Hamptons Parties 2016

Hamptons Parties 2016

The summer will be here before we know it and that means people should start thinking about booking their parties for the coming summer season. I provide small party catering and dinner parties for people who would rather entertain in their homes in the Hamptons instead of entertaining in noisy restaurants. These events are fully custom-designed for each client in every detail.

I also offer customized cooking lessons for individuals and small groups. These are usually hands-on lessons and, of course, you get to eat what you cook.

Hamptons Parties 2016
Chilled Summer Sweet Corn Soup

I am almost fully committed for July and August (Tuesdays and Wednesdays are generally still open), but I do have some openings during the May/June/September months of 2016. Dates that are closed for July and August may re-open on short notice and I will list those as they happen.

If you want to book a dinner party or cooking classes with me (groups of 20 or less, depending on the menu), reach out to me by filling out the form at the bottom of this post. You can check out a little more about what I do by visiting hamptonsdinnerparties.com.

I also provide the same service on the North Fork of Long Island and even in NYC. Feel free to contact me about events you are planning. You can see more by visiting northforkdinnerparties.com.

Hamptons Parties 2016
Garden Tomatoes, Basil, Mozzarella di Bufala

Party planners, media, and others may contact me by using the following form.

 

 

My Meatloaf Recipe from the 1770 House

My good friend, Ina Garten, has popularized my meatloaf recipe that I made at the 1770 House in East Hampton, NY. We have made it together on her show, The Barefoot Contessa. Here is the original recipe. It should feed six to eight people with additional sides and perhaps a salad to start the meal. Please enjoy!

To Begin:

1 pound ground veal (preferably naturally raised)
1 pound ground pork (preferably naturally raised Berkshire)
1 pound ground beef chuck (preferably naturally raised)
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh chives, plus 1 teaspoon for the sauce
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh thyme leaves, plus 1 teaspoon for the sauce
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh Italian parsley, plus 1 teaspoon for the sauce
3 large eggs (preferably organic)
1 1/3 cups finely ground Panko
2/3 cup whole milk (preferably hormone and antibiotic free)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
2 stalks of celery finely diced
1 large Spanish onion finely diced
2 cups chicken or beef stock**
8 to 10 cloves roasted garlic
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the veal, pork, beef, chives, thyme, parsley, eggs, Panko, milk, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl.

Heat a medium pan over medium-high heat and film it with extra-virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the celery and onion to the pan and cook, stirring, until softened. Remove the celery and onion from the pan and let cool. When the mixture is cool, add it to the mixing bowl with the other ingredients.

Using clean hands, mix the ingredients until well combined and everything is evenly distributed. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan (it should have sides at least 1 1/2 inches high to prevent grease runoff from the pan). Place the meat on the sheet pan and pat it and punch it down to remove any air pockets. Shape the meat into a loaf (about 14 1/2 inches long by 5 inches wide by 2 inches high). Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake 40 to 50 minutes or until a meat thermometer indicates an internal temperature of 155 to 160 degrees. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the sauce, combine the broth, roasted garlic and butter over medium-high heat and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly thickened. Add 1 teaspoon of each of the chopped thyme, chives, and parsley. Slice the meatloaf into serving portions and spoon the hot sauce over the meatloaf and serve.

**Using a robust and, ideally, a homemade stock will enhance this dish and result in a more flavorful sauce.

2011-2016, Kevin Penner, All Rights Reserved

Private Chef Service: Photos 2015

Private Chef Service: Photos 2015

This past summer I made my first foray into the world of private chef services. Until this summer, I had prepared an occasional private event, usually for good customers of the restaurants I was involved with, or for friends. But I have found that I really enjoy this type of work and now I want to make it a larger part of the services I offer.

This service will be a premium one. I don’t want to do weddings for 300 guests but, instead, private dinner parties with customized menus. The menus may be presented as buffets, plated and coursed events, or as tasting menus with a variety of options. I will also offer paired food and beverage menus that reflect the use of locally grown fruits and vegetables, locally sourced fish and meats and locally produced wines, beers, ciders and coffee. I also prefer to work with organic and bio-dynamic foods.

