Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Yogurt Brined Fried Chicken (& A General Fried Chicken How-To)

This recipe is part of my 30 Day Grocery Budget Diary. To see all the posts of this series in reverse chron order, click HERE.

The enzymes and mild acid in yogurt help the seasoning to penetrate the meat while keeping it moist and tender. Similar to using buttermilk, but less liquid involved, so less wasted seasoning. (Plus it's handier for people like me who always have yogurt on hand but not always buttermilk.)

I've provided fairly detailed step by step instructions for first timers, so bear with us if you're a seasoned pro. First timers, these instructions look long and complicated, but they just look that way because I've included tips and techniques you should know about deep frying and not because it's all that hard to do.

Yogurt Brined Fried Chicken
Serves 4 to 6
Time: About 60 minutes total active time

- 3.5 to 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces. Large whole breasts should be quartered (and also not mistaken for half breasts. If you're not that familiar with a chicken's anatomy, a half breast looks like one angel's wing. Large half breasts should be halved.)

For the brine:

- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 3 to 3.5 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons dried sage
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder (not garlic salt)
- 1.5 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the dredge:

- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup corn starch
- 2.5 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons dried sage
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder (not garlic salt)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

- vegetable or peanut oil for frying
- tongs for turning chicken safely

1) Mix all brine ingredients in a large bowl and stir or whisk until all the salt and sugar have been dissolved.

2) In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken with yogurt brine and gently toss and massage everything together until the brine is evenly distributed throughout. It's a good idea to check each individual piece of chicken to ensure it's been thoroughly coated.

3) Refrigerate the chicken and let it marinate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

4) 45 minutes before frying, take the chicken out of the fridge and let it come up in temperature. While it's doing that, prepare the dredge by combining all dredge ingredients in a large mixing bowl or casserole dish and stirring or whisking several times to evenly distribute all the seasonings. 

5) 10 to 15 minutes before frying, fill your large pot or pan (I like to use my wok, but you can use a Dutch or French oven, or a deep-ish cast iron skillet) to about 2/3 capacity with frying oil and preheat the oil over medium high heat to 350F to 365F. If you don't have a thermometer, you'll know the oil is ready for frying as soon as a good pinch of flour dropped in sizzles gently but immediately. 

If your oil gets to that heat before you're ready to fry, turn the heat down just a little until you're ready to fry, and then bring it back up 3 to 4 minutes before you start frying. (But remember to check again with a pinch of flour. If the flour takes time to sizzle, your oil's not hot enough, and if your oil's not hot enough, it won't properly sear the chicken and will begin to absorb into your dredge and chicken before it starts cooking, leaving you with unappetizingly greasy chicken. OTOH, if you let your oil get too hot, you'll burn your crust before the chicken's cooked through.)

Also, remember that the shallower your pot or pan, the shallower the oil, and the less time it'll take to heat up.

4) Line a sheet pan or large platter with a brown paper bag or a double layer of paper towels and set it on the counter next to the stove.

5) Working in batches of 3 to 4 pieces, coat the chicken completely with the dredge, shake off the excess, and gently slide the chicken into your oil. And again, if that flour doesn't begin to gently and immediately sizzle upon hitting that oil, resist the urge to let it fry anyway, and let the oil come up in temp before you put the chicken in.

I like to put similarly sized/same type pieces in together, largest ones first. That way, a) each batch finishes cooking at roughly the same time and b) the larger pieces that have been fried first will retain heat longer while the smaller pieces are finishing up.

Generally speaking, I find that thighs take longest - 15 to 18 minutes total, 7.5 to 9 minutes per side, and drums, whole wings, and breast pieces take 12 to 15 minutes total, 6 to 7.5 minutes per side.

Don't forget to flip midway! :)

6) When it's time to take the chicken out, using your tongs, gently shake off excess oil, and set it on your lined sheet pan or platter.

And that's it! Looks like a lot, but it's pretty simple.

A few more tips:

- A splatter screen is a great thing for keeping the greasy messes to a minimum.

