Originally written as part of the World Cup 2014 cooking project.
Football (or soccer as it is known) in the USA has always been up against it; trying to compete with the national behemoths of basketball, baseball and of course gridiron. It has had to work hard to be even mentioned in the news over the years, but alas to quote a US icon, “The times they are a- changin’”. Not only have we seen the influx of American players to the top leagues in Europe, the national football team, according to the latest FIFA rankings, is 13th best in the world. That means that football in the USA should be taken very seriously.
Back in 1950 in the World Cup in Brazil, the USA did something quite remarkable. It beat a side that was one of the heavy favourites to win the cup, a side that is very close to my heart, a side that has a history of being in the right place at the wrong time; that’s right, they beat England. It put the US on the map, only briefly, and since then it has been a long time before it has been taken seriously as top opposition.
This World Cup so far has seen the USA just 10 seconds away from qualification to round 2. A last gasp Portuguese goal means that the USA now faces Germany in the last game in an open group where any of the 4 teams can still qualify. It will be very interesting however as one of Germany’s all-time greats (and 3rd equal all-time top scorer) Jürgen Klinsmann is now managing the US; I am sure he will be torn between emotions. A draw will be enough for both teams to progress, but given West Germany’s controversy in 1982 (see Algeria blog post) I am sure both will be going for the jugular.
One of the things that I want to put to bed here is the general perception that the USA when it comes to food is all about big, bloated, unhealthy portions of fast food that do more for the waist-line than the soul. America has been influenced by so many countries around the globe that if you step back from the fast-food chains and delve a little deeper in to the cuisine you will find some of the tastiest and most eclectic food on the planet. Not only that, there is a massive movement on both East and West Coasts for fresh, organic and locally produced ingredients; a movement that should be a benchmark for the future.
Today’s food in the US has strong roots in Latin America, Scandinavia, England, Holland, Portugal, South East Asia, and the Middle East…it’s one melting pot of great food. Today I am heading down South to Louisiana and to the food influenced by French, Spanish, African, American Indian and Italian cuisine, which to me is the heart of American cooking; you guessed it, Cajun/ Creole. This style of cooking encompasses the elements of roux (white sauce), rice, spices, stock, trinity (known as mirepoix in France), wines and liquors and sauces. It is said that if you master these 7 elements then you will be able to prepare virtually any Cajun/ Creole dish.
I used the spice element to create a Cajun/ Creole seasoning for this Cajun fried chicken. The key element of getting this one right, apart from the spice mix, is to marinate the chicken overnight in buttermilk. The acidity and enzymes in the buttermilk help tenderise the chicken.
Oh, and the difference between Creole and Cajun cooking? According to the book ‘Cajun and Creole Cooking with Miss Edie and the Colonel’:
…in a nutshell it is downhome country cooking (Cajun) versus fancy city cooking (Creole).
Sounds like this Cajun deep-fried chicken is ideal for the football then. And although I seem to be going against my opening spiel about fast-food, this Cajun beauty is anything but.
Cajun Fried Chicken - USAPrint
- For the Cajun Seasoning:
- ■ 4 tsp. sweet paprika |
- ■ 3 tsp. dried thyme leaves |
- ■ 4 tsp. dried basil leaves |
- ■ 3 tsp. dried oregano leaves |
- ■ 2 tsp. dea salt |
- ■ ½ tsp. hot cayenne pepper | Or 1 tsp. of regular Cayenne pepper.
- ■ 2 tsp. ground black pepper | Freshly ground is preferable.
- ■ 2 tsp. ground white pepper | Freshly ground is preferable.
- ■ 2 tsp. garlic powder |
- ■ 2 tsp. onion powder |
- For the Chicken:
- ■ 1 x 1.6kg whole free range chicken | Cut in to 10 pieces: wings, drumsticks, thighs, each breast halved.
- ■ 600ml buttermilk |
- ■ 300g plain flour |
- ■ 2 free range eggs | Beaten.
- ■ 150ml whole milk |
- ■ 2 tbsp. Cajun seasoning | Made above.
- ■ 1-2 litres grapeseed oil | For deep frying.
For the seasoning: add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix well. If you have coarse pepper and salt granules use a spice grinder and blend all the ingredients to a powder (or use a pestle and mortar).
For the chicken: Put the chicken pieces in a bowl and cover with the buttermilk (ensure all the chicken is covered). Cover with cling film and let the chicken marinate overnight.
Prepare 3 bowls: one with 150g of flour and 2 tablespoons of seasoning, well mixed; one with the beaten eggs and milk, well mixed; and one with just 150g of plain flour.
In a pan suitable for deep-frying preheat the cooking oil to 180°C (360°F).
Drain the buttermilk from the chicken. First coat all the pieces with the flour and seasoning, ensuring to shake off any excess. Next take a piece of the floured and seasoned chicken, dip it in the egg and milk allowing any excess to drip off, and then finally dust it with the plain flour, again shaking off any excess. Repeat for all the chicken pieces.
Put the chicken pieces in the hot oil. Do in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. It’s also a good idea to cook similar sized pieces together. The chicken is done when it is golden brown – it took me about 7 minutes per batch, turning the chicken halfway through.
I served this with Cajun style green beans and deep fried potato balls (Brabant potatoes). Maybe I will post these recipes later, after the hectic World Cup schedule.