  • Tasting menus
  • Dinner parties
  • Plated meals
  • Carefully crafted buffets
  • Food and beverage pairings
  • Small weddings and celebratory events
  • International foods and street foods
Peconic Bay scallops
Peconic Bay scallops

I can provide these services worldwide for customers who live or entertain outside of the United States. Customers will need to provide the event venue, whether it be a private home, a public space, or a winery setting. If rentals are necessary for an event we can deal with it in a flexible manner.

First of the local brussels sprouts 2015
First of the local brussels sprouts 2015
Linguine with Clams, Garlic, Parsley and Red Chillies
Linguine with Clams, Garlic, Parsley and Red Chillies

Here are some photos of food I prepared in 2015. There are endless options for menus and dinner party themes and these photos are examples of what I have made in the past.

If you want to contact me for a private event, please feel free to use the form below. You can also check out my Facebook business page. Happy New Year!

Spicy & Aromatic Crab Curry

Spicy & Aromatic Crab Curry

Lately, I have been working with my friend and fellow chef Jay Jadeja to develop recipes and menus for his new restaurant, West East Bistro, in Oakdale, New York. He plans to open the doors in February 2016 and he wants to showcase the foods of Gujarat and Rajasthan in northern and western India. These are the parts of India that he grew up in. He wants to add a little culinary refinement to the dishes and make them a little more modern. Last night, at his West East Bistro in Hicksville, New York we worked on this spicy and aromatic crab curry and the flavors were great. On Friday, we worked on a lamb curry dish from Rajasthan called Laal Maas, using an array of spices, yogurt, and Kashmiri peppers and the flavors were outstanding. I will share that recipe in the coming days.

Serves four people

4 T. sunflower oil
2 T. black mustard seeds
1 T. black cardamom seeds
1 T. fennel seeds
2 t. cumin seeds
2 t. coriander seeds
3 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 T. minced fresh ginger
1 red onion peeled and diced
1 T. turmeric
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
4 limes, juiced
8 curry leaves very finely sliced
2 green chilies finely sliced into rounds
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb jumbo lump crabmeat, inspected for shell fragments, left whole as possible
1/2 bunch of cilantro with the stems diced and top leaves for garnish
6 scallions cut into julienne strips

Method

Heat the sunflower oil in a large pan and add the black mustard, cardamom, fennel, cumin and coriander seeds. Cook over medium-high heat until the seeds are toasted and aromatic. Add the garlic, ginger and onion and continue to cook over medium-high heat until the garlic and onions soften and start to color. Add the turmeric, coconut milk and 1 cup of water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until reduced by half.

Add the lime juice, curry leaves, chilies, diced cilantro stems and crabmeat. Cook until heated through and taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed. Spoon the curry delicately into a bowl and garnish with cilantro leaves and scallion julienne. Serve with basmati rice or Indian flat breads, such as paratha, naan or chapatis.

2016, Kevin Penner, All Rights Reserved

Grilling at Home with Bincho-tan

Everyone loves food that is cooked on a grill and for a lot of people who might not otherwise cook, grilling food can be a cathartic experience. Over the last few years, there have been a lot more options available to home cooks such as the Big Green Egg and the Kamado grill. These are great machines that can be used in a lot of different ways to achieve a lot of different cooking outcomes.

Here is another great option for grilling at home: A Konro or yakitori grill fired with bincho-tan charcoal. One great feature of these grills is their size. They tend to be on the small side, typically 12″ by 12″ or 12″ by 18″ (the size I have at home and in some cases as small as 8″), and if you’re grilling for one to four people, the size is perfect. You can utilize grates that come with the grill or skewer your foods and suspend them over the very hot charcoal. You can also build a fire in the center of the grill and cook foods on the deck around the perimeter of the fire.

