Sunday, February 26, 2023

The Perfect Fried Chicken


Over my years of living, it’s fair to say that I’ve relished my share of fried chicken.  Much of my experience came as I grew up and feasted on my grandmother’s and mother’s fried chicken—both exceptional.  

I have so many precious memories of my grandmother hosting a dinner replete with her fried chicken (expertly fried in her cast iron skillet) and whatever else she added to the menu.  It was always clear, to me at least, that the fried chicken was the main event—the star—of the meal.  And if I may go further back in my heritage, she inherited her skills honestly from her mother, my great-grandmother, who won awards and was written up in the local paper for her fried chicken way back in the early 20th century.  

So great, award-winning, exceptionally delicious—dare I say, perfect—fried chicken is in my genes.   I truly did get it from my mamas (great grandmama to grandmama to my mama.)  As I have a way of doing, I’ve slightly adapted my own approach to making “finger-licking good” fried chicken in the years since.  And because it’s not a dish that I make often these days, when I do, it has to be GREAT!  I mean, I can’t be bothered with the additional mess of frying, and the extra calories, for mediocre chicken.  Anybody?

So before I delve into what makes my chicken the fried chicken you never knew you needed, allow me to share the two elements to achieving the perfect fried chicken:

Moist, flavor-filled meat; and 

Crispy, crunchy (and flavor-laden) skin.

That’s it.  

Flavor, crunch, and juicy chicken is what we came for, no?

So without further ado, let’s get into it a few key techniques to make your next batch of fried chicken, your best batch yet.

Getting the Juiciest Meat:

If you’re familiar with my tips for the best turkey, then you know that brining is an essential in my arsenal.  The same applies for the juiciest fried chicken.  A quick (2-3 hours will work) brine in a salt, sugar solution is worth the payoff in making your chicken the most moist and tender bird.  (*Cook’s Note: if you prefer a buttermilk brine, be my guest.  It will work equally well, I just don’t prefer the strong buttermilk notes it infuses into the chicken.)

The Spice Is Right:

As a long-time spice girl, who must have flavor bite after bite, I use my custom fried chicken spice blend to make my chicken unforgettably scrumptious.  The key ingredients are kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, celery salt, cayenne pepper,  garlic powder and smoked paprika. (*Cook’s Note: I use my spice blend to season both the chicken and the flour mixture for extra goodness.) 

The Perfect Frying Temperature:

For perfectly done, golden brown chicken, you want to fry it at a temperature of 350 degrees F.  To maintain this temperature and to ensure your chicken actually fries to a golden crisp, rather than steams or burns, in the oil, avoid over-crowding your frying pan/pot and keep an eye on the oil temperature throughout. This may require working in batches, but it will be worth it in the end!  Aim for 160 degrees F (dark meat) to 165 degrees (white meat) for perfect doneness.  

Tools to Have On Hand:

I recommend a deep-frying or candy thermometer to measure and monitor the temperature of the oil (sometimes it can cool down a bit as you add in new pieces or unexpectedly get too hot).  I additionally recommend an instant-read thermometer to test doneness.  A baking rack will also come in handy, if you have one available. 

For more of my tips and techniques, you can checkout my fried chicken tutorial where I walk you through all of the steps and show you my end results. Refer to it as often as needed.

Now that we’ve gotten all of that in place, let’s get on to what really matters…

Happy Eating!

The Perfect Fried Chicken


Skin-on chicken legs (or whatever cuts you prefer)


2 cups all-purpose flour or more, as needed

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Quart of canola, vegetable, or peanut oil for frying

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon celery salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

For Brine:

1/4 cup salt

1/4 cup sugar


*Gauge ingredient quantities based on the amount of chicken you’re frying and adjust accordingly.


Mix brine solution, add chicken, and brine in the refrigerator for two hours up to overnight.

Remove chicken from the refrigerator and the brine solution. Pat the chicken with paper towels until completely dry and set aside.

Mix salt, pepper, celery salt, garlic powder, cayenne and paprika together.  Mix flour and cornstarch together. Generously season chicken and flour mixture.

Dip chicken pieces in buttermilk, followed by the flour mixture, to coat.  Let chicken rest on a baking rack for 15-20 minutes before frying.

When ready to fry, heat oil to 350 degrees F in a heavy-bottomed pan (like a Dutch Oven) or deep-fryer.  Add chicken into oil and fry until done, approximately 8-10 minutes or so (use your thermometer to test doneness, however!).