- After your first successful batch of fried chicken, you'll find that the frying time actually gives you quite a lot of downtime during which to work on your side dishes. But if it's your first time making fried chicken, and you're nervous about it, get your side dishes out of the way before you start frying (or buy them).

- If your oil's getting too hot, you can turn the heat down just a little bit, wait a couple of minutes to let the oil temp adjust, and start frying again.

- If the sizzle slows down, that probably means your oil needs to be a little bit hotter. Turn it up just a bit. You don't want your chicken to take too much less or more than the times suggested above. You want to maintain a gentle, active, and steady sizzle as you deep fry. No slow bubbles, but no crazy hot oil splattering, either.

- You can reuse frying oil at least 3 or 4 times before discarding. Remember to let it cool completely before putting it back into a container. Letting it cool is good for at least a couple of things: 1) SAFETY and 2) the dregs sink to the bottom, so instead of wasting your life filtering the oil, you can just pour the mostly clear stuff back in and leave the dregs at the bottom.

- A flexible rubber spatula is great for squeegee-ing the last of the cloudy oil and frying dregs into a junkmail lined plastic bag for disposal.

It's 3-ish AM as I write this because the dog has woken me up midsleep yet again. If I've missed anything or you have any questions, feel free to ask. :)

Happy Frying!


Monday, September 29, 2014

$138 A Week For Groceries - THE LAST MEALS POST! (Hallelujah!!!)

This is it. The last meal post of this month-long grocery budget diary. 'Twas loverly not to have to pick up a pen or camera every time we ate last weekend. :)

Yogurt Brined Fried Chicken

Just a few comments before I get into the meals and then work on the wrap-up analysis, which is my favorite part of these grocery diaries:

- I realize that living in a generally metropolitan area of Southern California, I probably have greater access to a wide variety of ingredients at lower prices than most people in the US. With the exception of a few ethnic pantry ingredients that are easily purchased online, I've tried to keep my shopping to ingredients and products that are fairly accessible in mosts part of the country so that this diary and the dishes in it are relatable.

- I also know that not everyone (ok, not most people, even) have the same time, energy, and inclination for cooking that I do. And in that way, I'm sure this diary has been somewhat unrelatable to many. But I do hope that I've shared some ideas and recipes that anyone can find helpful.

- Whenever I do these diaries, I realize that I am woefully lacking in tactics, gimmicks, formulas, and systems to make what I do seem easier than it is, but I'm ok with this. What I strive and hope to provide is a dynamic and reasonable thinking person's approach to cooking and eating, in which an intelligent, healthful, balanced and delicious kind of frugality is a prime directive.

Hopefully I've achieved some combination of the above with this project (and this blog in general).

And on to the last meals...


For me and Izz, peanut butter and banana. For the boys, cereal.

BREAKFAST TOTAL (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $2.18


Joey took his usual juice pouch and apple and came home and had a banana and a bowl of cereal. Dean bought lunch out. That was twice last week - unusual for us.

Izz and I had leftover fridge cleanout soup and rice.

Izz's serving.

My serving.

And then we had some Wheat Thins with peanut butter and Nutella. (A full serving's worth. We refilled the dish.)

LUNCH TOTAL (1 adult, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $2.46


was Yogurt Brined Fried Chicken...

...with Mashed Potatoes and watermelon...

...and a modified version of my Broccoli Raisin Slawlad - minus the raisins because I didn't have any, and with yogurt instead of mayo because I ran out of mayo...

...and some Lofthouse Cookies for dessert.

As a reminder, Mads joins us on Friday afternoons, so she was here for dinner.

DINNER TOTAL (2 adults, 2 teens, 1 toddler): $12.07

MEALS DAY 28 TOTAL: $16.71

I still have a fried chicken recipe and a wrap up post to write, so I'm outta here. :)


This post is part of my 30 Day Grocery Budget Diary. To see all the posts of this series in reverse chron order, click HERE.

Like what you're reading? Do you find it helpful, useful, entertaining, or any combination thereof? You might consider supporting this blog. :)

Friday, September 26, 2014

$138 A Week For Groceries - Easy Provençal Roast Chicken & Meals Days 26 & 27 (Wed & Thur)

Next to last meal post of this grocery budget diary. It's been a good exercise, but I'm ready to stop keeping track of every last meal.

