Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Baby Boy Daygown

I have quite a few friends who are expecting babies in the upcoming months, so I have focused the little bit of sewing that I've been able to do this summer on baby gifts. In June, Steve and I headed out on a long road trip. Since I wasn't doing any of the driving on our trip, I had Mom pleat me a few daygowns and bonnets, so I could get some smocking done during our long hours in the car. Smocking is perfect for road trips because it is handwork that requires only a few supplies that can be thrown in a small bag (DMC thread, a few needles, a pair of scissors, the garment, and instructions).

The first project to be finished was this baby boy daygown for a family friend who is expecting her first child. I smocked simple baby waves in the front of this daygown. The sleeves are also smocked, which gathers fabric to create a cuff and works much like elastic does but with a cleaner look. After I finished smocking, mom put the daygown together for me, and I took it to the baby shower this past Sunday.

I recently rediscovered Instragram and couldn't resist posting this
one of the daygown,

The pattern used is a The Smocked Baby Daygown pattern by Collars, Ect. Pattern Company.  See the pattern here.

Mom also hemstitched, crocheted, and monogrammed a matching blanket.

A note about learning to smock: Mom designs smocking plates, so I grew up watching her smock and wearing smocked dresses almost every day, but with Mom being so talented with smocking and much faster at it than I could ever be, I had little motivation to learn until family and friends my own age started having children. I then realized that I wanted to be able to share the handsmocked clothing that I grew up loving with this next generation. Starting out, I found that being lefthanded posed a little problem with learning stitches and following the instruction on the plates, but I sat across from mom (who smocks righthanded) and mirrored her stitches and now know how to read plates by starting on the opposite side from directed. I smocked my first daygown on a 2 day bus trip with 30 other college students, so I quickly discovered that smocking is much like knitting when it comes to getting into a rhythm that leaves you able to participate in the chaos around you most of the time. Maybe that's how mom managed to get some much smocking done when we were all little.

I have been working on my mother's smocking plate Molly's Collar and Bonnet for the bonnets. I will post about these bonnets and a few other smocking projects as I finish them.

Most of mom's smocking plates can be seen here. We're in the process of setting her up an Etsy store since she closed her store a little over a year ago, so check back for updates on that.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Fried Chicken Birthday Supper

If you asked Steve for a list of his favorite foods, I'm pretty positive fried chicken would be at the top of that list, so I knew fried chicken would be the perfect supper for this Michigan guy's first birthday in the deep South. I had a little bit of a problem though, I'd only tried my hand at frying boneless chicken once before, and they had tasted good but weren't too pretty. So, my mother kindly offered to stop by on the way through town and help me with my first experience of frying an entire bone-in chicken.

Steve's favorites: fried chicken, cornbread, mashed potatoes, and snap beans

With instructions from Mom, I bought the smallest pre-cut chicken that they had at Publix along with a galloon of buttermilk.
Soaking the chicken over night in
the refrigerator is best if you have time.

The night before, I put the chicken in a large bowl, covered it with buttermilk, and added 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and quite a few dashes of tabasco sauce. I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge until the next afternoon. Mom-wisdom says that soaking the chicken overnight is key to having moist fried chicken, and your choice of buttermilk or regular sweet milk determines the thickness of your crust. Buttermilk makes the thicker crust.

Let the buttermilk almost all of the excess
 buttermilk come off the chicken.
That afternoon, we removed the chicken from fridge and took each piece out of the buttermilk. Placing the chicken pieces in a stainer over the sink let the excess buttermilk run off the chicken. Mom warned that if there is too much buttermilk still on the chicken with it dredged and fried, the breading will side right off the skin.

Making sure the chicken skin is
 completely covered is key to a good crust.
When it came to dry ingredients for the dredge, we combined:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

We took the chicken piece by piece and dredged it in the dry ingredients making sure to cover the chicken completely in the flour, so that the chicken skin was no longer visible. When the dry ingredients got too gummy from the liquid or more breading was needed, we simply added more flour, salt, and pepper in the same ratio.

After all of the pieces were dredged. We let them sit for 10 minutes, so the breading had time to dry out some, which made a crispier crust.

Chicken is ready to be fried

Of course I used my trusty cast iron dutch oven for frying the chicken. We used an entire  48 oz bottle of peanut oil and heated the oil to 360 degrees F on a cooking/candy thermometer. (If you do not have thermometer, you can test the oil with a tiny bit of water or flour. If the oil spits and bubbles when either is added, your tempature should be about right). We added the first batch of chicken which brought the tempature down to 350 degrees F, and we kept the tempature as close to 350 as possible throughout the frying process. We fried most of the pieces for 10 minutes on each side for a total of 20 minutes of cooking time, but the two breast pieces were significantly larger and took a total of 30 minutes to cook. 
 When the chicken is first added
After flipping the chicken 
The chicken is done when the internal temperature measures 170 degrees F for the breasts and 180 degrees for the other pieces.  

We removed the chicken from the oil and let it cool for a few minutes on a paper towel lined plate. 

It was a success birthday dinner that everyone enjoyed and a pretty fun time for my first experience frying an entire chicken (even the liver at Steve's request). 

I also made a deliciously decadent birthday cake using Martha Stewart's recipe for yellow butter cake and her chocolate frosting

Happy Birthday 26th birthday to Steve!