Place fried chicken on a baking rack over a baking sheet/tray to drain any excess oil and lightly sprinkle the hot chicken with a bit of salt or more of the seasoning blend, if desired.  

Serve and enjoy!!


Thursday, January 26, 2023

{In Case You Missed It}: 2022 Highlights


Happy New Year! 

I know we’re nearing the end of this first month of the year, but hopefully you will still accept my my wishes for your to enjoy your best year yet in 2023—while I share my perennial highlights from 2022. This tradition started way back in 2013, and I truly enjoy recapping my highlights from each year.  It’s part ode to all the ways DMRFF continues to add to my journey and dreams and part keeping up with my journey and its evolution, year over year.

So in case you missed some or all of our footprint in 2022, here are the key highlights from my DMRFF world:


2022 brought more goodness on the food front, in particular with recipes that I brought to life in my kitchen and shared here on the blog.  From frittatas, to brussels sprouts, cheesecake, zucchini muffins, pralines and more, it was another delicious year, indeed. If you missed any of them, it's never too late to dive in!

Beyond the kitchen, I engaged in collaborations with notable food brands.  In honor of Black History Month, I collaborated with the FeedFeed and shared this recipe. I also collaborated with America’s Test Kitchen and had the privilege of reviewing and promoting their fabulous cookbook, Vegan Cooking for Two.

Lifestyle and Beauty:

Fragrance has been a part of my “get ready” beauty regimen seemingly forever and I shared my favorite tips for getting the most out of your scents, including tips for layering  and how to make your fragrance linger longer.  


My travel escapades in 2022 took me back to repeat, favorite destinations including Los Cabos, Mexico, Savannah, New Orleans, Destin, New York City and Phoenix. Each getaway offered up fresh experiences and memories, proving there’s always more to explore no matter how often you visit a destination.

The Cherries on Top:

The year also brought in the special honor of being selected as a 2022 Better Homes and Gardens Style Maker for the 3rd time (with the previous honors in 2018 and 2021).  This year’s celebration took place in NYC and boasted a day of learning from industry experts, connecting with fellow Style Makers, and culminating in a beautiful soiree overlooking the Hudson River in celebration of the magazine’s 100th anniversary.  It was an affair to remember and an honor, indeed, to be recognized by this prestigious  publication and brand.

This year was laced with many proud moments and accomplishments, including the publication of my first book, which represented a dream come true.  Along with fulfilled career goals, ministry, and relationships, I am very grateful for all the goodness I was blessed to experience last year, including the opportunity to share with you.

Thank you for being here in my corner of the world and for allowing me to continue to share my passions with you.  

Here’s to the Happiest of New Years…

xo, Dawn


Friday, December 23, 2022



When New Edition sang the song, Candy Girl, they were singing to me—and my unabashed sweet tooth.  To say I love candy is the greatest of understatements, because I actually looooove candy.

And when it comes to these confectionery delights, I especially enjoy them during the holidays.  Growing up, my mom always set out her glass candy jars filled with candies for my sister and me, along with family members and “dropper-byers”, alike, to relish.

Then something really special happened exactly 15 years ago, when D.M.R. Fine Foods was born during the holiday season.  And our inaugural offering?  A Holiday Sweets & Treats menu filled with sweet and savory goodness, including decadent homemade candies.

So it’s no wonder that I was inspired to bring another candy recipe to life in my kitchen last weekend—inspired by my latest jaunt to New Orleans this past Summer—and the tastes that have long been favorites of my pecan-loving family.


So unbelievably easy and quick to bring together, you can make and nosh on these goodies whenever your heart and palate desires.  I gifted most of my batch (a bit selfishly motivated by the consequences of keeping them on hand in my home and the residual fallout to my waistline), so you can do the same for friends, family, colleagues—or just enjoy them all to yourself, if you’re not willing to part with the nutty, decadent goodness.

This recipe rendition hails form the New Orleans School of Cooking where I spent an afternoon learning more about the history, culture, people, cuisine, and techniques that make Creole and Cajun cuisines so exceptional, while watching classic dishes come to life, and eating to my heart’s content.

So here’s to making your holidays—and beyond—extra sweet and to Happy Eating!



