Summer is finally here. Officially, that is. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere. Of course, it’s felt like it for weeks, but now that it’s official, I feel I can unabashedly enjoy all of my favorite summer fare. For me that entails much more finger food: fruits that I normally don’t enjoy in the winter like grapes, berries, melons, and of course peaches. Is your mouth watering yet? How about fresh fried chicken, brats on the grill, grilled veggies, corn on the cob and shish kebobs? I find I slow down too. Not in the hibernating, bury yourself in a comforter and hole up until the first light of spring way, but in the sitting on the back stoop, drinking a cool beer (gluten-free in my case), sipping a sangria or an iced-tea, not wanting to move until the fireflies have finished their nightly romp, kind of way. Of course, my children are there at the ready to remind me that they do indeed have to eat. So I spend my days multitasking; hopping from work at the kitchen table, to parenting in the living room, to stirring up something at the stove. Making my rounds so that I can enjoy the twilight, the fireflies, and the company of whomever has popped over.
Last weekend we indulged in one of our yearly summer rituals- a picnic blanket dinner at our local Shakespeare festival. And of course, since it’s a festival, it calls for festive fare. Try a gluten free peach tart and fried chicken with potato salad served up with a chilled not-sweet rosé. Ultimate picnic indeed. Below you’ll find a lovely and quite simple recipe for a maple glazed peach tart- made gluten free by using the proper crust.- and quick instructions on how to make a delicious deep fried chicken. It’s really quite easy and will give the ole’ Colonel a run for his money. A gluten-free picnic fit for a king- Richard III that is.
Maple Glazed Peach Tart
makes one 8-9 inch tart
Gluten Free or regular pie crust
4 ripe peaches
4 tbs granulated sugar
4-5 tbs maple syrup
2 tbs butter
Prepare pie crust and turn onto a tart pan, crimping the edges as you like. (A tart pan has straight sides, whereas a pie pan has sides that lean outward. If you don’t own a tart pan, you could use a cake pan and even the pie pan.)
Prebake shell at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Since my last post about this crust, I’ve found when pre-baking that I prefer to grease a large piece of parchment, placing the greased side against the pie crust, and then filling the pan with uncooked beans. This makes for less sticking and a crust with sides less prone to collapse.
Partially pull out oven rack, leaving the crust still in the oven. Gather the corners of the parchment together and remove paper and uncooked beans to a nearby bowl to cook. Prick bottom of crust with a fork, and if the top part of crust is browning too quickly, cover with a ring of aluminum or a pie-crust ringfound at your local cooking store. Return crust to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, re-pricking bottom if crust begins to balloon. Crust will be ready to remove when it begins to look a bit dry and paper-y.
Allow to cool for a minimum of 15 minutes before continuing. When crust has cooled (at least partially) sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the bottom of the crust. Then, working quickly, but safely, slice peach in half longitudinally, and remove the pit. Then slice into thin strips about 1/4 inch thick. These will inevitably vary in size. This is fine, we’re going for a ball-park here, not perfection. Begin to layer by placing one slice on the outside of the crust with one end touching the side. Place slices in a ring along the outside, just overlapping. Look at the picture if you need help visualizing this part. Keep halving and slicing peaches until you’ve completed the first outside ring. Pick a starting place for the center ring, doing the same thing, and working to keep the peach points as close to the center as possible. One helpful trick is to choose peaches that are of similar size. Placing the peach slices can be more challenging when the slices are vastly different lengths.
When the crust is filled, brush 2-3 tbs of maple syrup over the peaches, allowing the syrup to get into the little nooks and crannies. Sprinkle remaining sugar over the top and dot with pea-sized slices of the butter. Place in a 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. Peaches should still retain their color and the juices should be starting to bubble. Remove from oven and brush with remaining maple syrup. You may have syrup left in your measuring cup- that’s ok- use what you like. The glaze is to keep the tart looking pretty and to enhance the flavor of the peaches. Allow to cool thoroughly before enjoying. You could serve this with whipped cream or ice-cream. We were at a picnic and didn’t have that option and it tasted heavenly just by itself.
Deep Fried Chicken
serves as many as you like
2 pints-1/2 gallon buttermilk, depending on how much chicken you are frying.
4-8 cups of flour, we used 1/2 sorghum 1/2 corn flour
Louisiana hot sauce or worcester (optional)
Salt, pepper, and other seasonings we added jerk seasoning to our mix
2 lbs vegetable shortening
Place chicken pieces in a bowl and thoroughly cover with buttermilk. For a little extra zest, mix in 2-4 tablespoons of hot sauce or other spices you enjoy. Allow to soak anywhere from 1 hour to overnight. The buttermilk is a flavor enhancer as well as a meat tenderizer, so the longer the chicken soaks, the more tender the meat will be.
In a bowl place 2 cups of flour (1 cup of sorghum, 1 cup of corn flour or corn meal), salt and pepper to taste and any additional spices you enjoy. Do the pinky test to make sure the flavor is where you like it (lick your pinky, dip and lick again. Of course the more sanitary way is to do this with a spoon, but given you’ll be frying at 350 degrees, what goobies if any that are on your pinky will be killed at first contact with the oil.)Some people say it’s a waste of spices to flavor the flour and that you should season the meat directly. This is entirely up to you. Each way affords a slightly different flavor experience.
Set up a dredging/draining area by putting a cooling rack over a cookie sheet next to the dredging bowl, and on the other side of your deep fry pan, placing an additional cooling rack over a cookie sheet. Once you’ve dredged the meat should rest about 2 minutes before going into the hot grease. This helps the coating to adhere more tightly to the meat. Only when you’re ready to go, place the shortening in a deep sided fryer- I use my trusty Deep Sided Cast Iron Fryer for this- and turn the heat on to medium-high. To ensure even cooking, keep a candy or meat thermometer in the oil at all times.
While the oil is melting remove a piece of chicken from the buttermilk, give it a good shake, and then dredge in the flour, thoroughly covering the whole piece of meat. Give another good shake and place on the cooling rack next to the dredging flour. Repeat this with 2-3 more pieces. Your oil should now be nearing 350 degrees. Once it hits that temperature, with tongs (to protect your hands) gently place pieces in the hot oil, towards the side of the pan. Do not cook more than 3-4 pieces at once. You should see the oil temperature drop on your thermometer, and over the next several minutes climb back up. Note: Don’t let the temperature get above 365-370. The oil begins to break down and the food can lose its flavor. After about 5-6 minutes flip your meat and allow to cook on the other side. This is really an eyeball thing- after a few rounds you’ll get to where you can judge if a piece is done. If you’re not sure, use the meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of your chicken is around 175. Breasts and smaller pieces will cook faster than larger, thicker, or bone-in pieces. Thighs and legs need to be cooked for a longer time, and the heat of the oil will have to be closely monitored so the outside doesn’t burn. You may have to turn down your heat here, or add additional meat to regulate the temperature of the oil.
When the meat has finished cooking, remove to the second cooling rack. If you’re storing for a picnic, once the meat has cooled, you can wrap each piece in a paper towel and place in a paper bag in the refrigerator. This will keep the crust happy and your meat delicious.