Gourmet picnic food is the theme of this month’s 5 Star Foodie Makeover Cooking Group, and with Memorial Day and the long weekend coming up, I was excited to put my spin on a traditional picnic dish. Although born in Chicago, I grew up in northwest Arkansas in the middle of chicken country (you might have heard of a company called Tyson’s that is based there), the word picnic and fried chicken are synonymous. Along with fried chicken, a picnic is not complete without slaw, beans, and cornbread or biscuits – or what the heck, both!
Here I’ve taken organic chicken from Coastal Range Organics and mixed dark and white meat, rolled them into what I’m calling Chicken Bites – sounds better than Chicken Balls , and more down-home than Chicken Croquettes. These bites are pure chunks of moist chicken that’s been brined in Thomas Keller’s Chicken Brine from Ad Hoc At Home. And no, I didn’t burn the chicken – those dark bits you see are onion confit. To take it over the top, mixing in a bit of Onion Confit adds a depth of flavor that will have you declaring this the best damn chicken this side of the Mason Dixon line – not to mention less messy, which is a big plus if you’re desiring a romantic little picnic with your honey and don’t want to be caught gnawing on a bone or having greasy fingers or face
Naturally, the slaw couldn’t be your average mayo-based cabbage variety. I really think that people that don’t like slaw just haven’t had anything except for the often soggy, supermarket variety. It’s a shame because slaw can be a creative vehicle for using many different fruits and vegetables in a myriad of creamy or vinegar bases. My sweet and tangy slaw was inspired by the kohlrabi I bought at the farmer’s market and the luscious mangoes that are still in season and included in my CSA deliveries.
Thanks to Natasha of Five Star Foodie and Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks for organizing these challenges and brainstorming inspiring themes each month, click on their sites at the end of the week for a view of everyone’s gourmet picnic dishes. These challenges motivate me to be creative (and give me a much-needed push lately) and have introduced me to a community of talented food bloggers that I’m grateful to be included among. I love seeing their interpretations of each month’s theme, and so will you!
Chicken Bites with Onion Confit and Sweet & Tangy Apple, Mango Slaw
For the chicken:
1 lb. organic boneless, skinless chicken breast*
1 lb. organic boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup Onion Confit
Yield: about 16 – 2″ bites
Thomas Keller’s Chicken Brine:
1 gallon water*
2-3 lemons, cut in half
half a head of garlic, peeled, cut cloves in half
10-12 bay leaves
1 bunch cilantro (or parsley)
1 bunch thyme
1 bunch rosemary
1/4 cup honey
1 cup kosher salt
1/8 cup black peppercorns
Heat the water, lemons, and salt over med-high heat, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from heat. Add the herbs. Refrigerate until chilled before adding the chicken. Brine for at least 6 hours and no longer than 12.
*Note: I cut the original brine recipe in half since I didn’t need to brine 10 lbs. of chicken. I also used cilantro instead of parsley for a Cali twist.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. (Or you may choose to fry the chicken in 2-3 inches of peanut oil heated to 325 degrees in a heavy skillet.)
Remove the chicken from the brine – discard brine. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Chop the chicken, place in a glass bowl. Mix in a 1 cup of buttermilk and ½ cup of the onion confit. Take tablespoonfuls of the meat and form into 2 Inch-size balls. If the meat is not holding together, add more buttermilk. Roll the balls in panko crumbs. Place on a cookie sheet, lined with aluminum foil, coated generously with canola oil.
Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, until browned, turning once.
1 cup canola oil
Yield: 1 cup*
Put the onions in a small saucepan and cover with the oil. Simmer onions in oil over low heat, stirring occasionally, until a rich brown color is achieved. (I also added a sprinkle of red pepper flakes as I do to almost everything.) This will take about an hour. Meanwhile, prepare the chicken and slaw.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.
* You’ll use about half for the chicken, refrigerate the rest of the onion in the oil in a storage container. It’s fantastic added to pasta, vinaigrettes or served on toasted baguette slices.
Sweet & Tangy Kohlrabi, Apple & Mango Slaw
1 cup kohlrabi (about half a kohlrabi), peeled and sliced into matchsticks
1 mango, peeled and cubed
1 apple (I used Gala), sliced into matchsticks
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
¼ cup white balsamic or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
salt and pepper to taste | Yield: 6-8 servings
Combine the kohlrabi, mango and apple in a glass bowl. Whisk together the vinegar, honey, and mint. Toss to coat.
Variations: You can easily substitute jicama or daikon radish for the kohlrabi, pineapple or papaya for the mango, and asian pear for the apple, although I like Gala, Fuji, Jazz or any pink or red-skinned apple for its lively color.
Shown with Almond Herb Drop Biscuits. Just add wine and Enjoy