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Great outdoors

As the temperature drops, it’s time once again to break out the picnic basket

 

Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee

 

With the weather this pleasant, it’s time to pack a picnic basket and hike to some remote scenic spot (or, if you are like me, drive there). Take along food that’s sturdy and will be good eaten unheated.

 

Buttermilk chicken wings
This recipe is based on one in the cookbook Ad Hoc at Home, by Thomas Keller.

 

1kg chicken wings (middle and drumette portions only)
Fine sea salt
1 small thyme sprig, leaves only
1 small bay leaf, torn into several pieces
The finely grated zest of half a lemon
2 garlic cloves, minced
Oil, for frying

 

For the coating:
About 200ml buttermilk 215 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
8 grams garlic powder
8 grams onion powder
2 grams paprika
2 grams cayenne pepper
¾ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper

 

Divide each wing at the joint between the middle and drumette portions then sprinkle them lightly but evenly with salt. Put them in a bowl and add the thyme, bay leaf, lemon zest and garlic and mix thoroughly to combine. Cover with cling-film and refrigerate for several hours (or overnight), mixing occasionally.

Thoroughly mix the flour with the garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Divide the mixture between two bowls. Pour the buttermilk into a third bowl.
Coat the chicken wings in the dry mixture and shake off the excess, then dip them in the buttermilk. Dip them in the second bowl of dry mixture and again shake off the excess. Lay the wings on a rack until you’ve finished breading all of them.

Pour oil in a skillet to a depth of about 2.5cm. Heat to 180 degrees Celsius and fry the wings in batches – do not crowd the pan. Turn them over as needed so they cook evenly. Drain them on paper towels. After cooking all the wings, fry them a second time in the hot oil; the second frying browns them and makes the coating crisper. Drain the wings on paper towels. Let them cool completely before packing them into a picnic container.

 

Potato salad with lemon aioli
I find aioli (or any other mayonnaise) too strong when made with only olive oil, so I use about 50 per cent neutral-tasting cooking oil, such as grapeseed. Use whatever proportion you like.

 

2 large garlic cloves
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
About 250ml extra-virgin olive oil, or a mixture of olive oil and neutral-tasting cooking oil
About 30ml fresh lemon juice, or to taste, at room temperature
600 grams potatoes (I use the smooth-skinned local potatoes), all about the same size
2 shallots, quartered lengthwise then thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, diced
A few chives, cut into 1cm lengths
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Pound the garlic and half a teaspoon of salt to a paste in a mortar, then scrape the mixture into a bowl. Add the egg yolks and whisk to combine. Whisking constantly, add the oil a few drops at a time, letting each addition incorporate fully before stirring in more. When an emulsion has been established, add the oil in a very slow trickle, whisking constantly. If the mixture gets too thick, add a little lemon juice. After adding all the oil and lemon juice, taste the aioli and add more salt or lemon juice, if needed.

Scrub the potatoes but do not peel them. Put them in a pan of cool salted water then bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are just tender. Peel them when they’re just cool enough to handle. Cut the potatoes into large cubes and mix them while they’re still warm with the lemon aioli (you might not need all of it). Gently mix in the shallot, celery, chives, black pepper and some salt, if needed. Cool before packing into a container.

 

Chocolate-chip cookies with beurre noisette
When people eat my chocolate-chip cookies, they always ask why they taste so much more buttery than others. Rather than using butter straight from the packet, I brown it, which intensifies the flavour and reduces the volume because it evaporates the moisture. Then I add extra butter, to make up for the loss of volume.
I also avoid using commercial chocolate chips; instead, I use bittersweet chocolate with a cacao content of about 70 per cent, and cut it into small pieces with a sturdy serrated knife.
You don’t need to bake all of the dough at once; it can be wrapped in a double layer of cling-film and refrigerated for about a week, or frozen for longer storage. Let the dough soften, then shape and bake as needed.

 

170 grams unsalted butter, plus more as needed
125 grams soft brown sugar
100 grams granulated sugar
¼ tsp fine sea salt
¾ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
225 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
340 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped

 

Put the butter in a saucepan and set it over a mediumlow flame. When it melts, drape a paper towel over the pan (making sure it’s not in the flame) and keep it in place by covering the pan partially with the lid (the paper towel catches the splatters). Simmer the butter until it starts to brown and take on a nutty aroma. Remove from the flame and cool to room temperature. Pour the fat into a mixing bowl set on a scale and weigh it. Add enough extra butter so it weighs 170 grams.

Add the sugars, salt and baking powder to the bowl containing the butter. Beat with an electric mixer until the ingredients are smooth and light. Turn the mixer speed to low and stir in the vanilla extract, then the egg. Scrape the mixing bowl and the beaters with a rubber spatula and stir again. Add the flour all at once and stir until just combined. Use the spatula to stir in the chopped chocolate.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Shape the dough into slightly flattened balls about 1.5cm in diameter, then place them about 1.5cm apart on a parchmentlined baking tray. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until fragrant and cooked through. Cool completely before packing into a sturdy, air-tight container.

 

 

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