Sunday, March 1, 2009
Fried Chicken: Good, or Better
"Let's meet for a meal." A simple statement but for months now I've been trying to get an excuse to go to my favorite fried chicken place. This past week I was already booked to go there on Saturday, but nonetheless I was trying to sneak in lunch the Tuesday before, sadly it didn't work. Wanting Fried chicken twice in five days; clearly I have a little problem with fried chicken.
One of the people who had turned me down for that Tuesday lunch is another fried chicken addict. With her it is a genetic pre-disposition toward the addiction as she is a genuine Daughter of the South (DOS). With me it was free choice and it is my drug of choice. I have no genetic draw to anything other than crackpot left-wing political opinions.
But in the process of discussing, via email, the possibility of sneaking a Tuesday fried chicken meal (Tuesday being that glorious day of the week when they always have macaroni and cheese as the special daily side dish) DOS, who had just gotten a new stove, wrote, "I made fried chicken the other night, experimenting with cooking at a lower temperature - 320 degrees. I used peanut oil, bacon fat and duck fat. Just the basic buttermilk marinade. It was very crunchy and moist."
I responded, "And how long did it take to clean up the new stove after you made the fried chicken?"
She replied, "I cooked it in my electric skillet!"
Me, "What a concept! I never thought of that. I suppose I classistly thought one couldn't have one of those unless one lived in a home with wheels. But we did have one when I was a kid and it was a new thing. I think in the wild n' crazy 60s I turned it into a candle making device, never to return to the kitchen."
DOS, "I was inspired to get one during a visit to North Carolina."
Showing just how pathetic my addiction is, I spent the next several hours searching Amazon.com and Target.com for the perfect CCD (cheap Chinese device). Now bare in mind, I have taken this 30's style depression to heart (I wonder how long it will be before I am selling pencils or apples on the street) so, CCD is not a pejorative racist acronym, but rather an expression of admiration, desire, and consumer respect. Nonetheless, I held off, thinking such a device at $25 is almost exactly the price of a fried chicken dinner for two. Also, I thought if I came home with chicken parts and a new electric frypan, just three days before we had a date to go out for fried chicken, my skinny, but obsessed wife would have gone directly from her weight watchers meeting to a lawyers office and filled out the papers to file for a divorce. To be honest, I can't say she would be wrong in this situation. And since they don't make a small enough electric frypan small enough to cook chicken for one I held off on the idea. And of course there is the problem of where I would put it in my kitchen, which is so filled with rarely used tools that I can't even find them when I do want to use them. The solution to my desire for an electric frying pan is say an electric frying pan if I am ever asked what I want for my birthday or Christmas. Usually I only get one or two chances a year since we don't celebrate many gift giving holidays, especially after moving into a 985 square foot house.
I was primed for the big Saturday event. I'd been thinking about it for weeks. The day before I walked my wife to the train and as I was walking back I smelled fried chicken. I was under the elevated train tracks on a path that was adjacent to a supermarket. I was pretty sure the aroma was coming from the supermarket. I'd never had this supermarket's version, and I imagine that it is not very good as my previous experiences with supermarket fried chicken have not been great. Of course when it comes to fried chicken even bad fried chicken is good. But further into the shopping center there is a fried chicken wing place that was just preparing to opening. I thought, to the extent that I could actually think with that delicious smell in my nostrils, maybe the place has opened, and perhaps I could get just one crispy wing. So I made a detour. Sadly the detour took me out of the range of the aroma, and the "Opening Soon" sign was still in place with the windows still papered over. I did manage to sleep that night
I provide the original recipe that DOS gave me many years ago. The creds of this recipe is that it came from Bobbie Lee (pronounced Bobbahlee) the woman who cooked the fried chicken for events at the church where DOS's father preached, first in Montgomery and then in Atlanta.
Bobbie Lee’s Fried Chicken
1 frying chicken, cut into 7 serving pieces
2 cups buttermilk
3 cups flour (preferably bleached)
½ tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1. Put the chicken pieces and buttermilk in a self-closing plastic bag. Refrigerate and let marinate overnight.
2. Combine the flour, paprika, salt and pepper in a brown paper grocery bag. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk, shaking off any excess, and place a few pieces in the paper bag. Fold the top over and shake well to completely coat the chicken pieces. Repeat.
3. Remove the chicken pieces from the bag, shake off the excess flour, and place on a baking sheet. Let sit for at least 30 minutes for the coating to set. Discard the buttermilk.
4. Heat enough Crisco in a large cast-iron skillet or chicken fryer so that the fat is a little less than an inch deep. When the chicken is put in you want the fat to come up just a little more than half way up the chicken pieces. Heat over medium-high heat. Test the heat by dropping in a bread cube and see if it fries brown.
5. Place the chicken pieces in skin side down; do not crowd them. Cook for 10 minutes, then cover and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Remove the cover, turn the chicken and cook for 5 minutes uncovered and then 5 minutes covered. Remove the cover and cook for 5 more minutes to crisp. Turn the chicken only once during the cooking process. Remove from the pan and drain well on paper towels before serving.
Note: I never fried chicken until I was in my 50s. The KFC original recipe is very good and I was always satisfied with it. Without soiling the memory of Bobbie Lee or the memory of her chicken I do things a little differently. I only use thighs because they are my favorite and I find when we have guests, serving myself last I never get a thigh. Anyone who prefers breasts should go to KFC. I add a little cayenne and sage to the flour mixture. I love the crust, and sometimes I shake off the excess flour and let it sit on a rack for 15 minutes and then dip it in the flour again. And I don't put more than 1/2 inch of oil in the pan to start with. And finally, when is appears the right color. I put it on paper towels with tongs and then after several minutes put it on a rack in the oven for 30 or 40 minutes at 225 so it doesn't get any browner but is definitely done on the inside.