Saturday, August 8, 2009

Crispy Chicken

OK, this is a day late, and I feel a bit guilty about that, but it isn't the end of the world.

As an excuse I'll say that we went to see Julie and Julia yesterday (I counted three other guys in the theater and the average age of the audience was about 70 - sigh) and then went to a late lunch at Christian Michael's downtown. I won't review the movie other than to say that we both enjoyed it. It's definitely a foodie couple's movie - perfect for us.

We talked a lot after the movie about the project and where it's going to go, so expect to see it evolve as we go along (please leave comments about what you do and don't like!!). I think we're both a bit wary of the commitment a project like this brings, and also of the self-inflicted invasion of privacy that a daily blog represents. At the very least, everyone on the planet can know what we're eating - if they want. So far, we're getting a steady 10 visits a day, so once you eliminate me, my wife and my parents, that leaves 7 people reading this blog. And that's fine; I think this project is as for us right now as it is for anyone else. Of course, we love that you are reading this - please don't stop!

In these grim economic times, this project gives us both something we love to focus on. "And that's a good thing."

So, on to the food:

Four Step Chicken

The Food

This dinner was inspired by the recent finale of the Next Food Network Star. I really wanted to try out the au gratin potatoes made in muffin tins by Melissa D'Arabian for one of her final challenges of the series.

I’m not much for strictly following a recipe so I prepared the au gratin potatoes in my own way. (Thinly sliced potatoes, shredded cheddar and jack cheeses, non fat Greek yogurt and some chopped red onions mixed together, stuffed into oiled muffin tins and baked for about 45 minutes. Easy!)

The menu: Crispy chicken breast with a red wine mushroom reduction on a bed of fresh wilted spinach with “muffin tin” au gratin potatoes.

The boneless, skinless chicken breasts were dredged in flour and spices and pan fried in extra virgin olive oil. Once the chicken breasts were browned and crispy on the outside they were moved to the oven to cook through. I added spices, thinly sliced onions and lots of crimini mushrooms to the pan to sauté. As the vegetables caramelized I added chicken broth and red wine (some leftover Bordeaux) to the pan juices and simmered to reduce. I later finished off the sauce with a few pats of butter to bring the sauce together. The chicken was plated on a bed of wilted spinach and smothered in the reduction sauce and topped with a hearty sprinkle of chopped parsley. The “muffin tin” au gratin potatoes were served on the plate along side the smothered chicken.

The Photography

I've been so pleased with the softness I've been getting using umbrella's placed very close to the subject that I decided to try to umbrellaed flashes, one to the left of the food, one to the rear. The rear light was set to 4 stops brighter than the side light, so most of the light is coming from behind the food. I used a reflector to the right to provide a bit of fill.

Four Step Chicken Lighting

Four Step Chicken Close up

Overall, this gave a pleasing, soft light to the subject. I used my 105mm macro lens for some close ups (above) that I think worked very well.

Lessons Learned
  1. Umbrellas aren't a replacement for large light sources, but they do provide a very soft, pleasing light.
  2. As much as these photos came out well, I am going to get bored with taking photos of plated food pretty soon. God only knows what will happen then!
  3. I wasn't really impressed with the plate Jhan bought, but it worked perfectly for this shoot.

1 comment:

  1. (When texture is a major player) I love macro shots.