Again with the Southern Fried Chicken

Thu, May 8 • 0

After several attempts and false steps, I’ve finally come up with my go-to fried chicken recipe. This is the best I’ve ever made and the best I’ve ever eaten.

Tried a new technique for fried chicken for dinner tonight, with somewhat mixed results. The recipe came from the Gourmet Cookbook. It added a few details and steps from my normal recipe, which did a good job boosting the flavor, but I thought the directions on frying the chicken pieces were a little unclear, so the crust didn’t turn out as good as I’d hoped.

The first unexpected step has you coat all the cut-up pieces with kosher salt, and have it set in the refrigerator for an hour. The cookbook suggests that this is a sort of quick brining step, which adds flavor but also extracts liquid from the meat, which will let it soak up more of the marinating liquid. And there was a lot of liquid in the plate after an hour … though I have to wonder if I just replaced it when I rinsed the salt off before the soak in the buttermilk.

And the buttermilk soak deviated from my normal recipe, too. I usually put some Louisiana hot sauce in the buttermilk to add flavor. This recipe called for two chopped onions.

In the end, the chicken had great flavor, so I have to think that these steps were worth it. The recipe has you fry the chicken in 3 batches, cooking it in 2 cups of vegetable shorting and 1 stick of butter, heated to hot, but not smoking — I would have preferred a little more specificity in the temperature recommendation. You put the chicken in the oil, cover the pan, and then turn the heat down to low — again, this is pretty vague. You cook the first side for 10 minutes, turn the chicken, and cook the white meat for 10 more minutes, and the dark meat for 12.

Unfortunately, the crust came off in sheets on me. (It might have been because I used bread flour instead of all-purpose flour for the coating).

Still, all things considered, the flavor was good enough to merit more attempts.

May 10 Update : So I tried it again. Luckily, my wife and I have a pretty much unlimited hunger for fried chicken, so repeating this recipe until I clinch it isn’t a chore. This time, I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter. Using regular AP flour, plus letting the floured chicken pieces sit for a full 30 minutes might have helped, too. The crust came out fine. I still need to work on figuring out the heat management with cooking. The first pieces I cooked came out a little pale colored, while the last pieces were quite dark, making me wonder if the butter in the oil needs to cook for a longer amount of time before I start.

So here’s the recipe, if you’re wondering …
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Fajita Seasoning

Sat, Apr 26 • 0

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 package Adobo seasoning

Next time, I think I’ll add a little heat, in the form of cayenne pepper.

Chicken Braciole with Pasta

Sun, Mar 16 • 0

I thought this recipe up on the way to the grocery store, as a fall back if nothing else looked appealing. I think I need to work more on the execution, but it had good flavor. I was lazy and used pre-cut thin chicken cutlets, jarred pesto and jarred pasta sauce. I think it might have ended up better if I pounded the chicken cutlets or used bigger cuts, because the innards just oozed out and burnt during the browning stage. I also think the jarred sauce was a little too much, and I probably could have gotten away with making a simple marinara with canned tomatoes in the food processor.  I also tied the cutlets into the round, but it probably would have been better to pin them with toothpicks, as it was tricky to cut the strings with the thick pasta sauce clinging everywhere.

a quantity of chicken breast cutlets, pounded flat
seasoning (salt, pepper, smoked paprika)
sliced mozzarella
seasoned flour
tomato sauce
cooked pasta

I sprinkled the seasoning on the cutlets, then rubbed them with pesto, added a slice of mozzarella  and rolled them up and tied them. I tossed them in a little flour while some olive oil and butter heated up in a skillet. Over medium heat, I browned the cutlets on all sides, then added the tomato sauce, and let them simmer for 10 or 15 minutes while the pasta cooked.

Southern Fried Chicken – “The Virginia Way”

Sun, Mar 9 • 1

rwf-chicken.jpgFunny how my brother and I sometimes end up being simpatico but always with slightly different perspectives. My wife had been talking about feeding our kids Kentucky Fried Chicken when I ran into a deal at our local Asian food market – chicken legs for 69 cents a pound. I knew I had to use the chicken legs immediately (there presumably was a reason why they were on special).

Soup was a possibility, but my boys love fried chicken. So fried chicken it would be (and no, I had not seen my brother’s posting before making this decision).

So, as my brother asks: “what breading?” I started making a batter coating that has been successful in the past, but then thought better of it. I grew up in Connecticut, but I now live in Virginia. How do Virginians make southern fried chicken?

To find the answer, I looked in some of my favorite southern cookbooks. [Footnote: Camille Glenn’s The Heritage of Southern Cooking is a true authority from which I have learned a lot. I also sometimes look at Craig Claiborne’s Southern Cooking since I know it’s meticulously researched. I haven’t picked up the Lee brother’s book yet, but plan to one of these days.]

The authorities I consulted were consistent: the coating is flour mixed with some salt and pepper (Claiborne cautions that “pepper is important in this recipe”). Thus, Southern Fried Chicken is really very simple. Take some chicken. Rinse and dry it. Coat it in flour mixed with some salt and pepper (you can shake in a bag if you like). Shake off the excess. Fry in hot oil (preferably in a large cast iron skillet) for 8 minutes, turn over and fry another 12 minutes (or more) until it’s “cooked through”. (Ms. Glenn talks about covering the skillet for the first eight minutes, presumably to reduce the spatter. She has you take off the cover when you turn it because you have to watch it).