1 1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup milk

6 tablespoons butter (3/4 stick)

1 1/2 cup pecans (roasted optional—but recommended)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Special Equipment:

A Candy Thermometer


Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil achieving “softball stage” (*238-240 degrees) Cook’s Note: watch carefully to avoid sticking and burning on the bottom.

Remove from heat.  Stir until mixture (stirring constantly) becomes creamy and cloudy, and pecans stay suspended in mixture.  Spoon out on buttered waxed paper or parchment.  Enjoy!

Cook’s Note: when using waxed paper, be sure to buffer with newspaper underneath, as hot wax will transfer to whatever is underneath.

Roasted Pecans: Bake them on a sheet pan at 275 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes, until slightly browned and fragrant.

Options:  Praline Sauce (add 1/2 cup corn syrup to mixture.)  Chocolate covered praline candy.  Flavored pralines (chocolate, coffee, brandy, etc.)

**Makes 1-50 Pralines depending on size.

*Recipe adapted from the New Orleans School of Cooking


Sunday, November 13, 2022

{Star Ingredient Round-Up}: Butternut Squash 3 Ways


Inspiration and preparation remain two of my very favorite ‘super powers’ and especially so when it comes to the big wide world of cooking.  Added emphasis when cooking for an occasion, a special someone(s), or to simply make good use of the food that’s been lingering in my fridge, on my countertops, and in my pantry.

Enter the genius I affectionately label as star ingredients.  Translation: one ingredient transformed in myriad ways and dishes.  As we make our way into the holiday season, I want to share a few variations on one of my absolute favorite seasonal ingredients, butternut squash.

My round-up includes recipes that can deliver as exceptional side-dishes, main courses, and appetizers:

Hasselback Butternut Squash with Maple Butter

Butternut Squash Galette

Butternut Squash Soup

Want more of this delicacy?  Simply search butternut squash and enjoy even more…

Happy Eating!


Sunday, September 11, 2022

{Be Inspired!}: My New Published Book


Throughout the years, I’ve shared the importance of my faith with my DMRFF family. And now I’m thrilled to build on that sharing with an ode to what faith and purpose have made possible in my life, in the way of my new book, Words of Life: Power Devotionals for Successful Living.

Just as I celebrate all the things that represent the good life to me, from cuisine, to culture, to community, to travel, lifestyle topics and more, I had to let you in on the celebration for this wonderful accomplishment and milestone in my ministry journey.

After decades of writing, including ghost writing book manuscripts for others, the time finally came to realize one of my greatest dreams: becoming a published author.  And beyond the goal of becoming an author, is the greater aspiration of imparting the faith, hope, encouragement, wisdom, lessons, and so much more, that have carried me through every season of life in stride with God and His goodness.

I’m so excited for this volume to be out in the world and available to all who will partake of the truths packaged in the 80 devotional messages and companion affirmations (a.k.a. power confessions).  And if that’s you, I’m thrilled for the blessing it will add to your spiritual and personal growth journeys.

I more than welcome you to grab your copy and enjoy loads of…

Happy, Inspiring, Uplifting, Impactful Reading!

*Also available online at Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Walmart and more!


Saturday, July 30, 2022

Zucchini Muffins


Summer squash and zucchini have made their way back to center stage in my kitchen of late, showing up to the table in mostly savory preparations, as I endeavor to enjoy more of the season’s bounty.  But my fondness for the scrumptious zucchini muffins and zucchini bread I enjoy on occasion turned my affections in that direction recently—and moist, delicious zucchini muffins finally came to life in my kitchen.

It was the perfect way to indulge a weekend morning.  Grating the fresh zucchini, bringing the ingredients together with a few flicks of the wrist, filing the muffin tins, baking them off in the hot oven, reminding myself to be patient while they cooled, and finally—finally—enjoying the fruit of my labor.  Simple pleasures that never get old in my world.

So if you don’t have a garden with zucchini sprouting up (I don’t), grab a few the next time you’re at the market and bake a batch or two.  Bonus: zucchini are in season and cooking and baking with the freshest, seasonal ingredients always yield the best (read: tastiest) results.  Not to mention that they’re more economical in-season, too. 

They’re perfect as a quick breakfast, a snack, for dessert, or any way you want to enjoy them.  Vegetables never tasted so good :), or yielded more…

Happy Eating!

Zucchini Muffins


2  large eggs, room temperature

1 1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups grated zucchini

1 cup vegetable oil

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs.  Mix in the sugar and vanilla extract. Stir in the grated zucchini and the oil. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.