The small size of the grill could make some people believe that it could never deliver the firepower necessary to cook, say, two nice rib steaks. The bincho-tan charcoal is the secret weapon that delivers that needed firepower, burning much hotter than standard hardwood charcoal or charcoal briquettes. Bincho-tan is produced in Japan utilizing oak (or white oak) wood and has a history that dates back to the Edo period. The resulting charcoal, which sounds like metal when tapped together, burns very clean with no smoke and it gives food a very clean flavor. It also means these grills could be used in a lightly ventilated area in addition to outdoors.

If a little smoky flavor is desired, try adding some wood chips to the charcoal as the food is cooking. I have done this with steaks and burgers and they turned out perfectly. It would also work well with the traditional yakitori skewers of chicken wings glazed with a mixture of mirin, soy sauce, sake, sugar, pepper, scallions, garlic, and ginger.

The beauty of grilling at home with bincho-tan charcoal is that it allows the cook to create big flavors in small spaces. It also works great with any fish, chicken or red meat and vegetables, too.

Private Chef Services

PRIVATE CHEF SERVICES

This past summer I made my first foray into the world of private chef services. Until this summer, I had prepared an occasional private event, usually for good customers of the restaurants I was involved with, or for friends. But I have found that I really enjoy this type of work and now I want to make it a larger part of the services I offer.

This service will be a premium one. I don’t want to do weddings for 300 guests but, instead, private dinner parties with customized menus. The menus may be presented as buffets, plated and coursed events, or as tasting menus with a variety of options. I will also offer paired food and beverage menus that reflect the use of locally grown fruits and vegetables, locally sourced fish and meats and locally produced wines, beers, ciders and coffee.

Sarde en Saor
Sarde en Saor

I can provide this service anywhere in the world for customers who live or entertain outside of the United States. Customers will need to provide the event venue, whether it be a private home, a public space, or a winery setting. If rentals are necessary for an event we can deal with it in a flexible manner.

Roasted Prime Beef Rib Roast
Roasted Prime Beef Rib Roast

You can also see this information on the new page I added to this website under the Private Chef Services link on the top right of the site.

My Thanksgiving Recipes in Newsday

My Thanksgiving Recipes in Newsday

Today in Newsday, my friend Erica Marcus wrote their annual Thanksgiving story and I provided the recipes for the article. The recipes were developed before the photo shoot and they were revised and refined as we shot the dishes. What does that mean? It means the recipes work and they are delicious. Take a look and check them out. You should make as many of them as you can because they are really easy and delicious.

Here are the recipes as they appeared in Newsday:

Roast Turkey and Gravy

YOU’LL NEED
1 (10-to-12 pound) turkey
Kosher salt
Pepper

HOW TO:

1. The night before Thanksgiving, take the turkey out of its wrapping, dry it off, and, from a distance of about a foot, give it a nice sprinkling of kosher salt. Grind some pepper onto it then refrigerate it, uncovered.

2. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Take the turkey out of the refrigerator up to an hour before you plan to roast it. Place it on a rack in a sturdy sheet pan or shallow roasting pan (you want air to circulate around the bird as it cooks) and put it on the bottom shelf of the oven. If your oven is deep enough, put the legs facing the back of the oven.

3. Turn oven down to 300 degrees and roast for about 3 hours, until the temperature of the breast registers 150 to 160 degrees and the temperature of the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 to 170 degrees. Carefully remove turkey to a carving board so you can deglaze the drippings in the roasting pan. Let turkey rest for at least 45 minutes and up to 90 minutes before carving. Makes 8 servings plus leftovers.

SIMPLE GRAVY

The secret to this gravy is using dark poultry stock (recipe below) — stock that has been made with roasted chicken or turkey and, instead of water, a regular stock.

Pan drippings (still in roasting pan)
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups dark poultry stock
Turkey giblets, trimmed of connective tissue and chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper

1. After you remove the turkey from the roasting pan, pour off the fat in the pan and discard. Then add a cup of water and put the pan back into a 350-degree oven for a few minutes, until the drippings stuck to the bottom loosen enough to be scraped into the water with a wooden spoon. Pour into a heatproof vessel and set aside.

