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Childhood memories of food and family.

One of those rare times, my dad would appear with one of those ubiquitous buckets.

That aroma of those eleven herbs and spices wafting through the cardboard and paper bag. There were no mashed potatoes, but there were fries.

Corn fresh from the can.

And rice.

Even rarer, my grandfather would make his fried chicken. Not quite the Colonel’s, but it wasn’t shake and bake either. He did have a tendency to over char the chicken, but always tasty. Like most kids, I always went after the drumsticks first.

I don’t go for the drumstick first anymore, but I’m always ready for fried chicken. Especially, homemade, spicy, buttermilk fried chicken.

When done right, I’ll even have a piece of the white meat.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Chicken
(modified from Cook’s Illustrated – basically increased the black pepper, cayenne and used Habanero hotsauce)
Makes 8 pieces

1 1/4 cups buttermilk
Table Salt
Hot Sauce (Habanero)
4 tsp black pepper (originally 3 tsp)
2 tsp garlic powder (originally 1 tsp)
2 tsp paprika (originally 1 tsp)
2 tsp cayenne (originally 1/4 tsp)
3 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts. (8 bone-in, skin-on thighs work well)
2 cups all purpose flour (unbleached)
2 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 cups vegetable oil

Brine the Chicken (1-24hours)
1. Mix 1 cup buttermilk, 1 1/4 tablespoon salt, hot sauce, 2 teaspoon black pepper, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne together in large bowl or large freezer bag. Add chicken and coat. Refrigerate, covered, at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

Flour and cook the chicken
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and remaining black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne together in large bowl. Add remaining ¼ cup buttermilk to flour mixture and mix with fingers until combined and small clumps form. Working with 1 piece at a time, dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture, pressing mixture onto pieces to form thick, even coating. Place dredged chicken on large plate, skin side up.

3. Heat oil in tall sided large 11-inch dutch oven medium-high heat to 375F degrees. Carefully place 4 chicken pieces in pan, skin side down, and cook until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Carefully flip and continue to cook until golden brown on second side, 2 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Remove any fried bits. Repeat with other 4 pieces of chicken.

4. Bake chicken until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 160 degrees for breasts and 175 for legs and thighs, 15 to 20 minutes. (Smaller pieces may cook faster than larger pieces. Remove pieces from oven as they reach -correct temperature.) Let chicken rest 5 minutes before serving.


That ubiquitous bright bleeding red colour. That sickening cloying sweetness. The gelatinous glossy goo that sits in the bowl, ready to be scooped out onto to unsuspecting plates.

Every bite leaving that cloying saccharine film in your mouth.

Cranberry sauce.

That condiment that always gets served with turkey dinners. That condiment that you always end up having piles of left over that gets scraped into the bin.

The best part of it has been the ironic laughter if you dump it out of a can and the jelly still has the ridges from the can.

This year, under the influence of Elle, I decided to find and make cranberry sauce worth making.

I ended up with this:

Cranberry Sauce with Port and Cinnamon

* 1 cup ruby Port
* 3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
* 1 cup dried cranberries (about 6 ounces)
* 1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
* 3/4 cup water
* 1/4 cup sugar (or less)
* Fresh Rosemary sprig
* Orange zest

Bring ruby Port and broken cinnamon sticks to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and simmer mixture 5 minutes.

Add dried cranberries to saucepan; simmer until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add fresh cranberries, 3/4 cup water, and sugar; bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low; add rosemary; cover and simmer until cranberry sauce thickens and is darker in color and berries collapse, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Transfer sauce to bowl; cool; add orange zest. Discard cinnamon sticks.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Modified from an Epicurious recipe

The result?

Pretty spectacular actually. The cinnamon and the rosemary really perfume the sauce. The dried cranberries give the sauce a bit of fruity texture.  It wasn’t too sweet or cloying.  I was really impressed, and I don’t even like Cranberry Sauce.

(Thank you to Elle for the inspiration, even if I didn’t get any pine nuts)