Also, this life-changing experience happened:


My first steamer pot.  As far as I can tell, its almost exactly like a Low-Country Boil.  Coastal Cravings (a restaurant attached to a gas station) can boast that Guy Fieri got his steamer pot there on Diners, Drive-in’s, and Dives.  There were two options: the “Yankee pot” containing: Lobster, Clam, Mussels, and Scallops, and the “OBX pot” with shrimp, crab legs, clams, and oysters, along with potatoes, Carolina sausage, and corn in both.  We judged (correctly) that a “single serving” would be plenty, and ordered 4 orders (two each) for 6 people.  They were out of oysters and mussels, so we settled for extra portions of shrimp.  I think this was a fantastic choice, as (a) shrimp are my favorite, and (b) shrimp as seasoned liberally with Old Bay, and a triple amount ensured that everything was season with Old Bay.  Yummmm!

It was a fairly simple process.  The pots are actually just large tins, like the kind you can order from the pitiful-looking, half-frozen elementary school student around Thanksgiving, when they peddle wrapping papers and mail-order gifts.  The tins that come with ornamental holiday scenes on the sides and a cardboard divider separating the cheesy, the caramel, and the butter popcorn.  Yummmm…fluorescent cheese is always better…ahem.

Anyways, the steamer pot came in that tin.  With a hole hammered through the top and weighing similar to a small child.  I carried the toddler-sized grail of seafood up to the kitchen and we followed the exceedingly simple instructions the waitress wrote on the top for us:  Remove shrimp and scallops in bags from top of pot.  Set on stove and cook on medium-high heat until steaming (about twenty minutes), turn down heat and cook twenty minutes more.  Add shrimp and scallops and cook for eight additional minutes.

That’s all it took.  I tried to take a guess as we poured out the deliciously-steaming contents.  I know from its time in my lap on the car-ride back, and by the weight, that the bottom was filled with ice.  This kept things fresh during transportation and provided the base for the steaming.  Next was probably the potatoes, then the Carolina sausage (precooked) and the corn.  Then the clams, then the lobster tails and crab legs.  As mentioned, the shrimp and scallops were bagged by themselves and only added in the last eight minutes.

And after just under an hour, we had this:


Steamy, buttery wonderment!

And, though I hope you wouldn’t have to ask…we finished it all. 🙂

When I have a day off, all alone

Things like this happen:

Unfortunately, I do not have a recipe, because these were a pain and a half to make.  See the un-chocolated/frosted ones at the bottom…I got bored of being bored halfway through.  To keep the story short, I picked the wrong type of dough, one that was barely meant to be rolled out, let alone to make cut-out cookies.  I also constructed the large ones out of two circle cookie-cutters and my fingers.  Which subsequently melted the dough.  I covered up the cookies with melted chocolate, and sprinkled either sliced almonds, chocolate jimmies (sprinkles), chopped pecans or orange zest.  Delicious, but nothing really to write home about.  The was one shining moment in the day, though:  Look at those baby hedgehogs.  Perfection, yes?  HOLLY LEAF COOKIE CUTTER!  I know.

That is all.  Please go play.  Make mistakes.  Pick the wrong dough and stubbornly push on with your plans until you finally give up and smoosh the last handful of it onto the sheet pan in vaguely cookie-shaped piles.  Breathe.  Decide to cover the cookies with chocolate to make yourself feel better.  Be reminded that you need your kitchen counter to be six inches higher, but until then you will inevitably end up with a knot between your shoulder blades.  Give up on frosting and fill the last few with peanut butter, nutella, jam, and any other spread you can find in the fridge.  Eat cookies.  Feel better.

Or, you know…follow a recipe.  But sometimes that is a little boring.

