Thursday, January 21, 2016

KFC's Nashville Hot Chicken - A Review

Every region has their food tradition which instantly reminds an eater of the bailiwick which claims the dish as its own. Philadelphia has the cheesesteak, Chicago has deep dish pizza, Maine has clam chowder, Boston has the baked bean sandwich, etc...

 Even though I hadn't heard of it before, "hot chicken," chicken which has been soaked in buttermilk, coated in; chili powder, paprika, and other spices; then fried until a spicy red crust forms, has become the signature dish of Nashville, Tennessee. This week the fast food chain, KFC, unveiled its version of hot chicken at all 4,300 U.S. locations.

 KFC's Hot Chicken 3 Tenders Meal
Subject: KFC's Hot Chicken 3 Tenders Meal | Date: 01/21/16 |
Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell | This picture was taken by the author of this blog. |

For $5.49, diners have a choice of three chicken tenders or chicken on the bone (breast, drumstick and thigh) served with coleslaw and pickle chips to balance the spiciness. Instead of the traditional slice of white bread to mop up the red sauce, the meal comes with KFC’s signature buttermilk biscuit.

Larger portions are available, topping out at the 24-piece "tailgate platter" of hot chicken tenders for $29.99, which will probably be a big seller on February 7th.

I went to the KFC at 3340 SW Cedar Hills Blvd. in Beaverton, Oregon and had the three tenders meal.  I received three spicy chicken strips, three slices of dill pickle, a single serving of coleslaw, and a biscuit.

Given the number of $4 & $5 value meals on the market, which come with a drink, I was a bit surprised this spice-centric meal didn't include a beverage.  Thus, I shelled out the $1.50 for a medium Diet Pepsi, bringing my lunch to $6.99.

The slaw was KFC's regular sweet creamy coleslaw, and the biscuit was their normal soft biscuit accompanied by a package of Honey Sauce and a package of spreadable butter.  They both proved to be necessary counters to the spice of the chicken.

The dill pickle slices were tart an tasty, but not outstanding.  Given their tiny size and the fact I only got one slice per chicken strip, they were little more than a garnish, not adding much to the meal.

The chicken itself was served as three three inch red crispy strips bathed in a thin red sauce.  These were extremely spicy.  A few bites made my face red and my nose run.  Beneath the spice were welcome flavors of smoke and a Teriyaki-like sweetness, which made for a complex bite.

Eaters who like, and can tolerate, extremely spicy food will find this chicken to be a delicious alternative to the Colonel's standard fare.  I give the Nashville Hot Chicken Tenders themselves 8 out of 10 stars, but I can only give the meal, as a whole, 7 out of 10 stars.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I'm Back + Olive Garden's Lobster Ravioli

Vacation's over, and I'm back in the culinary saddle.  While I was away, I partook of my share of holiday treats.  Being the holidays though, I didn't photograph my meals or make notes as I feasted and spent time with family.

One Chinese restaurant is grateful, even if they don't realize it, that I wasn't "on duty" when I ate there.  Their  "spicy" Orange Beef was bland, and when I ate my Vietnamese Roll I found the Lime dipping sauce to be cloyingly sweet, with no citrus flavor.

Nevertheless, I did come across one note worthy dish while I was away.  Olive Garden has brought back their Lobster Ravioli for $18.99.  The menu describes the dish as (Ravioli filled with North American lobster and cheese, topped with a lobster Alfredo sauce, sauteed jumbo shrimp, basil and sun-dried tomatoes).

The "Alfredo sauce" was flavorful, tasting of cheese, garlic, and seafood broth.  Plus, I had six fairly good sized shrimp accompany approximately 20 ravioli.  The flavors were there.  Honestly though, they were cheese ravioli with lobster, since each pasta pillow was filled with a savory cheese blend and a few small pieces of lobster.

Olive Garden's Lobster Ravioli is tasty and filling.  Yet, it falls short of delivering the big chunks of lobster diners might expect.  Therefore, while I like it, I can only give Olive Garden's Lobster Ravioli 7 out of 10 stars.

Side Note:
You'll notice I put the term Alfredo sauce in quotes above.  I did so because a portion of food society claims there's no such thing as Alfredo sauce.