2. In a saucepan, combine butter and flour and stir, over medium heat, until you have a richly tanned roux, 5 to 8 minutes. Whisk in the liquid from the roasting pan and the poultry stock. Simmer over low heat for a few minutes until mixture slightly thickens. Add optional giblets. Taste for salt and pepper (it may not need any). Makes 3 1/2 cups.

DARK POULTRY STOCK

1 1/2 pounds turkey wings or thighs
1 1/2 pounds turkey gizzards and/or necks
2 pounds chicken thighs
4 quarts homemade chicken stock (or canned, low-sodium broth)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place all of the items on a sheet tray and roast in the oven until nicely browned, about 1 hour or so.

2. Remove them from the sheet tray and place them in a large pot. Add the cooled chicken stock and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook at a strong simmer until reduced to 2 1/2 quarts, 1 to 2 hours. Strain and reserve. Makes about 2 1/4 quarts.

CHICKEN STOCK

4 pounds chicken backs, necks, thighs and/or wings

Combine chicken with 6 quarts of water in a large pot, bring to a boil and then reduce the flame so that the liquid maintains a strong simmer (just a bit less than a boil). Cook for 3 hours, until slightly reduced, and then strain the stock. Discard the bones and chill until needed. Makes about 4 quarts.

Creamed Italian Onions with Thyme and Creme Fraiche

YOU’LL NEED:
2 pounds cipollini onions, or pearl onions
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup dark poultry stock (or canned, low-sodium broth)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

HOW TO:

1. Trim the ends off the onions but leave on the skins. Bring a pot of water (make sure it is large enough to hold the onions) to a boil over high heat. Add the onions and blanch for 1 minute and then drain them in a colander under cool running water. Peel the onions and add them back to the pot.

2. With the onions in the pot, add the creme fraiche, heavy cream and poultry stock and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the liquid thickens enough to coat the onions and the onions are tender, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the herbs. If the liquid seems too thick, you can thin it with a little stock or water. Makes 8 servings.

Aromatic Sausage and Herb Stuffing

YOU’LL NEED:
16 cups bread cut into 2-inch cubes, white or sourdough (1.5 pounds or so)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups medium-diced yellow onion (2 onions)
4 cloves of garlic smashed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sweet fennel sausage, casings removed and broken up
3 cups dark poultry stock (or canned, low-sodium broth)

HOW TO

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the bread cubes in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Place the toasted bread cubes in a very large bowl.

2. In a large saute pan, melt the butter and add the onions, garlic, sage, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper. Saute over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Add to the bread cubes.

3. In the same saute pan, cook the sausage over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until browned and cooked through, stirring often to keep breaking up the sausage. Add to the bread-and-vegetable mixture.

4. Add the chicken stock to the mixture, mix well, and add it to a buttered 9 inch-by-12-inch Pyrex or enamel baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, until browned on top and hot in the middle. Serve warm or reheat in a 300 degree over if necessary. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts Leaves with Pancetta and Brown Butter

YOU’LL NEED:
4 tablespoons butter
6 ounces pancetta, in 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved, cored and leaves separated
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 bunch of thyme leaves stripped off and chopped

HOW TO:

1. Brown the butter by putting it into a small saucepan and heating over medium until it has a nutty aroma, turns a rich tan color and the milk solids, which will initially float to the top, fall to the bottom. Scrape up the solids and pour into a heatproof vessel. Set aside.

2. Unroll the round pancetta slices into strips and cut into 1/4-inch dice. Cook pancetta in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the fat starts to render and it begins to crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer pancetta to a small strainer placed over a small bowl.

3. Heat olive oil in the same skillet over medium-high and cook the garlic, stirring occasionally, until it is fragrant and golden, about 1 minute. Working in batches, add Brussels sprout leaves, tossing and letting them wilt slightly before adding more; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally until leaves are browned in spots and the edges are crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the vinegar, pancetta, thyme and brown butter; toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 8 servings.