The Best Chicken I’ve Ever Made — Buttermilk-Dijon Chicken

As an apology for my summer-long absence, I gave you puppy pictures last week.  And today, I am going to show you my favorite new recipe (and possibly the best discovery of this summer).  This chicken is incredibly delicious and even more incredibly easy.  I was inspired by Deb’s Buttermilk Chicken recipe where she paired buttermilk+paprika+chicken, after being inspired by Nigella Lawson, whom I adore.  Take those two wonderful ladies’ recipes, and add a night full of Diners, Drive-in’s, & Dives, and, inevitably, I wanted delicious, tender, fried chicken.

Its rare, nowadays, that my craving for anything breaded beats the hassle of creating a gluten-free breading mix or batter, and the frying or baking that such food requires.  So it wasn’t long before I realized that I wanted the quintessential “fried chicken” flavors without the long preparation and heavy batter.  Thus, adapting Deb & Nigella’s marinades seemed to be the best option.  I leaned towards Deb’s paprika covered dish.  I’m never opposed to a bit of a kick, spice-wise, and paprika started us off on just the right foot.

And so I started playing, adding a little dijon mustard, some hot sauce, garlic, paprika, pepper, and a touch of honey to my base of tangy buttermilk.

Then the waiting game began.  Add you chicken to a large Ziploc bag and pour the marinade over the pieces.  Make sure all pieces are well-coated, then squeeze out the extra air, seal the bag, and allow the chicken to marinate in the fridge for at least two hours, or up to all day (8-12 hours).

After you have waited as long as you can, choose if you are grilling or roasting your chicken pieces and follow the recipe below.  I’ve made this chicken for family and for guests, with a two-hour marinade, and an 8-hour wait, with honey and with sugar or without sweeteners at all, grilled and roasted.  It is very, very forgiving to your schedule and the ingredients that you have on hand, though I would insist on keeping the paprika, garlic, hot sauce, mustard, and pepper if you truly want the Fried-Chicken-Without-the Fried taste.  I would also recommend using real buttermilk, or at least the tub of buttermilk powder that can be mixed into water/milk, rather than mixing a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar into enough milk to make a cup (which is the BEST trick for baking and I use that shortcut all the time).  But here, in this recipe, the buttermilk really shines through, and that authentic taste is exactly what we are aiming for.

Because at the end of it all, you get this:

And I promise, if you’re a fan of fried chicken, this recipe will go straight into the recipe box.  It was the first one entered into my new Moleskine recipe book (best birthday present, ever! Thanks, M! )

Buttermilk-Dijon Chicken

Prep time: 15 mins + 2-12 hours marinating  Cook time: 30-45 minutes, roasting or grilling.  Serves: 4-6

  • 2 lbs chicken pieces (dark or light meat, bone-in or bone-less)
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp-1 Tbsp. hot sauce (to taste, I use Frank’s Red-hot Sauce generously)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. paprika (plus more for sprinkling)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper, ground
  • salt
  • Optional: 2 tsp honey or granulated sugar

Mix all ingredients, except chicken, in small bowl until thoroughly combined.  Place chicken parts in large, resealable bag.  Pour marinade over chicken and mix, massage, or toss to coat meat thoroughly.  Seal bag, squeezing out extra air, and allow to marinate in fridge for, at least, 2 hours, or up to all day long (8-12 hours).

If roasting, preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Shake excess marinade from chicken.  Place meat in a  greased/oiled roasting pan.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with additional pepper, paprika, and salt.  Roast bone-in chicken for 45-50 minutes, or bone-less pieces for 35-40 minutes, until browned and cooked through.

*When roasting, I like to turn pieces over 15 minutes from the end of roasting time.  5 minutes until the end of roasting time, I turn them back for final browning.  It isn’t necessary, but I believe it helps the chicken get crispy on all sides, and gives a better appearance.

If grilling, preheat the grill as normal.  Grill on medium heat, flipping as minimally as possible, for 15-30 minutes, or until chicken pieces are cooked through and hold good grill marks.  Sorry I’m a little brief on the grilling aspect (though it is equally delicious).  Grilling is M’s kingdom ;).

The most recent time we grilled up this chicken, we served it with grilled corn-on-the-cob, quick-skillet green beans and shallots, and popovers.  Yummm!