Stir the dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture (be careful not to overmix!)

Prep your muffin pan with paper muffin cups or grease generously.  Use a spoon, ice cream scooper or small measuring cup to fill the cups up completely.

Bake until the muffins are golden brown or a tester comes out clean (about 20-30 minutes, depending on the oven). Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack for about five minutes.  Remove from the muffins from the muffin pan and cool them another 20 minutes on the rack.  Eat and enjoy!

P.S. Muffins can be stored in the freezer for up to two months. 

Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes  


Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Creamiest, Dreamiest Classic Cheesecake


When you’ve been away from one of your happy places, even for great reasons like celebrating family milestones and traveling, such as my recent hiatuses away from home two weekends in a row, it feels oh so good when you’re back—in full force.

I speak of me and my kitchen.  Specifically, creating beautiful, scrumptious food in my kitchen.

So taking several hours last Sunday to indulge in baking was a welcomed return.  The recipe of choice was a dreamy cheesecake recipe by Dorie Greenspan, that I happened upon in the New York Times Cooking archives, during my search for inspiration.  And not only did I thrill and delight myself with the finished masterpiece—I finally checked baking a cheesecake off of my epicurean ‘to do’ list.

Can you believe it?! I’d never made a cheesecake before then.  

I grew up eating my mom’s beloved cheesecake pie (a lighter version of full-on cheesecake) and have otherwise eaten my fair share of cheesecakes over the years.  But baking one myself?  Not until last Sunday.  And I’m so glad I did.  In fact, I’m already dreaming up other flavor variations and nuances for future baking escapades.  

Nothing was spared with this all-in, high crust (humble brag), cream cheese x heavy cream, delicacy.  (I opted for all heavy cream for my first go ‘round, but sour cream and heavy cream, or all sour cream, can also work beautifully, I’m sure.)  Still, my instincts were spot on for me and the creamy, cheese-cakey bite after bite I was seeking.

For a final finish, a.k.a garnish, I decided to add some macerated summer berries for a bit of color and extra goodness. (Totally optional, however, because this baby stands very well on her lonesome.)

I have to admit that I was so proud of my labor of love when I finally went in for the ‘unfolding’ from the springform pan and to take my first bite.  Did I mention, you’ve got to be ready to commit, because it’s a 7.5 hour endeavor—at minimum (chill down time, included.)  Mine was longer because I took the overnight chill down route. But It. Was. Worth. It.  The technique is evident as you go through the recipe—but when you’re in pursuit of unforgettable, too good to be true, results, don’t sweat the technique. ;)

I invite you to make it for yourself, family, friends, enemies that you want to convert to friends, lol!, and anyone else you want to delight (or impress) and spread the joy of baking that’s guaranteed to indulge…

Happy Eating!

Classic Cheesecake



1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of salt

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted


2 lbs. cream cheese, room temperature

1 1/3 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/3 cups heavy cream


  1. To make the crust: Butter a 9-inch springform pan — choose one that has sides that are 2 3/4 inches high (if the sides are lower, you will have cheesecake batter left over) — and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil.
  2. Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. (You can do this with your fingers.) Turn the ingredients into the springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don’t worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway point on the sides. Put the pan in the freezer while you heat the oven. (The crust can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months.)
  3. Center a rack in the oven. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
  5. To make the cheesecake: Put a kettle of water on to boil.
  6. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and creamy, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat for another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs, one by one, beating for 1 full minute after each addition — you want a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.
  7. Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the pan with some space around it.
  8. Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter will reach the rim of the pan. (If you have a pan with lower sides and have leftover batter, you can bake the batter in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold.) Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
  9. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
  10. After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster — be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil — and remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
  11. When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, although overnight is better.
  12. {Baker's Tips}:
  13. At serving time, remove the sides of the springform pan — you can use a hairdryer to do this — and set the cake on a serving platter.
  • Serving: The easiest way to cut cheesecake is to use a long, thin knife that has been run under hot water and lightly wiped. Keep warming the knife as you cut slices of the cake.
  • Storing: Wrapped well, the cake will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or for up to 2 months in the freezer. It’s best to defrost the still-wrapped cheesecake overnight in the refrigerator.

Recipe courtesy of NYT Cooking 

© D.M.R. Fine Foods. All rights reserved.