Yukon Gold Potato Puree

YOU’LL NEED:
2 pounds large Yukon Gold potatoes scrubbed and pricked with a fork
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
Salt to taste
Snipped chives, to garnish

HOW TO:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake about 40 minutes or until tender. Remove them from the oven and let cool slightly. Peel the potatoes and then, using a potato ricer, rice them into a mixing bowl.

2. In a saucepan, heat the butter and milk until the butter is mostly melted and the milk is steaming. Keep stirring the mixture into the riced potatoes until the mixture is fully combined. (For creamier potatoes, you can work them through a metal strainer or sieve, or place them in the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment and beat them on medium speed until creamy.) Season to taste with salt and top with snipped chives. Makes 8 servings.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

YOU’LL NEED:
1 (12-ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over and rinsed
1 cup best-quality, amber-colored maple syrup
1 stick of cinnamon, toasted over an open flame until aromatic
1 orange, zested with a Microplane grater, then juiced

HOW TO:

1. Combine the cranberries, maple syrup, cinnamon and orange juice in a 3-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, just until the cranberries pop, about 5 minutes.

2. Remove from the heat, stir in the zest and let it cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Leave the cinnamon stick in it. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

TIP: When you toast the cinnamon stick over your gas burner, use tongs. If you have an electric range, you can forego the toasting.

Watercress, Endive & Pomegranate Salad

YOU’LL NEED:
1 pomegranate, halved, seeds removed and set aside (see note)
2 bunches watercress, trimmed, washed and dried, about 8 ounces
3 endives, broken into leaves
4 ounces Cabrales or another blue cheese, crumbled
4 teaspoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

HOW TO:

1. Combine the pomegranate seeds, watercress, endive, Cabrales and parsley in a large bowl.

2. Whisk together the vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil. Toss with the salad, and serve. Makes 8 servings.

NOTE: To extract pomegranate seeds, cut the fruit in half through its equator. Place a large bowl of water in the sink. Hold the halved pomegranate in one hand so that the cut half is down, facing your palm. With your other hand, use a wooden spoon to whack the skin side of the pomegranate all over. The seeds will fall out into your hand, and then into the water. Keep whacking until all the seeds are out. The white pith will be floating on top of the water; the seeds will sink. Skim off the pith, then strain out the seeds. Many greengrocers also sell plastic containers of pomegranate seeds.

Sweet Potato Panna Cotta with Maple Syrup

YOU’LL NEED:
3 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin (about 1 1/2 [1/4-ounce] packages)
3 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sweet potato puree
1/2 to 1 cup good-quality, dark amber maple syrup

1. In a small bowl, whisk the gelatin with 1/4 cup cold water and set aside.

2. Whisk the cream, milk, brown sugar, salt, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat until just beginning to boil.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the softened gelatin. Whisk in the sweet potato purée, and then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pitcher or liquid measure. Divide among 8 (6-ounce) ramekins or coffee cups. When cool, cover the ramekins with plastic wrap, then refrigerate until firm and cool, at least 4 and up to 48 hours.

4. Unmold the panna cotta by dipping the bottom of each ramekin in hot water briefly, and then running a paring knife around the edge all the way to the bottom to loosen it. Cover with a dessert plate and invert, give it a firm shake, and then remove the ramekin or coffee cup. Drizzle each unmolded panna cotta with a little maple syrup. Makes 8 servings.

2016, Kevin Penner, All Rights Reserved

Bay Scallop Season is Back

Atlantic Bay Scallop Season is Here

Peconic Bay scallops
Peconic Bay scallops

The first Monday of November is a day I always look forward to, but this hasn’t always been the case. The Atlantic bay scallop season begins on that day and over the years it has been a rollercoaster ride of harvests and availability. The lives of bay scallops in the Peconic estuary are linked directly with the presence of eelgrass beds in the area. In the 1930s, a “wasting disease” affected the eelgrass and then again, in 1985, brown tide blooms essentially destroyed the eelgrass and, therefore, the scallops.