How do you know when it’s “cooked through”? Good question. Undercooked chicken is dangerous. This is where experience comes in. Ms Glenn has the experience to know when its done just right. Lacking that, do what I did – simply take out a piece, cut it up and see if it’s done.

Other variations: Claiborne tells you to soak the chicken in milk with some tabasco sauce for an hour before your coat. I did not do this. Claiborne seems to always put in something extra to make it special. I knew my boys wanted plain old fried chicken.

Of course, eating this stuff every day is not good for you. It’s also not good for your kitchen – the oil spatters and you have a big mess to clean up. But the kids do love it!!

Any real southerners out there with comments? How did your grandmother make fried chicken?

Fried Chicken

Sat, Mar 8 • 0


This is how I make fried chicken…

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Antibiotics in Meat

Sat, Mar 1 • 1

mooSenators Ted Kennedy (D., Mass) and Olympia Snowe (R., Maine) must have read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, because he recently introduced a bill to limit the use of antibiotics in chicken, beef, sheep and pork farms. According to the book, modern industrial cattle farms force the cows to eat something they normally wouldn’t touch — corn. As a result, cows are prone to acquire all kinds of illnesses that normally wouldn’t be an issue, and so industrial farmers feed their animals large doses of antibiotics to keep infections down, even if a particular head of cattle isn’t showing any signs of needing them. Critics claim that this abuse of antibiotics contributes to increased antibiotics in humans. In the book, an industry insider flat-out admitted that if government were ever to step in and ban the use of antibiotics in farm animals, all of the modern industrial farming practices that have been in vogue for the last 30 to 50 years would cease to be profitable, and farmers would have to go back to raising livestock the old-fashioned, but more natural (and humane) way. This would have an impact on consumers at the check-out, doubling the cost of beef.

Other benefits of doing away with the modern industrial farm practices include making the food supply safer from e-coli contamination, and less risk of bovine spongiform encephalitis, aka “mad cow” disease.

Interestingly, corn farmers probably won’t be too upset about the passage of this bill, since the US government pays them a certain amount of money for a bushel of corn, regardless of market prices or demand. You can expect big opposition bill from industrial agrifarm giants like ADM and Tyson’s Food, though. Until the bill’s passage, you should probably stick to only buying meat with the green “USDA Organic” seal.

Chicken Fingers

Tue, Jan 22 • 0

42-17207108.jpgSo, either buy a package of prepared chicken tenders, or buy boneless chicken breast and slice them into strips. Put them in a bowl, and pour in enough buttermilk to cover them. Then stir in enough hot sauce to turn the buttermilk a light orange. Stir to make sure that all the chicken gets coated, cover, and marinate in the fridge. I figure, an hour, minimum, but I usually let them set overnight.  And don’t worry. You won’t taste the heat of the hot sauce. When you’re ready to start cooking, grind up a bunch of soda crackers — probably a whole stack, preferably salt free — in your food processor. (Short of that, put them in a zip top bag with all the air removed, and beat them up by hand, with a rolling pin, heavy pan, whatever.) You’re looking for the consistency of sand. Now’s the time to mix in any spices you like. I like a mix of granulated garlic and smoked paprika, plus salt (but only if you’re using salt-free crackers). Old Bay works well, too. Pour the mix out onto a plate. Remove the chicken bits from the buttermilk, let most of the buttermilk drip off, and coat with the crushed crackers.

Now, in a frying pan, pour in enough canola oil to make a puddle about a quarter inch deep, and heat it until you just barely see whisps of smoke. Add the chicken bits into the pan, and fry on each side for 3 minutes or so. Remove to a paper towel to drain.

Option 1 : This is basically how you could make whole fried chicken pieces, though you’ll need more oil in the pan, and you’ll need to cook them for longer. For some reason, the white meat takes a bit longer than the dark meat pieces. Skip the cracker meal and use a mixture of flour and cornmeal, or just flour, spiked with salt, pepper, and spices, and you’ve got traditional southern fare. Expect the whole chicken pieces to take about 15 to 20 minutes, total, turning once.

Option 2 : No need to stick with chicken. You can do the same with almost any meat. Chicken-fried steak, pork cutlets, tilapia filets, eggplant, even.

My Roast Chicken

Thu, Jan 10 • 0

chickenFirst, the day before I plan to serve them, I start off with two 3lb bird, preferably organic, free range, but I’ll settle for a regular supermarket bird if that’s all I can find. I make two because it’s just as easy to make two as it is to make one, and there’s always good uses for the leftovers. Next, I boil up 4 cups of water in my electric teapot (though a pan on the stovetop is fine). In that, I dissolve about a cup of kosher salt, an eighth cup sugar, a tablespoon of dried rosemary, several dried juniper berries — really, any dried spices you like.

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White and Brown Stock

Mon, Dec 24 • 0

When making chicken stock, using raw chicken will give you “white” chicken stock, while using a roasted bird will give you “brown” chicken stock.

According to Escoffier, white stock is used for the base of white sauces. Brown stock should be the color of “fine burnt amber” and used for the base of soups and thickened gravies, and for meat glazes after it’s been reduced. He also suggests using it to moisten meat for braising.

In both cases, he suggests breaking the bones, and that if you want the stock to be gelatinous, you need to simmer the stock for at least 8 hours.

His recipes (below the break) aren’t limited to just chicken meat, either, and they’re naturally more involved than almost any other recipe for chicken stock that I’ve ever come across.

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