Friday, December 13, 2013
Sultry days in July and August are ripe for a classic summer picnic.
Cheeses from The Cheese Iron in Scarborough: From left, goat’s milk cheese from Liberty Fields Farm in Saco; sheep’s milk cheese from Woodcock Farm in Weston, Vt.; goat’s milk cheese from Kennebec Cheesery in Sidney; and, rear, cheddar from Modesto, Calif.
Kennebec Cheesery’s goat’s milk cheese can be enjoyed plain or rolled in herbes de Provence, as shown here.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
We are so lucky here in Maine to have extraordinary places to spend our summer days, so why pack an ordinary picnic?
The spectacular views and cooling ocean breezes of the Maine coast will look and feel even more spectacular when you take a break to find artisan cheese and a nice bottle of wine in your picnic basket instead of peanut butter and jelly.
I asked three Maine chefs, a local cheese expert and a wine consultant to make some recommendations for a delicious spread. Their menu includes buttermilk fried chicken, Mediterranean couscous salad, strawberry gazpacho soup and a selection of summer cheeses.
Now all you need is a blanket and some sunglasses.
Melissa Bouchard, chef at DiMillo's on the Water in Portland, usually works with seafood. Here, she shares her recipe for buttermilk fried chicken, a childhood favorite that she has made her own.
"When I was a child, I thought my mother made the best fried chicken ever," Bouchard said. "As I got older and my tastes evolved, I tweaked the recipe. I love the Southern twist of brining chicken in buttermilk and spices. It's a timeless and delicious method. My mom's was good, but I love the juiciness and slight tang the brine gives the chicken, and the depth of flavor the herbs add to it."
BUTTERMILK FRIED CHICKEN
From Melissa Bouchard, chef at DiMillo's on the Water in Portland
FOR THE BRINE:
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar in the raw
2½ tablespoons course sea salt
3 cups buttermilk
SEASONED FLOUR FOR DREDGING:
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon cayenne
1½ teaspoons paprika
FOR THE CHICKEN:
6 chicken thighs and 6 drumsticks
1 quart of canola oil
To start the brine, add the buttermilk and all of the spices in a large mixing bowl and beat well. Transfer mixture to an extra-large resealable bag and add chicken. Seal the bag and be careful to release as much air as you can. Make sure all of the chicken is evenly covered in buttermilk by gently massaging and flipping the bag over and over. Chicken should marinate at least six hours, but overnight is ideal.
Remove chicken from brine and pat completely dry. Save the remaining buttermilk and place in a large mixing bowl. Assemble seasoned flour simply by adding remaining ingredients (except the oil) together in a large mixing bowl. Dip the chicken in the buttermilk, roll in the flour and repeat. Place on a sheet pan and let rest for about a half hour. The chicken will cook more evenly if it is brought to room temperature.
In a large enameled cast-iron pot, add the oil. Bring the temp of the oil to 340 degrees slowly over medium heat. You may want to use a thermometer if you are unsure. When the oil is up to the proper temperature, add the chicken one piece at a time, being careful to drop them slowly and away from you. Fry four pieces at a time for about 12 to 15 minutes.
The chicken should be golden brown and cooked to 165 degrees. Remove a piece of chicken and test with a meat thermometer just to be safe.
When the chicken is done, remove from oil and drain on paper towels either on a rack or a sheet pan. Resist the urge to eat the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes so it can rest and will be perfectly juicy and delicious. Serve with biscuits, local honey and broccoli slaw.
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click image to enlarge
Garnish strawberry gazpacho with a sprig of mint.