When I first came out to the east end to cook, in 1992 at Della Femina restaurant in East Hampton, we generally had reliable harvests of bay scallops but they were never as big as those from the years before 1985. Through most of the latter 1990s, the harvests continued to dwindle and by the early 2000s there were almost no scallops coming to market. If we wanted to cook with bay scallops we were forced to buy the Nantucket scallops which, while very good, were not as tasty or as sweet as the local scallops.

In 2005, Cornell Cooperative Extension and their partners began a project to restore the eelgrass and bay scallop populations in the Peconic estuary and by 2009 we began to once again see notable harvests. Last year, during the 2014-15 scallop season, we finally noticed a sustained availability and the start of the 2015-16 season looks pretty good, too. Only time will tell how it plays out, but it is nice to have such a delicious local and seasonal resource available again.

The real beauty of these scallops is their sweet, saline flavor. They can be prepared raw, lightly pickled or cured, and fully cooked and they are delicious in all of these ways. My favorite preparations include sliced raw and served with ponzu and other Asian flavors or lightly warmed in brown butter with lemon and sage. I have seared them and served them with quickly seared foie gras and porcini mushrooms and I have also served them as a ceviche with a variety of citrus components. Versatility is another of their strengths.

Bay scallops with brown butter, bacon & lemon
Bay scallops with brown butter, bacon & lemon

If you happen to live on Long Island or in the tri-state area, you should indulge yourself this season with some bay scallops. You can prepare them at home or eat them in a restaurant. You will be glad that you did.

Copyright 2015-16 Kevin Penner

Chick-fil-A hits Long Island

Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based fast-food chain that specializes in fried chicken sandwiches and nuggets, recently opened in Port Jefferson, NY. The chain enjoys a large and dedicated following that loves the reasonably priced offerings on the menu. The quality of those offerings is another thing to love. There is a vast qualitative difference between what Chick-fil-A puts between the bun and the sandwiches from the mega-chains.

When I arrived at the recently opened Port Jefferson location the parking lot was jammed but well-managed by a store employee who was separating the drive-thru crowd from the folks planning to eat inside. Once I headed inside I was stopped on a line that snaked from the counter to the front door, composed of maybe fifteen to twenty people. Occasionally the line grew longer but the staff, who were friendly and helpful, did a good job of keeping everything moving.

When I made it to the counter to place my order I chose a “spicy chicken sandwich meal” which included the sandwich, a side of waffle fries and a bottle of water. The bill was $7.59, which is comparable to the mega-chains for the same type of meal.

Spicy fried chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A
Spicy fried chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A

So how was the food? It was alright. The sandwich was actually quite good and the chicken retained a decent amount of moisture. This never happens at the mega-chains regardless of if they are frying a natural breast or a restructured patty. The bun was almost perfect–soft, white, squishy, and lightly toasted with two slices of large diameter pickles. The breading was thicker around the edges of the breast while the flat surfaces could have used a little extra to make them crispier. The waffle fries were a disaster. They were white, soft and the only hint of crispiness occurred as they cooled and the potato starch film dried out on their surface.

Bight thru of the spicy chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A
Bight thru of the spicy chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A

As fast food goes Chick-fil-A seems to invest more in training their employees than the mega-chains and they also offer a higher quality product, with the exception of the waffle fries. I think they tend to benefit from having a well-focused menu while the mega-chains struggle by offering too much diversity on their menus. At the end of the day, it is just a fried chicken breast sandwich. But it’s better than anything you will find on the McMenus of the mega-chains.

The unfortunate waffle frie from Chick-fil-A
The unfortunate waffle fries from Chick-fil-A

Making a sandwich like this at home is really not so difficult and it will allow you to control what kind of chicken you use–hopefully one that is raised humanely and without growth hormones and antibiotics.  You can check out the way my friend Kenji Lopez-Alt does it at The Food Lab on Serious Eats.  You should also check out his new cookbook called The Food Lab for even more fun cooking.

Copyright 2015 Kevin Penner