Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Seriously? You Can Do That?

I've said before that I tend to ignore my cookbooks. I usually only buy cookbooks for two reasons. The first is that I am sometimes seduced by a beautiful cover or a famous name. The second is that I find myself going back and downloading and printing the same favorite recipes online over and over, so I might as well save a tree and just buy the cookbook. That way I will always have those recipes in printed form. One example of the latter is when I bought this cookbook.

I know all of the praises and criticisms of Giada. Whatever one can say about her, good or bad, I love her Garlic and Citrus Chicken and her Farmer's Pasta and I was a little tired of dealing with the slow, pop-up-infested Food Network website whenever I wanted to print up the recipes. It was much more convenient to just buy her book.

I do use the book for other ideas though. One recipe has been haunting me for the longest time. It's her recipe for Pollo Fritto: Italian fried chicken. Fried chicken isn't what I think of when I think of Italian food, but Giada prefaces the recipe saying that she and her family love it and she has put her own spin on it.

Giada's take on fried chicken is to marinate it in olive oil and lemon juice (I usually use buttermilk and sriracha). It is dredged in flour as you would normally do with fried chicken, and then - and this is the part that made my eyes bug out - fried in olive oil.

What? Fry chicken in olive oil? Can you do that?

There are arguments against cooking in olive oil, particularly of the extra virgin variety. One side says that it imparts too strong of a flavor to what you are cooking in it. The other side seems to say the opposite and says heating olive oil destroys the flavor, so why waste your money on expensive oil? Most importantly though, olive oil has a lower smoke point than vegetable oils, so it's not wise to cook at high temperatures with it.

But Giada made a critical distinction. She listed extra virgin olive oil (less stable in heat) for the marinade and just plain old olive oil for the actual frying. I even wondered if that was safe, but she said I could do it.

I had to go to two stores to find such an olive oil. It seems that thanks to Rachael Ray and her EVOO obsession and also thanks to Ina Garten and Emeril Lagasse and their constant emphasis on "good" olive oil, everyone just goes for the olive oil that has never been kissed. The more refined versions are very hard to find. I couldn't even find just the plain old "virgin" without the "extra" olive oil (rumored to have gone to third base, but claims it only went to second and put up a fight the whole time).

I had to go to two stores, but I did have eventual success. Behold the slutty olive oil!

Chicken in marinade the night before. Here goes nothing.

This is the juice of two lemons plus a quarter cup of that prudish olive oil and some salt and pepper.

My finished fried chicken. I served it with potato wedges (coated in that sweet innocent olive oil and sprinkled with Penzeys Northwoods Fire seasoning and roasted at 400 degrees) and creamed spinach.

The chicken was good, but not extraordinary. I could taste the lemon permeating the meat somewhat, but not as much as I had hoped. In the end, I'd say that this tasted pretty much like any other fried chicken. It really didn't justify the expense of making it this way. Next time I made fried chicken, it's back to the buttermilk and sriracha marinade.

Did I ever give you my creamed spinach recipe? I should. I made a version that tastes rich, but is reduced in fat. I did this by taking the advice that diet books and women's magazine articles always tell you to do. I use evaporated skim milk. There is still butter in there, so it's not a low fat dish, but it's a lot lower fat than it could be.

Short (dis)Order Cook's Creamed Spinach

Fresh spinach leaves
2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl flour
1 onion finely diced
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 can evaporated skim milk
White pepper
Pinch of nutmeg

Heat butter in a saucepan. Add onions and cook until sweated out. Add flour and cook until it loses that raw flour taste. Whisk in milk and stir over medium heat until thick. Add salt and pepper to taste and add nutmeg. Stir in spinach leaves. Cook in the sauce until cooked down.


Sara said...

Your creamed spinach sounds great! I don't fry much at home, so I haven't really paid any attention to that recipe in her book. It sure looks good though in your picture.

Bellini Valli said...

Slutty olive oil...too funny:D

Maria said...

I am glad you are getting a kick out of my rhubarb posts. There will be another new one tomorrow:)

Donna-FFW said...

Sounds like a nice dinner. Will have to try the creamed spinach recipe, that sounds delicious. Love the hint of nutmeg in there!

Emily said...

Heh heh heh. You're funny! That olive oil is waaay slutty.

The chicken sounds really good. I think I'd rather have your buttermilk marinated chicken, though.

Mmm creamed spinach.

The Duo Dishes said...

We saw that episode where Giada fried in olive oil, and though it worked, we just can't bear the expense of wasting good olive oil! Love you Giada, but can't do it. :) The chicken does look great though. The lemon juice is an interesting touch.

Sue said...

FANTASTIC! What great recipes. I always thought that about extra virgin olive oil - I refuse to say EVOO - until my Spanish friend that supplies me with my beautiful extra virgin olive oil told me to use it for EVERYTHING, so I do. I love that you called that other oil "slutty". I use one to supplement my special stuff which is even worse than the one you bought - the Berio EXTRA LIGHT one -
/Products/ExtraLight.asp. This may be the one you're searching for. It's has NO taste whatsoever and isn't extra virgin and don't tell anyone that I have it in my house.

Sorry for the long comment. I've been away and missed you.

Peter M said...

I too brown, cook, sear or fry with regular olive oil and the extra-virgin (from ugly olives) is for finishing, salads, etc.

Good call on olive oil and on the dish...Giada has some gems every now & then.

Srivalli said...

That looks great olive oil is also so good!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Sara- I don't fry much either, but sometimes I get the bug up my butt to make fried chicken. Definitely try the creamed spinach though.

Maria - I have been remiss in blog reading in the past few days, but I'll be checking out the rhubarb as soon as I can.

Val - I think I have a Madonna/Whore complex! :-D

Donna - Thx. I'd love to see what others think of my creamed spinach.

Em - I'm favoring the buttermilk chicken myself. If nothing else, it's way cheaper!

DD - Agreed. The chicken wasn't good enough to justify the expense of all of that olive oil.

Sue - Your secret is safe with me. ;-)

Peter - Ah, so the oil is extra virgin because the olives are ugly. ;-)

Srivalli - NIce to see you around. Glad you enjoyed the recipe.

Melissa said...

You're hilarious. I love Giada's citrus and garlic chicken too, and don't mind her stuff in general. I'll take your word for the fried chicken recipe, but would definitely like to try the Farmer's Pasta (which I'm glad worked for the birthday gathering above).

Thanks for the spinach recipe. I make spinach constantly now and try to always do it sauteed because my creamed version is so rich. Could definitely use a lighter one.