A Summer Picnic Dinner Inside

Each Monday during the Hollywood Bowl summer season, the Hollywood Bowl Magazine sends out an email which includes a picnic dinner well suited to take to the bowl created by a different Los Angeles chef. So far this summer, the different menus have been designed by some of LA’s top chefs, including Ludo of LudoBites, Roy Choi of Kogi fame, Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan of Rustic Canyon, and Brendan Collins of Waterloo & City. This week (August 1), the menu was designed by Suzanne Goin of Lucques.

Many times the menus look very intriguing and tasty, although quite often it seems as though the chefs forget that the home cook does not have access to the same supplies or techniques as they do in their restaurants. However this week, Chef Goin created a menu that was accessible and easy enough for a home-cook, thus I took it upon myself to create the menu, save for the dessert, on my day off.

The menu was Watermelon and Heirloom Tomato Salad with Feta and Mint and Southern Tea-Brined Fried Chicken.

Currently at Jacinto Farms, watermelons and heirloom tomatoes are in season, meaning I had some really great produce to work with for the salad. I love Jacinto Farms tomatoes. Each time that I buy some, which is currently about once a week, I cannot help but marvel at the different tastes that each tomato has not to mention the rainbow of colors.

The salad turned out beautiful as I spent a few extra minutes creating a beautiful plate for Claire and myself to enjoy. I added a small base of arugula to provide some green to plate as well as a peppery kick that makes arugula so tasty. The colors just popped. And the flavors even more so. There is a ton of flavor going on in the salad, and yet all of the flavors worked together to form a very cohesive flavor profile. Claire remarked that she was a little hesitant about the salad when I first described it to her, but she really enjoyed it.

The chicken intrigued me because of the brine – sweet tea. I had some whole chicken leg quarters that I split, which yielded a leg and a thigh for Claire and me. I brined the chicken for a full 24 hours, which produced a super moist piece of chicken. I did not use the masa harina (corn flour), as I did not have any. I fried the chicken in a Dutch oven with a deep fry thermometer attached to help me regulate the temperature. I heated up the oil over medium heat, which allowed the oil to get right at 300°F without zooming past (a tip I learned from watching Alton Brown).

The chicken came out amazing. It was flavorful, although maybe a tad too salty. The breading was crisp and golden and not burnt. The sweet tea flavor was distinguishable but barely. Next time I may try and up the sweet tea flavor a little.

All in all the meal was amazing. Sure it would have been great to have enjoyed this meal while at the Hollywood Bowl, but to sit in the quietness of our home with a glass or two of wine, and not have to battle traffic or thousands of people, life is pretty great on nights like those.

WATERMELON AND HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALAD WITH FETA AND MINT
Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 1-1/2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, assorted sizes, shapes and colors
  • Approximately 5 tablespoons watermelon salad vinaigrette (See Recipe Below)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced basil
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1-1/2 pounds watermelon, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon fleur de sel
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots, sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 pound feta cheese, lightly crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons sliced mint
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

PROCEDURE

  1. Cut half the tomatoes into slices and half into wedges. Season the slices with some of the fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Place the tomato slices overlapping on a large platter. Spoon 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette over the slices and scatter a little basil on top.
  3. Scatter half the feta in and around the slabs of tomato.
  4. Place the rest of the tomatoes in a large bowl with the sliced shallots. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette, and toss gently. Taste for seasoning; add more vinaigrette if you like.
  5. Plate the tomatoes and watermelon, piling them up naturally over the slices so the slices of tomato can still be seen underneath. Scatter the remaining feta and the mint over the top of the salad.

WATERMELON SALAD VINAIGRETTE

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 cups watermelon juice
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

PROCEDURE

  1. Place the watermelon juice in a saucepan and reduce over high heat until you have 1/4 cup left. Cool.
  2. Combine the vinegars, watermelon juice reduction, salt, and pepper in bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste for balance and seasoning.

Chef Suzanne Goin

SOUTHERN TEA-BRINED FRIED CHICKEN
Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 pieces of chicken (leg, thigh, breast, or combination)
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 2 tablespoons old bay seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2-3 eggs (optional, depending on density of buttermilk)

PROCEDURE

  1. Brine chicken using tea brine recipe below. (CHEF’S NOTE: This is optional but I highly recommend it!)
  2. Combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, masa harina, old bay, chili powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. This is the breading mixture.
  3. Whisk the eggs and buttermilk together.
  4. Set up a breading station with the remaining 2 cups flour in a baking pan on the left, the buttermilk mixture in the center, and crust mixture on the right. Dredge each piece of chicken first in the flour, then in buttermilk, and finally in the crust mixture, making an even coat around each piece. Let the chicken sit 20-30 minutes before frying.
  5. Cook the chicken submerged in 300°F oil for 10 minutes or until a thermometer put to the bone of a thigh registers 165°F.

SWEET TEA BRINE FOR CHICKEN
Makes 2-1/2 quarts

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tea bags
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 quart ice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 lemon

PROCEDURE

  1. Bring water to a boil. Turn off heat, add tea bag, sugar and salt and steep 15 minutes.
  2. Place the ice in a very clean container and pour the tea over the ice.
  3. When cold add chicken and completely submerge.
  4. Place in refrigerator and brine for 24 hours.