Having grown up in suburban America, I've become accustomed to a savory cream sauce served over pasta.   It's the version Olive Garden, and most other Italian/American eateries base their recipes on.
Americanized Alfredo Sauce:

1/4 pound (1/2 cup) sweet butter, melted
1 cup heavy cream, warmed
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Mix all ingredients. Pour over 4 servings of warm noodles (I use angel hair). Serve immediately.
However, cuisine aficionados, such as Lynne Rossetto Kasper maintain Pasta Alfredo is a way of preparing a pasta dressing, rather than a sauce, named for the Restaurant Alfredo in Rome.
Rome Style Pasta Alfredo

1 lb pasta,
1 stick (4 oz) butter,
1.5-2 cups Parmigiano Reggiano,
1 cup heavy cream,
1 clove of garlic,
salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter in the pan with salt and pepper. Add the garlic to the butter when melting but don't brown it. Add the freshly-cooked hot pasta to the butter and mix it together over low heat.  Then add cream in to the pasta and let the cream and butter will be absorbed by the pasta as you continue to toss the pasta.  Finally sprinkle on grated Parmesan cheese and keep tossing until the cheese joins with the coating on the noodles.  Season once more with salt and pepper if necessary end serve.
Truthfully, I can't grasp the difference between a dressing and a sauce.  One could argue a dressing's cooked with the pasta while a sauce is poured over the pasta.  Yet, I've known spaghetti to be cooked with its sauce.

While I don't see the value in making the distinction between a dressing and a sauce, and I think Alfredo sauce does exist, if only because the populace has agreed it does, I will concede the idea that our version probably pales to its Roman counterpart.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Best Of My Holiday Blogs

After publishing 184 food blogs, I've run out of holiday topics. I can only talk about turkey/wine pairings and oyster dressing so many years in a row. I could veer from talking about traditional holiday food, and write about cutting edge gastronomic fare, such as turkey which dissolves on the tongue. That's not genuine cooking to me though, and it certainly has nothing to do with holiday fare.

Instead, I’ll be taking a break from blogging. During the next 6 weeks I’m going to; design & send this year’s Christmas card, design next year’s calendar, rewrite a few chapters of my book, and look into raising money for a copyright lawyer so I can self publish “Murder According To Hoyle.”

In the meantime, readers can browse some of my best holiday blogs.

 Turkey served
Title: Turkey | Date: 10/27/2010 | Photographer: Howard Portnoy | This graphic was released into the public domain by the photographer.
Kicking Off Thanksgiving Dinner - Covers Deviled Eggs and other Thanksgiving appetizers, and includes my Oyster Dressing recipe |

A Taste Of The First Thanksgiving |

What are the Best Holiday Wine & Food Pairings? - A Guest Post by Vintage Wine Gifts |

Feed Someone This Thanksgiving |

A Taste Of Traditional English Christmas Dinner |


Instead of the usual links to related products, you'll find links to a few hunger related charities, you can donate to, at the bottom of this entry.

| No Kid Hungry | Save The Children | Feed The Children | Random Acts Of Pizza |
| Meals On Wheels | Loaves & Fishes |
| Portland's Sunshine Division |

SEE YOU IN 2016!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Seasonal Eating? Pt. 2

Roast beef with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and vegetables
Title: Roast beef with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and vegetables | Photographer: HotBabyHot | Date: 03/29/2007 | This graphic was released into the public domain by the photographer.
As I said in my last blog, I remarked to my friend, Dani, that a certain recipe would be a good soup for Fall. She looked at me as if I'd confessed to being D.B. Cooper. The idea of "seasonal food" was a foreign idea to her.

I was taken aback by her reaction.  Being a "food person," I figured people generally ate; rustic & smoky dishes (sausages, roast beef, pot pie) in the fall, heavy bone warming dishes (mac and cheese, foul dressing, stew) in the winter, crisp fresh greens (spinach, spring greens, asparagus) in the spring, and grilled foods (corn on the cob, BBQ ribs, burgers) in the summer.

Of course, we eat many other things outside of those boxes, and I knew there was plenty of overlap, but I thought seasonal eating was a generally practiced rule of thumb.  Struck by the possibility that seasonal eating wasn't as common a practice as I had first thought, I conducted a poll and asked my readers if they eat according to season.

 photo poll.jpg
Screenshot of results of poll taken at On My Plate: Seasonal Eating?.

Nobody, who took the poll, was strict about eating only seasonal foods.  However, 60% of those polled said they at least try to eat seasonally.  The other 40% claimed their diet isn't influenced by the time of year.  I'd tend to question the accuracy of the second statistic.

Few people, if anyone, enjoy fruitcake and eggnog in April, roast a turkey with all the trimmings in August, or grill ribs in their backyard in December.  Weather and holiday traditions DO dictate, to some degree, when we eat certain foods.

Tradition aside though, in an era of super markets and chain restaurants, we CAN pretty much eat what we want when we want.  Unlike our ancestors, who were limited in what they could eat by growing seasons and geography, we can go to Applebee's in February for those ribs.  We can buy oranges in June, asparagus in October, and tomatoes in December.  They're watery tomatoes, which have been bread for greenhouse mass production, rather than flavor, but they're tomatoes.

While we're technically not limited in what we can eat at any given time, I don't think there's any denying that many foods are going to taste better during certain times of year.  Tomatoes and corn on the cob are going to taste better purchased from a Farmers' Market in August than ones found in the grocery store in March.