♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Today on "Cook's Country," Bryan and Bridget update a classic recipe for one-batch fried chicken, Jack challenges Julia to a tasting of strawberry spreads, and Christie makes Julia a regional favorite -- North Carolina cheese biscuits.
That's alright here on "Cook's Country."
-Before he was known as the Colonel, Harland Sanders was a streetcar conductor, soldier, fireman, tire salesman, and gas-station attendant.
-He was a scrappy guy.
-[ Chuckles ] -It was at the gas station that Sanders saw a real opportunity, because travelers would ask him where they could eat.
So he started selling hot biscuits and fried chicken.
-But then in 1939, a fire burned down the gas station.
But Sanders rebuilt it and expanded it to include Sanders Cafe, complete with a motor court.
-Now, Sanders was using a pressure cooker, which he affectionately named Bertha, to fry big, old batches of chicken.
Bertha was fast, but she was really dangerous for cooks to use.
-So he commissioned the Collectramatic, a self-draining pressure fryer, complete with time and temperature controls, which turned fried chicken into fast food.
-Now, we know that the colonel may have his own secret recipe, and we've got ours, and we're gonna share it with you.
[ Whispering ] I think it's better.
[ Normal voice ] So let's go head into the kitchen with Bryan to see how it's done.
♪♪ So, the real question is, is Bryan gonna give up the secret to this fried chicken?
What are you gonna do?
You gonna give it up?
-I'm gonna tell you.
I'm gonna tell you the whole story.
Otherwise, this would have been an awkward 30 minutes or so, wouldn't it?
A lot of filler.
-[ Laughs ] We worked really hard to uncover the secrets to one of the most popular fast-food fried chickens.
And I'm happy to report that this chicken is as much about the frying process and technique as it is the flavor.
-But it all starts with a buttermilk brine.
I have 2 cups of buttermilk here, and to that we're gonna add 1 tablespoon of table salt.
And we're just gonna whisk that until it's fully dissolved.
Okay, and to that we're going to add three pounds of chicken parts.
Now, this is broken down from a four-pound chicken.
Drumsticks and thighs are gonna go in the brine as is.
A lot of our fried-chicken recipes, we ask you to cut the split chicken breast in half.
So, this is a bone-in piece of chicken breast.
And the reason why we do that is because we want this big piece of chicken to match the size of the thigh and the drumstick so all the chicken cooks at the same rate.
So we're just gonna cut crosswise, a little bit left of center here, just so we have similar weights for both sides.
-So now we're gonna put this chicken in the buttermilk brine, make sure it's all submerged.
And while it's in the brine, that salt's gonna work on the chicken to change the structure of the protein so the meat holds onto more moisture as it cooks, and it's also going to season the chicken.
So, we're gonna cover this with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least an hour or up to a full 24 hours.
♪♪ -It is time to get started on our coating.
So, I have 3 cups of flour here, and to that we're gonna add an array of spices.
We're gonna start off with 3 tablespoons of ground, white pepper, 1 tablespoon of ground, black pepper, 1 tablespoon of celery salt, 1 tablespoon of granulated garlic, 1 tablespoon of ground ginger.
-Never in a million years would have thought of adding this.
-The original recipe that we found had a little bit of dried oregano, dried basil, dried sage.
Rather than add all those individual dried herbs, we just opted for Italian seasoning, which contains a little bit of each of those, plus a few more.
1 tablespoon of baking powder for a little bit of lift and 1/2 teaspoon of table salt.
We're just going to whisk this all together, all these spices and herbs in.
And and one of the things we like to do here at the test kitchen with our fried chicken is give it some nice nooks and crannies, some little craggy bits, as some like to say.
-So we're gonna add 6 tablespoons of buttermilk and just rub it in with our hands.
So, you can see we have these little bits of dough, and that's exactly what we're going for.
And that's gonna fry up really nice and crispy on the chicken.
So, now we're ready to dredge the chicken in the flour mixture.
I'm gonna work with one piece at a time, and I really want to press the chicken into the flour mixture to make it adhere.
-And we're gonna transfer it over here to our wire rack.
Let any excess buttermilk drip off and then go right in, cover it up, and give it the squeeze.
I think this is a very important step.
A lot of people at this point will take the chicken and shake all of this coating off.
