Well, here we are again. Apparently I am a glutton for punishment (much like Mr. Bob Blumer) and have signed up again for thirteen weeks of ‘Taking the Challenge Home’ for Top Chef Canada. To quickly refresh your memory, every week after an episode of the series airs, viewers can vote online for a dish from the latest episode that I will recreate at home.
Missed an episode? You can watch online here.
No recipes, no tips; just me, myself and I with a knife and a kitchen. Last year, I made everything from duck liver ice cream, to pretzel-crusted chicken wings with beer mayonnaise and even a chicken noodle soup terrine (so weird, right?) with Top Chef alum Dale Mackay. On a show like this, there is never a shortage of creativity when it comes to the chefs’ creations so I imagine this new season will be full of delicious – and not so delicious – oddities begging to be recreated.
So, here we are…back in the swing of things. The first episode always breaks my heart. I mean, I could not imagine being so excited after being selected to be on this popular series, showcasing your skills for all of Canada to see, then get sent home packing first. My heart goes out to Frederick, it really does.
Just like last year, once the online poll opens, it’s easy to tell fairly early on which dish I’ll be making. After a few hours of the first poll of the season going live, Nicole Gomes’ Asian Fried Chicken Dish shot ahead of the pack. Since I’m a Calgary man myself, I couldn’t be happier to start off my recreation adventures with a chef from my own city.
This past Friday, I swung by The Calgary Farmers’ Market to stock up on my ingredients for the dish I was assigned to make over the weekend. I picked up some beautiful local chicken from Bowden Farms because, you know when you’re recreating dishes from Top Chef Canada, average chicken meat from the typical grocery store chain simply will not do!
I’ve never made fried chicken at home before and, honestly, I’m not sure why. Maybe it was my fear of large quantities of hot oil or the lingering smell cooking with oil can bring to a home, but whatever apprehensions I had, were about to get the hell out of town so I could focus on the culinary task at hand and get cooking.
The best and worst thing about making fried chicken at home is the fact that your house will smell like, well, fried chicken. This proved to be both tantalizing and odd at the same time.
Now, I’m unsure what officially defines ‘Asian’ fried chicken, so I perused my spice cupboard and settled on five spice powder as an appropriate Asian-style contribution for the coating on the chicken. It has a nice, rich flavour and is used frequently in Chinese cuisine. When it came to the actual frying process, it wasn’t nearly as messy or scary (I am afraid of everything, even puppies) as I had anticipated. A deep, medium pan filled halfway with canola oil on medium-high heat handled the chicken perfectly. A few flips back and forth resulted in a perfectly golden, crispy layer and tender inside. After my first surprisingly successful batch, I may have shouted: “Take THAT, KFC!”
While I was cooking, I couldn’t help but notice some negative energy in my general vicinity. Sure enough, it was my pet parrot, Baub, who was less than enthused that I was frying up parts of his long lost relatives. I debated frying him up too due to the poor attitude towards his owner, but, honestly, that would be a lot of plucking, and I was in a time crunch. Some other time!
If I have one fault in the kitchen, it’s cooking rice properly. I think it’s due time that I invest in a rice cooker because making rice in a pot is my arch nemesis in the culinary world. After a couple imperfect batches of rice, I decided to make do and fry up the less-than-perfect-ness in a pan a touch of oil, soy sauce, edamame and egg, which resulted in what I can only describe as a white guy’s boring version of fried rice. Having said that, the fried chicken was the star on the finished plate, in all its crispy, golden, and subtly spiced glory.
After we were all fried, said and done, I had a couple taste-testers for the dish, both whom agreed that it was, indeed, much tastier than Colonel’s fast food variety.
With one week down and twelve to go, I can only wonder what interesting challenges lie ahead. Pigs ears, cow heart, vegan cheese…whatever is about to come my way, I’m ready for it.
Asian Fried Chicken with Daikon Slaw and Fried Rice
Cook Time: 60 minutes
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons five spice powder
1 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 cups buttermilk
4 chicken wings, skin on
4 chicken thighs, skin on
1 cup carrots, grated
1 cup daikon radish, grated
1 cup napa cabbage, grated
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sriracha
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups white rice, cooked
½ cup edamame beans, cooked
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 egg whites
1. Fill a medium-sized deep-set pan halfway with canola oil. Heat over medium-high on stovetop.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and spices. Pour the buttermilk in a separate small bowl.
3. Dip pieces of chicken in buttermilk, then coat evenly in flour mixture. Let sit for 5 minutes.
4. Working in two batches, carefully place coated chicken into hot oil. Cook on each side for 2 minutes, reduce to medium heat and continue to cook, turning over every 5 minutes until golden and crispy, approximately 25 minutes.
5. Remove chicken from pan, set on paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Keep warm until ready to serve.
1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.
1. Heat canola oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
2. Add cooked rice and edamame, stirring reguarly until rice starts to brown slightly, about 3-4 minutes.
3. Add soy sauce and continue to cook for 2 minutes.
4. Add egg whites, stirring quickly until egg is cooked and well-incorporated. Keep warm on stove.
Serve slaw and warm rice with a few pieces of the crispy, fried chicken. Always tastes best when eaten with friends!
Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.