Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Last year, we had an issue with the old house plaster ceiling in my closet. It decided that after almost 100 years of being a ceiling, it was tired of hanging out up above the room and found its way to the floor...crumbling over my clothes...and shoes...and handbags...and everything else I had stashed in that black hole known as my closet. I was forced to sort and wash everything as I pulled it from the debris. Clean-up involved arranging my wardrobe in half-hazard piles in the spare rooms. Plans were made for the ceiling repair. Paint and plaster were purchased. Organizers were researched. Then, just like everything else in my life, stuff happened. Hubs got busy with farm things; other commitments took all our time. My closet was a bare, empty ruin waiting for some much needed attention...and waiting, and waiting. For the past year, I have gotten dressed by pulling items of clothing from an ugly mess of tottering stacks in weird locations around the house. Don't peek in my windows in the morning. You may likely see me running from one end of the house to the other in various states of dress or undress with random articles of clothing in hand searching for the piece that I really want (or that actually fits my expanding frame~sigh).

Now, somehow, in the middle of the repairs and mess after the hail storm, we found some time to get back to work on my neglected closet. The plaster has been smoothed and sanded. And after an evening with oil-based primer in the non-ventilated space led to some very unpleasant nausea and dizziness, we have beautiful, white walls and a ceiling eager for paint. (Neither Hubs, nor I, have plans to become huffers after that experience.) The closet makeover makes me realize that so much of the clothing that I have been fighting with for a year needs to go. Why do I need 12 black skirts when I always wear the same one? Am I ever really going to be thin enough to want to wear those white pants again? Let's face it. I won't be sporting that hot pink sweater ever. Really. My wardrobe needs a makeover before it is returned to my *hopefully soon* renovated closet.

On My Plate, I recently gave one of our tried and true menus a makeover. Chicken Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy is an ultimate comfort meal for us. We don't indulge in the sinfully good, fried luxury often, but when we do, we go all out. Tenderized chicken is dipped in buttermilk, seasoned flour, and buttery cracker crumbs before bathing in hot oil until crispy, but melt-in-your-mouth tender. The mashed potatoes are made with butter and cream. Thick, milky gravy covers the entire plate. It is pure heaven...or pure sin, depending on your dietary frame of mind.

I didn't think that our comfort food needed a makeover. There were no falling ceilings to prompt a radical change On My Plate. I just happened to see a recipe request in an old Bon Appetit. A Seattle restaurant serves up a plate of fried chicken with Roasted Poblano Mashed Potatoes and Chorizo-Thyme Gravy. It seemed like the perfect makeover for my Chicken Fried Chicken. I love food with a little heat, and while my traditional menu was comforting, spice would be a great flavor addition.

I kept the prep for my Chicken Fried Chicken the same. I also followed the printed recipe for the Roasted Poblano Mashed Potatoes. It was with the Chorizo-Thyme Gravy that I made a few adjustments. I believe that the restaurant used the Mexican type of chorizo which is a loose, ground, seasoned sausage. They cooked and crumbled it before creating the roux as the base for the gravy. I haven't had positive experiences with that type of chorizo. I considered subbing some other spicy ground sausage, but had some Spanish-style chorizo on hand and went with that cured, firm sausage instead. Diced finely and heated with the onions, it imparted a smokey aura to the milky gravy. It was a perfect makeover that landed Chicken Fried Chicken and Roasted Poblano Mashed Potatoes with Chorizo-Thyme Gravy On My Plate

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour
1/4-1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3/4-1 cup buttermilk
1-2 cup finely crushed buttery crackers (I usually need 1.5 sleeves of Club Crackers)
3 tablespoons peanut oil (or canola oil)

Preheat oven to 350F.
Pound the chicken breasts to 1/4-inch thickness between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, using meat mallet or rolling pin; set aside. (This is the most awesome way to relieve tension...especially if you haven't had a real closet in almost a year.) 
Combine flour and pepper in a shallow dish.
Pour buttermilk into a second dish.
Spread crushed crackers on a plate.
Submerge chicken breasts, one at a time, into the buttermilk
Dredge in seasoned flour.
Dip into buttermilk, then into crushed crackers to coat thoroughly, pressing with fingertips to adhere.
Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.
Add chicken; cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through. (Will have to do this one or two pieces at a time.)
Remove to oven safe platter or cookie sheet (I use a baking stone); place in oven to keep warm. (Serves 4)

2 large, fresh poblano chiles
4 pounds unpeeled red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup butter (the real deal, no *shudder* margarine)
1 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 500F.
Place the whole peppers on a sheet pan in the oven for 10-15 minutes, roast until the skins are completely wrinkled and the peppers are charred, turning them occasionally. 
Remove the pan from the oven.
Immediately place chiles in a medium bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand 10 minutes.
Peel and seed chiles; chop coarsely.
Cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling water until tender, about 14 minutes.
Drain well; transfer to large bowl.
Meanwhile, heat cream and butter in heavy small pot over medium heat until butter is melted.
Add warm butter mixture to potatoes; mash. (We like "smashed" potatoes with some chunks.)
Stir in sour cream and chopped chiles.
Cover with foil to keep warm. (Serves 4-6)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1.5-2 ounces finely diced Spanish-style smoked Chorizo sausage
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1-2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped serrano chile (optional, we didn't have it on hand and left it out this time)

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Add chorizo and onion; saute until onion is translucent.
Add flour and Worcestershire; cook 2 minutes, stirring often.
Add cream and milk; reduce heat to medium and simmer 6 minutes, stirring constantly.
Mix in thyme and serrano (if using).
Stir until gravy coats the back of spoon, about 2 minutes. 
Season with salt and pepper. (Serves 4-6)

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