I like to just lift it up, let it hang, and anything that falls off, great, but I don't want to shake it, because as we let this chicken sit, a lot of the coating is gonna start to adhere, so we're gonna have an extra-thick coating.
And another reason why I'm doing these pieces one at a time, because I want to pay attention to where the skin side of the chicken is.
We need to start this chicken off in our hot oil skin side down.
Letting them rest here on the rack skin side up kind of takes the guesswork out of that.
So, I'm gonna continue breading all these pieces, and we'll transfer this sheet tray of chicken to the refrigerator to let it sit for at least an hour, up to two hours so the coating really starts to adhere to the chicken.
♪♪ It's time to start frying our chicken.
Now, a couple of things we want to point out before we start.
The first is we're gonna start all the chicken in the pot skin side down.
The second important thing where this recipe differs from a lot of our other recipes is that we're using half the amount of oil that we typically use.
We usually call for 3 quarts of oil.
This is a quart and a half of oil.
And the reason we're able to use less oil and fry all this chicken in one single batch is because we're gonna use a lid to trap a lot of that heat for the first 10 minutes of cooking.
So, we're using vegetable oil here, and we're gonna heat it up to 350 degrees.
There you go.
And now we could go ahead and start layering in our chicken.
I'm gonna layer the chicken in around the perimeter of the pot first, shingling it a little bit if I need to, and then lay the last piece or two in the center.
One of the things about adding chicken to hot oil, your instinct is to move the food in your hand as far away from the oil as possible, but a lot of times that causes the oil to splash up on you.
So you kind of actually want to get close to the oil and just let it fall gently in there.
Okay, we're gonna let this chicken go for five minutes.
Again, we're gonna put a lid on it.
We'll come back, and we'll give the pot a 180 rotation, because the burner is gonna heat the bottom of that pot unevenly and the chicken is resting right on the bottom of that pot, so it has a tendency to cook unevenly, as well.
-It's been about five minutes.
We're gonna rotate the pot 180 degrees.
These handles are hot, so make sure you use towels or potholders.
And we're gonna let the chicken go for another five minutes.
-Bridget, it's been 10 minutes, and we can uncover our chicken.
-Smells wonderful, sounds wonderful.
-But if you look at the top pieces of chicken, they're a little bit gray and mottled, and they don't look perfect.
-I did not say it looked great.
-[ Laughs ] So we need to flip the chicken over so that top portion continues to cook and gets nice and crispy like the bottom.
So, it's very delicate at this point, so we want to carefully flip all these pieces over.
We're gonna let this chicken continue to cook for another eight minutes or so until the bottom portion is brown and the white meat hits 160 degrees and the dark meat hits 175 degrees.
-Okay, and lid off now?
-Lid off from this point on.
It's been about eight minutes, and we're ready to take the temp on some of our chicken pieces here.
I want to find one of the breast pieces, because those tend to be a little bit thicker, and they cook actually slower than some of the dark meat.
So we could rest all of our chicken on our paper towel-lined wire rack here.
-Oh, my gosh.
It might be the prettiest chicken I've ever seen.
-It's a looker.
Just want to give it a little bit of a shake as we remove it from the oil to get any excess to drop off of it.
Now, this chicken is hot, and we want to let it cool down for at least 10 minutes before we dig in.
♪♪ Bridget, it's been 10 minutes.
[ Laughs ] A painful 10 minutes.
And we're ready to finally dig into our chicken.
Go ahead and... -No forks, no knives.
Oh, smells great.
That's some good fried chicken right there.
-And we just gave everyone the secret to it.
-You know it's really good fried chicken when it's noisy.
Some serious crunch in here.
I think it's all the craggy bits.
There's some spice in there.
-Yeah, the ginger really changes the whole flavor profile of this against the pepper and especially all that white pepper.
-And the meat is nice and seasoned.
-Thanks to that buttermilk brine.
-That is some mighty fine chicken.
-Can't believe you shared the recipe with all of us.
-Just between us.
-Yeah, don't tell anybody, okay?
-I will not tell a soul, except you.
And you got to make this chicken.
This easy, go-to recipe starts by brining chicken in buttermilk.
Create a coating by cutting more buttermilk into a flour mixture.
