I was sent a review copy of this book. So full disclosure, we do NOT eat out near as much as the average family, which is 3 times or more per week according to the press release they sent me with the review copy. So my review is not based on how “accurate” these recipes copy certain dishes but how they tasted. And so far so good with one minor exception.
The first recipe we tried was from the Olive Garden, for Chicken Crostina. This has you cook some boneless skinless chicken breasts in olive oil, then top with a mixture of shredded potatoes, Parmesan, garlic powder, parsley, and bread crumbs and put under the broiler for a few minutes, until the potatoes are cooked. This in itself was fantastic. And it worked well as leftovers, believe it or not. We just nuked the leftover chicken with some topping. Mmmm. The full recipe called for a sauce of roasted garlic, white wine, cream (I used half and half), Parmesan, parsley and diced tomatoes. The pasta and sauce was so-so. I found it bland. The girls found it “winey.” Perhaps using fresh garlic rather than roasted would kick it up a notch. More something was needed anyway.
My youngest asked me to try the Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe next but I don’t have a pressure fyer, which the book said was key. So I did what I normally do for recipes. I took the “gist” of the KFC recipe, in terms of soaking in buttermilk (except I used sour cream thinned with some milk) and egg, then dipped in the flour and mix of 10 spices (flour, oregano, chili powder, sage, basil, marjoram, pepper, salt, paprika, onion salt, and garlic powder. I omitted the Accent because I don’t ever use that because I have reactions to it. )
Then I used the cooking method in the same cookbook for Church’s fried chicken. We don’t have Church’s around here but I can attest that the cooking method works great! Basically, you dip the chicken pieces in whatever–I used the KFC variant of egg and sour cream rather than buttermilk, the Church’s recipe in here calls for just egg and water. (The spice mix for Church’s is self rising flour, cornstarch, seasoned salt, paprika, baking soda, biscuit mix, Italian dressing mix, and onion soup mix.) So I used the KFC mix mentioned above, but cooked it a la Church’s.
Basically fry in hot oil skin side down about 5 minutes, then turn and cook a few more minutes, then put on a foil lined pan and cover 3 sides (so steam can escape) and bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes, remove the foil and bake another 5 minutes.
Oh yum! Turned out great! I served with mashed potatoes and gravy I made from the drippings from frying the chicken so it had all those nice spices in it. I actually did measure the oil, wondering how much oil the chicken would absorb when I was frying it, since we do try to be moderately healthy around here. I had cut up a whole chicken into legs, wings with meat, thighs, and breasts then cut the breasts in half so basically had 10 pieces. I started with 1 cup of canola oil and ended up with over 3/4 of a cup after. Then I used 1/4 cup of it for the gravy, which made about 2 cups.
The recipes cover quite a range of restaurants and are well written and easy to follow.
How to Make Gravy for Chicken:
If you’ve cut up a whole chicken as I did, since whole chickens were .79/pound and the cut up ones were over $3/pound, use the neck and gizzards and such to make the broth for the gravy while the chicken is baking. (If your family doesn’t eat wings, use those as well.) Just cover the chicken parts with water and simmer. If you have a bit of onion and/or carrot and/or celery add it with some salt and pepper. Simmer while the chicken is baking and use the broth for the gravy.
Heat 1/4 cup of the drippings in the same pan you fried the chicken. Add 1/4 cup flour while cooking over medium heat. Stir until absorbed and then cook another few minutes, stirring around. Add 1.5 to 2 cups chicken broth (or chicken bouillon and water) slowly, stirring it in until you have it a bit more runny than you like, then cook it down a bit, stirring. Allow about 5-10 minutes at the end for making the gravy. If you want milk gravy, use 1/2 broth and 1/2 milk for the liquid.
Really a great dinner, served with mashed potatoes and a green salad with avocados and tomatoes.