Wednesday, May 26, 2010

100% Organic KFC Double Down

It's been a few weeks since my last post, but I promise the wait has been worth it. I present to you the ultimate in fast food re-creations: the KFC Double Down.

KFC debuted the Double Down last month to great media attention. Multiple outlets called the breadless bacon and cheese sandwich "a heart attack on a plate" and the New York Times went so far as to say it was "a disgusting meal, a must-to-avoid." And yet, when I went to KFC to pick up my fast food sample, both of the people in line ahead of me were ordering the sandwich as well. KFC is definitely on to something here, and for as much as the New York Times may disagree, I have to say that I can see why. Although The Expert ate the majority of the monstrosity you see pictured below, I ventured a bite or two (and even more of my organic version) and have to say that fried chicken, bacon and cheese are darn alluring combination, even at the steep price of $5.98 (with tax).

Now, all this is not to say that I condone eating 32 grams of fat and 1380 mg of sodium on a regular basis. If anything, I hope that my recipe for making one at home will place this meal firmly in the category of the occasional, well-deserved (after a lot of hard work in the kitchen) treat. And if you need to reduce your sodium or saturated fat levels, you probably shouldn't even think about it! Leaving out or reducing the salt probably won't help - I didn't use enough in one of my first trials and The Expert said it tasted barely seasoned (even though I used other seasonings) and was hardly worth eating. If that doesn't give you some clue into what the "secret spices" keeping droves of customers coming back to KFC might really be, I don't know what would.

Since I didn't make the full meal with potato wedges and a 20 oz. drink (if you're going to eat this, I'm pretty sure you don't need the rest of the meal too!) the ingredient list is fairly low.

(Apologies for the exposed raw chicken...I did a lot of test runs to get the flavor and frying technique right, so I didn't have/want to buy another unopened package for the photo!)

Since the weight of meat changes after you fry it, it was hard to determine exactly how much chicken to use. KFC specifies the total weight of the sandwich, but not the individual weight of the chicken breasts. In the end, I decided to go with the maximum amount of chicken that my budget of $5.98 would allow, or 165 grams.

Using 165 grams of chicken, the total weight of the finished sandwich was 230 grams. Now, KFC states that their sandwich is 241 grams, but the sandwich I picked up was 221 grams. So, 230 seems like a happy medium to me! It brings the total for the organic version to $5.97, just a penny shy of the original. However, another factor influencing the price is that I allotted $1.25 for the organic frying oil, which is the price for half a cup of oil if you don't reuse it, as I did for the fries in the Wendy's meal. If you do filter and reuse it (which I actually did do, it's pretty easy with a coffee filter), you can definitely bring the price down by at least another $0.25.

Trader Joe's sells organic versions of the two cheeses KFC claims to use on their sandwich (Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack, but they both looked more like white American cheese to me!) for $3.99. Noticing a little wiggle room in my budget, however, I decided to try out Organic NYMilk's Monterey Jack, a local product I recently discovered for $4.99 at the natural food market in my neighborhood. That's a pretty great price for a non-Trader Joe's brand product, and I was really happy to discover that it was incredibly fresh and also tasted less salty than other Monterey Jack I've tried. I believe they recently started selling at Whole Foods as well, so give it a try if you see it!

And c'mon, scroll back up and compare this picture to the first one. It may still be a heart attack on a plate, but at least it's an appetizing one! I swear I didn't try to make the first picture look bad...I literally got a new camera in the interim between the meals, but I'd even venture to say that this organic version looks more appealing than the sandwich in KFC's professional picture. But hey, enough about my opinion, let's hear what The Expert has to say.

The Expert's Verdict: It's GOOD. The chicken is less greasy and the bacon is more crisp. The sauce is spicier, but of course I like that. It got much better once you added more salt. I think I'm more likely to die of happiness from eating this than from a coronary heart attack!

Resemblance to original meal: 9
Overall deliciousness: 8.5

Before you go on to the recipe, I must warn you to proceed with caution! This may be delicious, and in my opinion, much better for you than KFC's version, but that doesn't mean it needs to become a weekly staple. I hope you'll have fun making and eating it as an occasional treat!

Double Down

Update 6/3/10: For one, I fixed the above link so it directs to the recipe. For two, I just discovered that I am not the only crazy fool to try and make one of these at home! Serious Eats has a version made with quality (though not organic) ingredients that calls for a little more finesse in the cooking technique than I've used, and Ate - Bit Vegan actually made a vegan version! That's gotta be better for you than the nearly 100% carnivorous original, but I doubt The Expert would like it much...

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