Coat the chicken, and refrigerate.
Fry the chicken in just one batch, covered first, and then uncovered to finish.
Let it cool for a moment, and then eat that chicken as fast as you can.
So, from "Cook's Country," the secret is out.
It's our one-batch fried chicken.
And that's one good recipe.
♪♪ [ Cheers and applause ] -Strawberry is America's favorite flavor of jams, jellies, and preserves.
And today Jack's gonna tell us which one is best.
So, this is a really interesting taste test.
You can dig in whenever you want.
-It's a good example of when did something so simple get so complicated?
-[ Laughs ] -There's all kinds of terminologies -- jams, jellies, spreads, preserves.
We tasted them all.
We started with a very big lineup that you see here next to me.
We whittled it down to six brands that we liked the best.
Basically, we were cross-testing within the same brand different products.
So, for instance, Smucker's makes six different strawberry products.
Some are jams.
Some are preserves.
And so they have to do with the type of fruit, the size of the pieces, whether they're chunks, whether they're not chunks, the ratio of sugar to fruit.
If it's called a spread, that means there's other fruit in it, where they may be instead of sugar using fruit juice.
You having a good time there?
-[ Laughs ] -Well, I wanted to see what the consistency of it was.
So I'm stirring them each.
And this one has some big chunks in here.
-I think she thinks I hid something in the bottle.
-I'm always a little suspect.
-[ Laughs ] -What we're looking for is big strawberry flavor accompanied with a fair amount of sugar and a fair amount of acidity, because all of that actually makes things taste better.
That acidity really perks up all the flavors.
And so the brands, we sent them all out to the lab to be analyzed for the amount of acidity that had less acidity, kind of had more nuanced or subtle flavor.
They weren't bad, but it was just more subtle.
Second thing is texture.
Now, this, you're in a bit of a disadvantage, because the texture test was more important in peanut butter and jelly, where we put it on the sandwiches, and then, you know, had people press down on them, and the jelly was coming out the sides if it was too thin.
So that's a problem.
And then in cookies.
So we did little jam thumbprints.
And, again, the brands that were really stodgy, really kind of seem stodgy in all of these different applications.
The texture here that we're looking for is something that's not too runny, not too thick, so it'd be beautiful on toast.
It will work well in a cookie or in a sandwich.
So, I've given you a chance to sample.
-The colors are different.
How about the flavors?
-The one in the center, you get chunks of strawberries, which I like, especially if it was going on a piece of toast.
This is by far my favorite sample.
Tastes like strawberry.
It's pretty sweet, I have to say.
It's pretty sweet, but I don't mind that.
These two don't have a strong strawberry flavor.
And you're saying sometimes they have other fruits involved, I thought maybe these did, because it wasn't very strong.
Also, this one's very -- you know, sort of a natural color.
[ Both laugh ] -That's such a nice way of saying that it's not bright red.
-It's not bright red.
I still liked it.
This one really had a mild flavor.
Its consistency was -- I don't know, neither here nor there.
I really didn't like this one at all, where this one I think I wouldn't mind putting on a piece of toast.
So my favorite by far in the middle.
This one a distant second, and this one third.
-You want to see where you went?
-Yeah, want to start with the winner?
And you agreed with the expert panel.
This is Smucker's strawberry preserves.
-Oh, so the chunks?
-The chunks, which, you know, give it a nice texture.
All of the tasting notes were "Wow!"
Big strawberry flavor.
These are actually California berries.
They wouldn't tell us what variety, but they said they are all being sourced out in California.
And it just had a really nice fruit flavor.
Now, the studio audience -- interestingly, this was their second choice.
Why don't you go down to the end here.
This is from Stonewall Kitchen.
This has less sugar.
And my theory is that we have some very not sweet people in the audience.
What do you think?
I just -- -I think that's a nice thing he just said.
-But the sugar does bring out the fruit flavor.
That's why the Smucker's is the one that you like so much and the expert panel liked the most.
-So, this is Crofter's.
This is one of these spreads.
-So this has other fruits in it.
-It has unusual colors, not that berry red.
It was kind of middle of the pack.
We liked it.
We liked all of them.
I mean, it's strawberry jam, jelly, preserves.
-[ Laughs ] Alright.
So there you have it.
