Wednesday, 29 February 2012
It is perhaps strange that there is no particular tradition associated with Leap Day, which occurs once every four years (duh).
Of course, traditions are associated with it here and there: According to European folklore, women can propose marriage to men on Leap Day, an offer that the man cannot refuse(!) without paying a steep price. There is even a society of Leap Day babies.
But it is not a holiday in the way we think of Christmas or even Labor Day or Memorial Day. You'd think there would be something one could do to celebrate a day that happens only once every four years.
With the yin and yang in this country of humans understanding better than ever before how and why to eat things and how to stay healthy contrasted with the obesity epidemic, we propose Leap Day as a Day to Eat That Which You Would Not Usually Eat, because it (a) is terrible for you, (b) is cruel and unusual or (c) is a giant pain to prepare.
There are certainly plenty of things that are terrible for you that you should eat only once every four years. Consider Paula Deen's now-infamous "Lady's Brunch Burger," a hamburger between two Krispy Kreme (or Krispy Kreme-style) glazed doughnuts, with bacon and a fried egg, a concoction that really should end up in some sort of Potentially Lethal Hangover Food Hall of Fame. Just a few weeks ago, a patron at the Las Vegas restaurant Heart Attack Grill suffered a heart attack while eating a "Triple Bypass Burger." Clearly, this is what Cookie Monster would call a "sometimes food."
Josh Watkins, executive chef at Carillon Restaurant, would indulge in sweets from the Texas State Fair. "Funnel cakes, fried Snickers, candy apples, cotton candy, fried Twinkies, fried ice cream, fried cookie dough," he said in an email. "And for dessert I'll have some fried butter, chicken fried bacon, a turkey leg, and Texas fried Frito pie." Ahem.
Then there are the foods that are morally suspect. One doesn't expect vegans to suddenly eat veal on Leap Day, but for omnivores, the possibilities are endless.
The most famous bad karma food is the Ortolan, the endangered French songbird that was rendered nearly extinct because of its popularity as a delicacy. Its demise seems unpleasant: It is captured, fattened and drowned in Armagnac. After being cooked, it is served piping hot. Then it is traditionally eaten — whole, bones and all — with a napkin over one's head, either to capture the aroma or hide from God. Its consumption is illegal, but a thriving black market trade remains.
And then there is the stuff that is just exhausting to make. To that end we present a very special chicken and waffles recipe.
Happy Leap Day. Go eat a songbird. Or chicken and waffles. Or a giant burger.
Fried Chicken and Waffles with Jalapeño Maple Syrup and Bacon Onion Marmalade
Chicken and waffles used to be much more of an indulgence than they are now, but chef Casey Simmons at Grille at Rough Hollow offers an over-the-top version served with jalapeño-laced maple syrup and bacon and onion marmalade during Sunday brunch at his restaurant overlooking Lake Travis in Lakeway. Read through the recipe before starting; there are several steps, such as marinating the chicken, that require working ahead of cooking time.
— Addie Broyles
For the chicken:
1 quart buttermilk
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 cup honey
1 cup maple syrup
2 jalapeños, diced
2 lb. chicken, cut into strips
In a large bowl, mix buttermilk, parsley, honey, maple syrup and jalapeños with a hand mixer until mixed well. Place chicken strips in marinade, cover and let rest in the refrigerator overnight.
For the marmalade:
16 oz. bacon
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1½ cups honey
1½ lb. brown sugar
2 cups chicken broth
In a large sauce pot, cook bacon until crispy and remove bacon from heat. Add onions and cook about five minutes. While onions are cooking, crumble the bacon. Once onions have started to soften, add bacon, honey and brown sugar and heat until all the brown sugar has dissolved. Add chicken broth to sauce pot, and reduce until a third of the liquid remains. Remove from the pot and refrigerate.
For the syrup:
2 jalapeños, diced (and seeded, if you want slightly less heat)
3 cups maple syrup
1 1/2 cups honey
Add all ingredients to a medium-sized sauce pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer on low heat until reduced by a third. Syrup will thicken to desired consistency. You can store any extra in the fridge, and it will keep for at least a month.
3 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
2¾ cups milk
6 Tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 oz. powdered sugar, for garnish
1/3 cup thinly sliced basil, for garnish
In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. In another bowl combine milk and eggs. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Whisk together until smooth. Stir in melted butter and vanilla. Spoon batter into preheated waffle iron and cook until golden brown.
When ready to fry the chicken, heat a generous amount of cooking oil in a fryer or cast iron skillet to 280 to 290 degrees. Working in batches, dredge the chicken strips in flour and place in a single layer the fryer or skillet. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes, then flip the strips. Continue cooking until golden brown.
To serve, place a few slices of fried chicken on top of a waffle, drizzle with syrup and top with a spoonful of marmalade. Garnish with powdered sugar and basil. Serves 6, with leftover marmalade and syrup.
— Adapted from a recipe by Casey Simmons, executive chef at Grille at Rough Hollow