Super Easy Provençal Inspired Roast Chicken

I think I've kept a pretty close accounting, though I'm sure I've missed a few snacks and drinks here and there when I wasn't looking or was just too tired to care, but really not that many. You'd probably also have seen more snacking if I'd done this diary in a colder month. The heat and humidity of September cooled our appetites a bit.

Since the wrap up post takes a some extra analysis and effort, I'll get right to the meals so I can catch myself up.

As always, I've included a meal total and per serving total on the blog. The detailed ingredient cost breakdown HERE.



Cocoa crunch for the boys and Izz. Banana with peanut butter for me. (If you're wondering why the coffee hasn't been accounted for this week, it's because we're drinking gift coffee.)

BREAKFAST TOTAL (2 adult, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $2.36


The very last of that Slow Cooker Korean Style Spicy Soy Sauce Chicken between me and Dean, the larger portion for Dean. Izz shared my chicken and rice with me.

I also had some Korean style lettuce wraps with my lunch. Dean took an apple.

As you can see, this leftovers thing requires some cooperation. Lucky for me, Dean is not a picky eater nor complainer. He gets that leftovers are not only a break on my workload, but a break for our Entertainment budget, which absorbs any of his lunches out, and we'd both rather that money go toward our enjoyment as a family if it can.

Joey took his usual juice pouch and apple, and since he had a half day at school decided to treat himself to some McDonald's with his friend with his allowance money. (See? I told you we eat crapfood. ;) )

LUNCH TOTAL (2 adults, 1 toddler): $3.65


was my Super Easy Provençal Inspired Roast Chicken with some added potatoes for our starch element and some endives because the endives needed to get eaten. Oh, and lime instead of lemon because I was all out of lemons.

Also a spring greens salad dressed with a simple red wine vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, minced onions, salt, pepper, a little mustard, a pinch of sugar, some water to tone down the acid of the vinegar, and olive oil.

Izz had some chicken and a banana.

Oh, and we also enjoyed a bottle of cheap, cheap Tempranillo with our dinner. I love the versatility of Tempranillo.

DINNER (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $14.12

CHICKEN & SALAD FOR 5: $9.61 (chicken was cheap this week!)

MEALS DAY 26 TOTAL: $20.13



For me, a small bowl of that Cocoa Crunch cereal with milk. For the boys, scrambled eggs and watermelon.

Izz had Cocoa Crunch and a banana.

BREAKFAST TOTAL (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $4.04


Joey's usual juice pouch and apple. He was too lazy to get himself a snack after school. I have a feeling laziness might also be part of the reason he doesn't pack sandwiches for himself anymore. He's used to his Abuelita doing that for him at his other house, but we have different plans for him. MWAHAHAHAHAAAA...

Dean took some of the leftover Provençal Roast Chicken with some rice and some watermelon and cantaloupe.

Izz and I had a playdate with Bahlet and Bibi (aka Violet and Abby), and we all had some In N Out. Since Abby and I take turns getting the INO, and it was my turn, that comes out of the Entertainment budget.

LUNCH (1 adult, 1 teen (ish)): $1.55


was that fridge cleanout soup I made with the leftover rib ends from last last weekend and all the aging veg that was fit to soup together. Full ingredient list HERE if you're interested.

Over some steamed rice, with chopped green onions on top.

And a simple salad of the rest of the spring greens and the last tomato with the last of the vinaigrette we made on Wednesday night. If I have one complaint about the produce at our Sprout's, it's that the big box of organic salad greens never holds up well. It always gets slimy fairly quickly, and I end up having to try to wash them and pick out what's left that's fit to eat. I lost a good third of them this time. This never happens to be with the Walmart box of organic greens, by the way. I wonder if it's something in the processing or packing...

Izz had some soup and rice and loved it so much she had seconds. Then she had a banana. Because she's bananas for bananas this week.

DINNER TOTAL (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $5.61
SOUP FOR 6: $2.80

MEALS DAY 27 TOTAL: $11.20

OMG. I'm all caught up now. I could pinch myself.