The winner of our strawberry jam tasting is actually strawberry preserves by Smucker's.
And that's $3.89 for an 18-ounce jar.
[ Cheers and applause ] ♪♪ -Biscuits with pockets of melted cheese in the center are standard fare in eastern parts of North Carolina, and you can find them everywhere, from restaurants and diners to gas stations.
But today, Christie is gonna show us how easy they are to make at home.
-I sure am.
But let me tell you, cracking the code on these biscuits was a feat of mechanical engineering and lactose tolerance.
-[ Laughs ] -There is a lot of cheese in these babies.
-Well, if you think about it, it's melted cheese inside a very delicate biscuit.
And that's hard to do.
You've got to contain it.
It's not enough to put it in there.
It has to stay.
So, figuring out the cheese was the first step.
Now, if you live in eastern North Carolina, you're probably going to use hoop cheese, which is a yellow cheese common in those parts, but not common anywhere else.
So we had to figure out a substitute for it.
We're using sharp cheddar.
-Yellow or white is fine, but yellow is really traditional.
Now, we did find that extra sharp cheddar was too dry because it's aged.
So you want to steer clear of that.
But sharp cheddar's great.
So I have 8 ounces of sharp cheddar shredded on the large holes of a box grater.
Just gonna pack this with my 1/3 cup measure.
Now, we found that shredding the cheddar and then forming it into balls made it melt more efficiently than just cutting it up into chunks or cubes.
-You don't want to buy pre-shredded cheese here, I'm guessing?
'Cause it has a coating on the outside, and we want it to hold together in those balls.
So leave these here for a second, because we got to make the biscuits, right?
These biscuits in a lot of places are called cat head biscuits, and that really just refers to a really big biscuit, large as a cat's head.
And it tends to be tender rather than flaky, which is also good structurally for these biscuits.
So I'm starting with 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour.
Now, we also need to have some lift.
So I have a tablespoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, which is gonna help with the little browning, a tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt.
Now, I'm just gonna pulse this about six times, just to get everything mixed in together.
Now, traditionally in these biscuits, you'd use lard, and that's delicious, too, but we really love the flavor of butter in these.
So, I have 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
I've cut it up into quarter-inch pieces.
The cutest little pieces I have ever seen.
Almost reminds me of those little Chiclets.
-These are the best Chiclets ever.
[ Both laughing ] -But we want to keep them really cold, so I left them in the refrigerator until just before we started.
So I'll get that.
Now, I want to pulse this until I have a coarse mixture.
The pieces should look pebbly, like coarse cornmeal.
We don't want to break the butter down completely.
And that should be 8 to 10 pulses.
That looks pretty good.
Still have the smallest little pieces of butter.
Now, I don't want to work the butter down any more, and I don't want it to melt from the heat of the food processor, so I'm gonna put it in my bowl to work it further.
Now, some people might argue, but I really don't think you can make biscuits without buttermilk.
So, this is 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk.
That's a lot of buttermilk.
-That's a wet dough you're making.
-It is gonna be a pretty sticky dough.
It is wet on purpose.
-But having that higher hydration in the dough is also gonna make it much more tender, and that's what we're looking for.
I'm just gonna mix this until it's just combined.
Okay, this looks good.
-You know I have to touch it, right?
It is really sticky for a biscuit dough.
But I have a two-pronged plan to deal with the stickiness that will give us a tender biscuit.
-First I have my 1/2 cup measure that I've sprayed with vegetable oils.
Second is I have another whole cup of all purpose flour in my rimmed baking sheet.
This is where we're gonna land the biscuits... -Aha!
-...as I portion them.
And the flour will keep them from sticking to the pan.
First, I'm gonna give myself some flour on my hands, and I'm scooping my 1/2 cup.
Just a pretty even 1/2 cup.
We wanted these biscuits to be as tender as possible, so having a sticky, hydrated dough was the way to go.
We measured the amount of flour that we put in the rimmed baking sheet so that we knew how much we were potentially adding.
So if all of this flour goes into the biscuits, we'll still have a tender biscuit.
However, if we don't need to use all this flour, even better.
So I'm gonna scoop out all of the biscuits first.
There should be six.
So again, Julia, I have a cup of flour in my rimmed baking sheet.
