Thursday, August 9, 2012

Watershed on Peachtree: A Relic Returns to the Kitchen

Those of you (wonderful) people who follow this blog may remember that I worked at Watershed here in Atlanta for 5 years, doing everything from baking to working the line on the sauté station to frying the chicken that was only offered on Tuesday nights and was a sell-out by 7pm.  It was the pre-cursor to my stint at Star Provisions and it served me well in learning how to navigate around a professional kitchen.

That was few (thousand) years ago.  Fast forward to 2012 and Watershed has morphed from a cult-like, low-key restaurant in sleepy Decatur to an energized, celebrity-studded, cutting edge, you-want-to-try-everything-on-the-menu new hotspot in SoBuck (south of Buckhead).  It kept its roots but it has also propelled itself into a new era, under the helm of Executive Chef Joe Truex and Chef de Cuisine Julia LeRoy.  It’s the old Watershed to the tenth power.

Except that they still do the fried chicken.  Once a week, now on Wednesdays.  

When the new Watershed on Peachtree opened in late May, we were honored to be guests at the “friends and family” trial run.  Fried chicken was on the menu that night.  I tasted it and my immediate reaction was “this ain’t right.”  I said as much to my dear friend Ross (one of the owners) and followed it up with “you need to let me fry the chicken for you.”  Clearly, I had imbibed too much wine.

Liz, be careful of what you ask for because you just might get it.  Ross texted me the next Tuesday, one day before the first “Fried Chicken Night” and asked if I would come in to make it happen.  

So I am now the Chicken Bitch at Watershed on Peachtree.  I get there by 9:00 every Wednesday, start frying by 9:30 and it takes me until 7pm or so to finish the job.  This is no ordinary fried chicken, people!
It gets brined on Monday, then soaked in buttermilk on Tuesday.  I pan fry it on Wednesday (no deep fryers here; every piece is lovingly attended to by me) in a lovely “fry fat” mixture of lard, country ham and European butter.  I fry it in a steam kettle (or tilt skillet, as I call it) and I can do about 25 pieces per batch.

Yesterday I fried 140 orders, which translates into 560 pieces of chicken.  It also translates into 9+ hours of standing there with no food, no pee break  and no nuthin’ other than frying those damn birds.  Ridiculous, but I love it.  Each week I tweak it just a little bit more and it's become my personal challenge to see how many perfect pieces I can produce.  Oy veh, Liz!

Take a look at the new Watershed on Fried Chicken Night.  Yep, that's me in the third slide!

When I finally stagger out to my car, I can barely stand myself.  I stink.  (Of course, I will never need a facial again).  The first thing I do when I get home is strip off those clothes and hop in the shower.  EXCEPT for the time I managed to lock my closet door when I left in the morning and came home to the sad realization that I didn’t have a key to open it.  One locksmith, $200 and 2 hours later, I had access to my clothes and could finally get into the shower.  I think it was probably the best shower I ever took.

I will give you the recipe for the fried chicken in a later post.  For now, we are going to wallow in the “old Watershed” and revel in two recipes of years past.  They may not be a part of Watershed as we know it today, but they are part of its history.  As am I.  Except that they couldn't get rid of me!

BLUEBERRY BUCKLE (from Watershed)

For the berries:
3 pints fresh blueberries, washed, drained and picked over
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon flour (I used White Lily)

For the topping:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature (I used extra-large)
3 cups White Lily flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325-degrees.  Butter and flour a 13x9x2-inch baking pan or dish.  Layer berries in the pan and sprinkle with the ¼ cup of sugar, ½ teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of flour.  Set aside.

In electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl several times.  Reduce mixer speed to medium-low and add eggs, one at a time.

Sift together the White Lily flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda.  Combine the milk and vanilla extract.  With mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with milk until just combined.  Do not overbeat.  Spread topping over berries.

Bake for 1 ¼ or 1 ½ hours until cake tests done.

Serves 12 - 16

*  White Lily flour is made from soft winter wheat and we Southerners like it a lot for our baked goods as it produces a lovely and tender crumb.  If you can't find it, no worries.  You can use all-purpose flour and your buckle will still be delicious.

*  You can gild the lily (no pun intended) and serve your buckle with whipped cream, a splash of heavy cream or even ice cream, but I prefer it unadorned, served warm straight from the pan.


4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons salt (I used kosher)
1 lb. unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup light brown sugar (firmly packed)
¾ cup dark brown sugar (firmly packed)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
4 eggs (I used extra-large)
1 ½ tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups chopped pecans
2 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 cups milk chocolate chips

Place flour, baking soda and salt into w mixing bowl.  Whisk together and set aside.

Place butter into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Beat until creamy, 2 – 3 minutes.  Add brown and granulated sugars and continue to mix on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, scraping down bowl several times, until light and fluffy.  Reduce mixer speed to low and add eggs, one at a time.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Add flour in three parts, mixing only until just incorporated.  Do not overbeat.

Remove bowl from mixer stand and stir in pecans and chocolate chips.  Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate before using.

To bake:
Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Use an ice cream scoop to scoop out even portions of cookie dough.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, at least 1 ½-inches apart.  Place tray on middle rack in oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes, rotating pan once.  Cool slightly the transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Yield:  9 ½ dozen cookies (if using a 1 ½-inch scoop)

Don't you just love the teeny-tiny stove in my temporary kitchen?

*  This makes a lot of cookies, so feel free to halve the recipe.  Or do what I do, which is to scoop out the dough, roll into balls, place on a cookie sheet and freeze.  When frozen, store in plastic bags and keep in your freezer.  When you need a warm chocolate chip cookie fix, just bake up however many you like.  This is not necessarily a good thing if you want to be a skinny cook, but it does mean you will always be prepared  when friends (or kids) are around.

Speaking of kids, mine will be around this weekend, Andy with his fiancee and Eric with his girlfriend.  Can you guess where we are taking them to dinner on Saturday night???


  1. Now I have a reason to go to the new Watershed! Thanks for coming back to cook the chicken. And thanks for the recipes! I'm definitely making the cookies.

  2. ^^I'm with this guy (or gal). :) Definitely will have to hit up the new place soon.

  3. Congrats on your return to Watershed. I know you will work your wonders there again. We are anxious to come up and give the new location a try.

    Love to you and Henry,

    Dick and Frank

  4. I just stumbled upon your blog as I was searching for the recipe to that wonderful very good chocolate cake that was served at Watershed back in Decatur. I tried it at the new location but it isn't the same (at least it wasn't several months ago). I was very excited to find that recipe along with the blueberry buckle - I remember that one fondly. Thanks for sharing!