Off to fry some chicken for the very last meal of this diary.

Happy weekend, all. :)


$138 A Week For Groceries - On "Do You Guys Ever Eat Junk Food???" & Meals Days 24 & 25 (Mon & Tue)

After this post, there are only three more days of meals to blog followed by the wrap-up, which is my favorite post of these grocery budget diaries because I get to see the big picture of our shopping and eating expenditures and habits.

Dean's Favorite Fish Tacos

As I thought I might have to, I did end up doing a little extra shopping this week, but it wasn't for protein. Another $13.53 spent on watermelon, bananas (Izz can't get enough this week), bread because I was jonesing for toast this morning, and some Lofthouse cookies because Joey's got friends coming over this weekend, and everybody loves those things.

From time to time, people will ask me if I ever buy junk or processed snack foods, and it occurs to me that I must look to some of them like the stereotypical organic nazi mom looks to me. But we actually do eat a little bit of everything - XX Flamin' Hot Cheetos, McDonald's, Taco Bell, Lofthouse Cookies, instant ramen, Diet Cokes, potato chips, sugary cereal, etc. - but we just treat those things as indulgences, whether for convenience or that strange black foodmagic appeal of so-called junk food, rather than the norm.

I really do believe that that is a primary factor in our ability to eat and drink what we do - without counting calories or obsessing over fats and sugars - while reasonably maintaining our health, weight, and size.

And on to the meals...

As always, I've included a meal total and per serving total on the blog. The detailed ingredient cost breakdown HERE.



For me, yet more of that Slow Cooker Korean Style Spicy Soy Sauce Chicken. Doesn't look so appetizing here (or in the lunch pic), but sometimes eating leftovers gets real. :P

Izz had 2 bananas and milk. The boys both had cereal with milk.

BREAKFAST TOTAL (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $2.02


Dean took some of the Spicy Soy Sauce chicken and cantaloupe. The glop is from the collagen from the chicken before the sauce gets heated up - totally normal and natural and perfectly safe).

I had some scrambled eggs...

... Izz had yet more banana and also some cantaloupe. (She actually had 5 or 6 refills of that little dish).

She also had some porridge made of rice and chicken stock (aka jook and congee among others).

And then I got hungry again and made myself a half packet of Sapporo Ichiban (our default instant ramen) with a poached egg.

Joey took his usual juice pouch and apple to school and came home and ate an extra large serving of cereal with milk.

LUNCH TOTAL (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $5.13


Was one of the large cod fillets I bought cut into 3 portions, pan fried, and topped with a quick sauce made from some of that repurposed Hoisin-Sriracha BBQ sauce we used a couple weeks ago on Dean's smoked ribs mounted with a fat dollop of butter.

That was a little heavy for the cod, but I had planned to make sauteed chicken livers for dinner only to find they'd gone bad right as I was about to cook, so I threw together the quickest thing I could. Good thing chicken livers are cheap.

Joey's Favorite Crunchy Soy Slaw on the side.

Izz had the fish and rice and lots more cantaloupe. (Well lots for a 2 year old.)

DINNER TOTAL (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $6.95
COD + SLAW FOR 3: $6.40

MEALS DAY 24 TOTAL: $14.10



Yogurt for me, Dean, and Joey.

2 bananas, cantaloupe, and milk for Izz.

BREAKFAST TOTAL (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $2.57


Joey took his usual juice pouch and apple and didn't have a snack when he came home.

Izz and I shared a Sapporo Ichiban ramen. Izz had hers with some cantaloupe on the side. She was all about the cantaloupe while it lasted and had a couple of refills. She also had a banana later.

I had mine with poached egg and the pho treatment as usual.

I didn't pack a lunch for Dean on Monday. This week's been spotty for packing lunches, as you will see...

LUNCH TOTAL (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $3.17


Dean's Favorite Fish Tacos made with the other large cod fillet, only with chunky pico de gallo rather than the blended version in the fish taco recipe.

Fruit on the side.

Izz had four pieces of the fish and some cantaloupe and grape as well.