This flour hasn't done its job yet.
So I'm going to pull up some of the flour from the tray to sprinkle on top of the biscuits, as well as forming a protective layer underneath the biscuits.
And this is also the flour I'll be using to keep my hands nice and floured as I go.
I think we're ready for the building to commence.
So, with my well-floured hands, I'll pick up one of the biscuits.
And I'm just gonna flatten this gently into about a 3 1/2-inch disk.
I have my ruler right here on the edge, if you want to grab that and spot me.
-On the nose.
So now I'll take one of my cheese balls, set this right in the middle, and very gently I'm going to wrap the edges up around it.
The more you work with it, you'll expose some of those wet pieces.
So it's okay if you have to add a little flour to keep it from sticking to your hand.
So, once you've pulled the edges up, we're just gonna pinch it to seal.
So you don't want add too much flour, 'cause it'll be a little harder to pinch it.
And then just look it over.
We want to make sure you don't have any bald spots.
There should be no cheese showing through.
Okay, so that looks pretty good.
Now I'm gonna put this seam side down into my cake pan.
This is a nine-inch cake pan, light-colored, so it doesn't get too brown, 'cause we want the outsides to be tender, too.
I've sprayed it with vegetable oil spray, and I'm just going to arrange my biscuits, five of them around the outside and one in the middle.
We have our sixth and final biscuit, Julia, right in the middle.
And, also, as you go, if you have a lot of flour left on the outside, you can brush that off before you put the biscuits in.
The last thing to do is to hit it with some butter.
-So we have a crisp crust.
I have 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter that I've melted.
Now I'm just gonna brush these babies all over.
This is why you also don't want to have a lot of excess flour on the outside, 'cause it'll just get kind of pasty with the butter.
So, we're ready for the oven.
My oven is hot -- 500 degrees.
-Oh, all the way up.
-All the way up.
We're gonna put the biscuits in for five minutes at that super-high temperature to really get that big burst of heat and a nice rise at the beginning.
Then, I'm gonna turn the heat down.
So five minutes at 500, then 450 for the rest of the baking.
So we'll get a more even heat until we have a deep, golden-brown color.
♪♪ -Julia, I pulled these biscuits out of the oven two minutes ago.
I didn't want you to have to wait.
-[ Laughs ] I appreciate that.
-[ Laughs ] We just wanted them to have a little time to kind of set up before we release them from their cake pan.
We'll invert them onto a plate.
There's too much butter in there to stick.
-[ Laughs ] -There's no way.
-That released really nicely.
-[ Laughs ] -So now I'll just gently separate them and turn them over.
That smells delicious.
-Now, these are so hot right now.
So I'm actually doing you a favor when I say that we have to wait five minutes for these to cool down to a less lava-like temperature.
So just five minutes?
It's been five minutes.
-Pick your biscuit time?
-[ Laughs ] -I'm gonna go for an edge biscuit, because I like the browning on that side.
-Although I know the center might be kind of choice.
-There's plenty of everything to go around.
-I'm dying just to pull it open and see this.
It's like a grilled cheese sandwich inside a biscuit.
-[ Laughs ] It really is.
That is good!
It's amazing that a biscuit this tender could really hold all that melty cheese in.
Now, you know, Julia, if you were in North Carolina in one of those restaurants or gas stations you mentioned, you wouldn't just -- you might eat it like this, but you might also cut it in half like a sandwich and put a fried egg or maybe a fried chicken cutlet in there.
That's taking this to a whole new level.
-It can be a meal and a half if you want to make it that.
I mean, the cheese is a star, but I like the biscuit.
It's a really tender, tasty biscuit in its own right.
-It is a delicious biscuit.
-Christie, these are incredible.
-You are welcome.
-If you want to make these iconic biscuits from North Carolina, pack shredded, sharp cheddar into compact balls and make a sturdy dough.
Portion the biscuits onto a tray of flour, then carefully stuff the cheese into each one.
Bake in a hot oven, and be sure to let them cool off before diving in.
From "Cook's Country," a wonderful new recipe for North Carolina cheese biscuits.
These really are blowing my mind.
-[ Laughs ] -Maybe some bacon stuffed in there, too.
-I don't think you can go wrong with these.
-[ Laughs ]