06 May, 2009

Fried chicken, ramp risotto, Oskar Blues

It was cold and rainy on Sunday - perfect for spending the whole day in the kitchen making decadent food.  I'd decided on Saturday to make Sukhamvit Soi Five Fried Chicken, courtesy of Jarrett Wrisley and the Atlantic Food Channel, and it was marinating happily in the fridge.  HM had brought home some beautiful bunches of ramps from Reading Terminal Market; I used half to make compound butter and reserved the rest for risotto to go with the fried chicken. 

All the rich food called for a crisp beer.  I chose Mama's Little Yella Pils by Oskar Blues, Longmont, Colorado.  Oskar Blues had a big presence at Philly Beer Week, and their line is rather new to Pennsylvania.  Along with Sly Fox, they are part of the small-but-growing segment of craft breweries that use aluminum cans rather than glass bottles for retail sales.  Sunday was the first time I'd seen their cans at my local distributor.

Now, as some people know, I have a serious jones for fried chicken.  For years my go-to recipe has been the Bon-Ton style (Gourmet via epicurious), which is unbelievably juicy, crunchy and nicely spicy.  Jarrett Wrisley was definitely speaking my language in his account of fried chicken on the streets of Bangkok.  The man worked hard to get this recipe!  

Chicken marinated for 18 hours in coriander root, pepper, garlic, etc.

While the frying oil was heating up, I set to work on the risotto.  With our absurd bounty of ramps, I doubled the recipe.  

Ramps, cleaned and ready to use

Risotto ingredients

Finished risotto

Once the oil was ready, in went the chicken...

Almost-fried chicken

The chicken was just as crispy and juicy as promised, and the garlic and coriander lent a subtle tang to the crust.  I thought it could use a bit more heat, so next time I might double the amount of hot pepper flakes, or maybe include some finely chopped Thai chiles in the marinade/batter. A nice big dollop of Sriracha sauce is essential for dipping.   I'll definitely be trying this recipe again in the future.

On a normal day the risotto would be too heavy to complement fried chicken, but with Sunday's weather, it just seemed right.  The pungent yet delicate flavor of the ramps melded nicely into the rich rice.  And Mama's Little Yella Pils was a good choice to cool the Sriracha heat.  I wasn't blown away by this beer --  while it's appropriately bitter for the style, a little more emphasis on the flavor and aroma hops would really put it over the top.  Next time I'll stick with Sly Fox Pikeland Pils if I want pilsner in a can.

05 May, 2009

I'm trying hard to withhold judgement about the upcoming Varga Bar that will be opening in the former Azul Cantina spot. After all, it will have Victory Brewing's root beer on hand pump (Root beer. On. Hand. Pump.), as well as 22 beers on tap - eschewing the Coors/Miller/Bud triangle for "hard to find" American craft brews. Sounds fantastic. The menu - described as something called "comfort food", topping out at $22 - isnt quite as exciting but looks to be at least solid.

I guess the thing that troubles me is the driving theme behind the operation: it is a bar designed around the pinup girl artwork of Joaquin Alberto Vargas y Chavez. I realize they're from different eras but theres something vaguely 1990s/swing dancing/Reel Big Fish about the fashioning of a gastropub around Vargas' purdy lady drawings.

Like I said, I'm not trying to judge (I guess I am...a little). But if I see one Vince Vaughan or Jon Favreau silk-shirt-wearing wannabe I'll head elsewhere. After I finish my root beer of course.