Oh, and a couple of Coronas each for me and Dean.

DINNER TOTAL (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $17.62

MEALS DAY 25 TOTAL: $23.35
This is the third time I've done this grocery budget project, and I have to say that tracking all the meals in the last week is always such drudgery. I can't imagine keeping track of everything I eat for longer than a month.

One more post to go for today!


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

$138 A Week For Groceries - Days 22 & 23 Meals (Sat & Sun)

Just a few more meal posts and a wrap-up post and this little project will come to an end. A month doesn't last like it used to.

Since I have another 2-day post to catch up on, I'll go straight to the meals.

Kimchi Fried Rice - my favorite homecooked meal of the weekend. ^^

If you're just joining us, this post is part of my 30 day grocery budget diary in which I detail all my grocery shopping for a month as well as all the home-cooked/prepared food our family enjoys from those groceries and the cost of each meal, as well as each serving where applicable.

I'm also sharing recipes as well as my ideas for repurposing leftovers and generally making the best use possible of the food in my kitchen.

With no further ado, last weekend's meals.

As always, I've included a meal total and per serving total on the blog. The detailed ingredient cost breakdown HERE.

Joey was hanging at his other house, so it was me, Dean, Mads and Izz last weekend. Calendars sure do come in handy when you share kids. ;)



Mads opted out of her usual weekend morning ramen and asked me to make some scrambled eggs for her instead.

Dean, Izz and I had cereal. Coffee for me and Dean, milk and also a banana for Izz.

BREAKFAST TOTAL (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $2.78


was sangchu ssahm (SAHNGchoo SSAHM - Korean style lettuce wraps) with boiled pork shoulder slices. 

If you've never had them before, you take a leaf of lettuce, add some Korean herbs if you've got 'em (I had some purple perilla from the garden, and also cilantro, which isn't typical to Korean cuisine, but we love it), add a small spoonful of rice, a slice of pork, and a dab of ssamjang (which is dwenjang, Korean style miso, seasoned with garlic, green onions, fresh chilies, and toasted sesame oil, among other things), wrap it all up, shove the whole parcel in your mouth, and then cover your mouth as you chew all dainty-like as if you didn't just shove about three bites' worth of food in your mouth. (But you did...)

Mads doesn't care for the ssamjang so she made a Hoisin-sriracha dipping sauce for herself like we do when we have Vietnamese Summer Rolls (Goi Cuon).

Izz had a few slices of pork and some rice. She also had a couple more bananas during the day, so I'll tack them on here. She is on a banana roll this week as you will see...

LUNCH TOTAL (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $9.59


was Kimchi Fried Rice made with the last of the pork belly instead of the bacon that's in my recipe.

That was really good, and we all wished I'd made more.

Izz isn't up for that level of heat yet, so she just had some rice with water (I think I explained before that that's a Korean thing) with a few pieces of pork and some cantaloupe.

Oh, and 2 Diet Cokes split between the 3 of us.

DINNER TOTAL (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $3.57
COST OF KIMCHI FRIED RICE FOR 3: $2.19 ($2.89 if the rice wasn't leftovers)
COST PER SERVING: $0.73 ($0.96 if rice wasn't leftovers)

MEALS DAY 22 TOTAL: $15.94



Dean, Izz and I had some of that Mom's Best Cocoa Crunch. (It's really good as kiddie chocolate cereals go, I must admit.) Izz also had a banana.

Mads was back to her ramen habit.

BREAKFAST TOTAL (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $4.31


We went out for Vietnamese food at I Love Pho, and that goes on the Entertainment Budget.


was that Slow Cooker Korean Style Spicy Soy Sauce Chicken that I'd made in advance (which is why it doesn't look as purty as when I just made it) with some rice and Kimchi. Izz had hers without the kimchi.

And a couple of Diet Cokes split between the 3 of us again.

And some grapes for everyone. We ate lots of grapes on Sunday. They were super sweet. :)

DINNER TOTAL (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 toddler): $9.40

MEALS DAY 23 TOTAL: $13.72

Tonight's roast chicken awaits. Time to take it out of the oven!