AJ, an American Cook in Paris, is one of the very talented people I met during my studies at Ferrandi. This big, chummy guy from Texas had already been working in the kitchen for years before joining us amateurs at pastry school, so when he invited me and a few other friends over for a fried chicken dinner, I knew it was going to be a very, very good one…
Meet Willard, one of AJ and Karin (his wife)’s boys.
When we arrived at the apartment, the full spread was almost ready. Now does this look good to you, or does it look good to you?
The only thing missing was the main character of the evening, which was being fried up in a sizzling pot of hot oil…
Let’s take a look at the salads first. Here’s one of my favorites of the evening: roasted carrots with brown butter vinaigrette. Love the brilliant color, the glistening shine, the sweet and crunch from the carrots, and the ever-so-irresistible aroma of brown butter.
And another favorite: fennel and artichoke salad with Parmesan and lemon. I’m usually not a huge fan of fennel, but I was sold on this one. Its combination with artichoke and Parmesan just worked, and the lemon did magic to marry all ingredients together.
Tomato salad tossed with shallots in extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Simple and lovely.
Potato salad with caramelized onions, creme fraiche, and lardons.
So AJ and Karin were hiking in Fontainebleau the other day and stumbled upon a field of blackberries. The original plan was to make a blackberry tart out of the fruits, but they have sweated so much by the time they got back to Paris that he decided to turn them into blackberry confiture instead. A brilliant idea, since we were also having buttermilk biscuits tonight (more on this later).
And, the spotlight of the evening, fried chicken. I’ve had my fair share of fried chicken after living in the American South for a few years, so do trust me when I say that these were properly done. Crispy crackling skin, with tender juicy meat underneath. Flavorful, and not at all too greasy. Just pass me another piece already.
Oh, and not to forget the buttermilk biscuits. These are one of the best I’ve ever had – soft, fluffy, slightly salted, perfect with butter and confiture or with fried chicken. AJ, I need this recipe, thanks.
Lastly, peach tart with cumin, served with vanilla ice-cream. AJ said he was inspired by this peach tart from Pierre Hermé and decided to conjure up his own version, but he wasn’t quite satisfied in the end. For me, it was just intriguing to taste a peach tart with cumin…now I don’t have a choice but to pay Pierre Hermé a visit.
The cool thing about dinner at AJ’s was that not only was it delicious, it was also inspiring. The dishes don’t seem all that complicated, and I left with the (misguided?) feeling that perhaps I can whip these up at home as well…On another note, apparently AJ will be making Taiwanese braised pork knuckles next time, so perhaps you will see that on the blog pretty soon ;)