In his culinary life, Chef Daniel Kedan says he’s “always searching for a connection to farming and locally sourced ingredients.” Guests who tried his menu at Fresh Starts Chef Events will be searching out his restaurant, Backyard, in Forestville.
Through the restaurant, Chef Daniel has cultivated a connection to Sonoma County by sourcing local ingredients with his wife and partner, Marianna Gardenhire. His event focused on the restaurant’s Thursday night tradition: fried chicken with all the fixings.
The chef, who has just opened a kitchen for Siduri Winery in Healdsburg, kicked off the evening with a salad featuring Burrata and topped with Tomato Water Vinaigrette.
His first taste of burrata, he says, spurred him to wonder: “Where has this been my entire life?”
Chef Daniel’s recipe is uncomplicated enough to make at home. It does involve finding mozzarella curd, which is available at cheese shops, some grocery stores, and Whole Foods.
He recommends using gloves since the cheese is bathed in hot water. But not too hot, or the fat separates out of the cheese. It’s a careful process that leads to stretching the cheese and folding it around a creamy ricotta and mascarpone mixture to make burrata.
The vinaigrette comes from a simple puree of summer tomatoes, which is strained to blend with sherry vinegar. With tomato slices, the cheese and herbs, it was a delicious start.
While fried chicken may sound like fast food, Chef Daniel says the secrets of making a spectacular dish are top-quality fresh chicken, a 12-hour brining and a flavorful flour dredge.
Using a 2½-pound bird – the size he declares “just right” – he showed guests how to dip each piece into the dredge, then buttermilk, then back into the dredge, and into a pan of rice bran oil heated to 330°F. When it left the pan, he seasoned with salt.
Alongside the chicken, he served Summer Squash Latkes, suggesting Yukon gold, russet, or purple potatoes. Adding squash uses up the bounty that often piles up in late summer. In this case, the squash came from the garden just outside at Homeward Bound of Marin.
Students and chefs from Fresh Starts Culinary Academy prepared the menu for guests. As the plates came out, Chef Daniel said, “This isn’t meant to be healthy. This is meant to be delicious.” And it was, especially paired with wines from Hook & Ladder Winery in the Russian River Valley.
To close, guests enjoyed Buttermilk Panna Cotta, which took a few minutes to prepare (and 4 hours to chill), topped with fresh berries.
The full menu paired with Sonoma iced teas — Chardonnay, Rosé, and Cabernet —from The Republic of Tea, premier sponsor for the chef events. — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos courtesy of Neely Wang
For those who can’t make it to Forestville anytime soon, Chef Daniel shared his secret recipes for fried chicken brine and flour dredge to try at home:
Brine for Three Chickens – Serves 10 (3-piece portions)
2 lemons, halved
2 tablespoons fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, halved
3 teaspoons black peppercorns
10 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons honey
2 bay leaves
1 gallon (16 cups) water
4 chickens, without giblets, about 2 1/2 – 3 lbs. each
Combine 2 cups of water with all of the ingredients except the chicken in a sauce pot. Bring to a boil and stir.
Pour the rest of the water into a large plastic container with the chicken, then add the brine. Let the chicken rest in the brine for 12 hours.
Fried Chicken Flour Dredge – Makes 5 pounds
5 pounds organic all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons paprika
1½ teaspoons cayenne powder
4½ tablespoons onion powder
4¾ tablespoons garlic powder
1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Remember to dredge twice — before a buttermilk dip and again afterward.