Normally a meal like fried chicken and potato salad is a summer affair. I mean, doesn’t the title alone just scream picnic? But, as I was going through my recently forgotten Sunday ritual of flipping through my cookbooks while sipping my coffee and looking at recipes, I turned to a potato salad recipe in Boy Meets Grill that I just wanted to try. And seeing as how both the Food Girl and I were home for an entire week, I had a lot of cooking to do, so there was bound to be a fair amount of trying something new.
Actually, to be fair, the impetus for the whole thing was that I got the idea that I wanted to do fried chicken in my head. I don’t know why I was in the mood for fried chicken…it was actually more I wanted to fry something, get some use out of the fryer, and chicken seemed like the right thing to do this week. So when I saw the potato salad, I knew that it would be a perfect compliment and help me pull off the dinner I wanted. Plus, I’m trying to do a little bit more of focusing not just on the protein, but on the other components of the dinner as well. I think I make too many meals where I put a lot of work into getting the meat just right, trying new things, maybe coming up with a sauce, and then just accompany it with green beans and white rice. Not that the Food Girl is complaining, she’s on board with that in most cases. It’s me.
The appeal of the salad was first the flavors, and second the simple recipe (I’m always looking for things I can do in an hour after I get home from the office). It’s not a typical potato salad in that you have diced potatoes and mustard and everything stirred up. Instead it is more of an actual salad; potatoes served over a bed of watercress and topped with a bleu cheese vinaigrette. None of that sounded bad at all, and none of it sounded difficult.
When I got home, I started a pot of salted water to a boil and pulled out a dozen small baby red potatoes. Once the water was boiling, I dropped the potatoes in and let the cook for about 15 minutes. I wanted them to be cooked, but not all of the way through because I needed to slice them and cook them again. After I let them cool for a little bit, I sliced them up, and put them into a dish where I could brush them with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Before putting them on the grill pan, I made the vinaigrette. It was a simple combination of shallot, bleu cheese, olive oil and sherry vinegar. Unfortunately though what I thought was sherry vinegar turned out to be just sherry cooking wine. The suggested alternative was red wine vinegar with honey, but I know Jennifer isn’t a huge vinegar fan to begin with. So I went for the more mild balsamic which she and I both like. I didn’t end up measuring anything, so it was a little thicker than I meant for, but I figured that was ok. From there, finishing the salad was easy. Heat the grill pan (since it was snowing and I didn’t want to go outside to the grill), grill the potatoes on both sides, put on the bed of watercress and top with the vinaigrette and some scallions.
For the chicken, I wanted to do my ever-evolving buttermilk fried chicken. By “ever-evolving” I mean I haven’t found the perfect spice mixture, and tweak it each time. I started the night before by covering a couple of chicken legs in buttermilk and putting them in the refrigerator to get nice and juicy. The next day, I heated up some peanut oil and made up my breading. I used a base of just all-purpose flour and added copious amounts of paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic, seasoned salt, Old Bay, and black pepper. I used the double breading technique of taking it out of the buttermilk, dipping it in the flour, dipping in buttermilk, and then back in the breading again. Then into the fryer for about 8 minutes or so. I did the thighs together and then the drumsticks.
When I set the plates in front of Jennifer, I told her that I thought they were a couple of the pretty plates that I’d ever put together. That’s not saying a ton because my plating skills leave a bit to be desired, but still… The salad did look bright and the chicken was nice and golden brown. I really liked the salad with the crispiness from grilling up the potatoes and the sweetly acidic balsamic vinaigrette. And the chicken turned out really well too! The breading was nice and crispy and flavorful, though not quite where I want it at this point (getting better every time). This is one I’m definitely repeating though I might spend some time messing with a vinaigrette…