Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fried Chicken

“Do you mean to tell me a white man fried this chicken?”

Compliment of the year as far as I’m concerned.  You see, we did a UVA graduation party a couple weeks back and we cooked our Southern Buffet which features

Pulled Pork Barbecue link
Homemade Buns
Creamy Wasabi Slaw
Tomato, Basil and House made Mozzarella
Tangy Haricots Vert
Scallion Biscuits
Black Pepper Cornbread

and last but not least

Fried Chicken

Safe to say the Fried Chicken was a hit.  I sure hope so.  I don't think there is a single food I take more pride in preparing.

So when my own daughter and step daughter graduated high school last weekend, I figured I best once again bring the love. The love being, fried chicken.  You see, I was expecting up to 40 people, and it wasn’t exactly a nuclear family type of gathering.

Here were the cast of characters

My wife
My ex, four of my kids
My wife’s ex, his wife, their four kids, her parents, his sister and husband, her 2 sisters and husbands
My mother
My mother in law and boyfriend

Add a host of other graduating teens and a smattering of kids who I had no idea who the hell belonged to who and a handful of other adults with no relation to any of us and we had ourselves all the ingredients for a powder keg.  One in which I was more or less bear hugging. Luckily for me I brought the love.

You see, no one is going to argue when there’s fried chicken around.  When Jimmy Carter got Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin to shake hands and sign that treaty in 78, I bet you there was fried chicken involved.  Jimmy was from the south.  I’m certain that’s why there is so much tension in the Middle East, they don’t have it.  We need to stop wasting time with traditional ambassadors for that area and send some cooks to teach those folks how to fry some chicken.  Soon enough they’ll all be eating chicken and breaking biscuits together not giving a toss about the Gaza Strip.

I might be reaching a bit but maybe not.  Above all the Tiger Woods/Fried Chicken slurs one thing remains constant, everyone loves Fried Chicken. So race, creed, gender here, is not an issue.

Its all about love.

Let get to making some love, I mean, Fried Chicken.  I cut up my own bird but you can probably buy the chicken already cut.  You may have to do some additional cuts get the 12 pieces I like.  Oh yeah, no chickens over three and a half pounds!  The pieces are too big and we lose the balance of meat to crust.  
I cut each breast into two, separate the wings, cut the thighs from the drumstick. Twelve pieces.

It all starts with the brine.  It is the key to making the meat flavorful and juicy.  In a saucepan, bring to a boil the following.

1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
2 lemons
1/3 cup honey
10 bay leaves
3 large sprigs rosemary
5 cloves garlic

Allow the brine to cool.  Then add the chicken.
 Place in the fridge overnight or for at least 6 hours.  Now remove the chicken and discard the brine.  Put the chicken in a container and cover with 2 cups of buttermilk.  Let it sit in the buttermilk for a couple hours.

 Now prepare the flour mix.

5 cups flour
¼ cup garlic powder
¼ cup onion powder
2 T salt
2 T black Pepper
2 T paprika
1 T cumin
1 T cayenne

 Here's another key step.  Ladle some of the buttermilk into the seasoned flour and mix until it resembles course sand.  This will give the fried chicken that "extra crispy" crust.  

 Now take the chicken from the buttermilk and roll in the flour until well coated.

 Do this for all 12 pieces. They should look something like this.

 Now for the frying.  At work, I have the luxury of a deep fryer which none of you have.  A fry daddy type of gadget will mimic it okay, but for this session I'm going old school and using a cast iron skillet. Grandma Elva would be so proud.

Fill the skillet with a half an inch of Canola Oil and turn the heat to medium.  We are looking for a temperature of 325 so if you have a kitchen thermometer use it here. Heat the oil to around or about 375.  Once we add the chicken, the temperature of the oil should drop to where we want it.

Pay attention to the oil because

1) oil can catch fire
2) which could in turn burn down your house
3) And I don't need that on my conscious
4) most importantly, you'll ruin the fried chicken

Here goes. With your oil now at temperature, slip the chicken pieces into the skillet. Give them room, no crowding the love making here.  No shaking the skillet, no going off to do laundry, and no watching the Mad Men episode you DVR'd Sunday.  Just let them fry slowly. When the bottom is nice and brown, carefully flip the pieces over until everything is nice and brown.  We are not cooking  the chicken through here, just getting them nice and crispy.

If you have to do the chicken in batches, so be it. We're only halfway through the process.  When the pieces are nice and brown, transfer to a baking rack over a sheet pan like this

Your oven should be at 325. Once the chicken is done browning, place them all on this rack and place in the oven for about 45 minutes.  

Its helps to have a themometer at hand to check the donesess.  We're looking for 160  degrees for the pieces to be done. 

Once you are there, drop the oven to low low and allow the chicken to rest.  This gives you time to prep the rest of the meal. Make some yeast biscuits, whipped potatoes (blog coming), kale, green beans, whatever your fancy.  Your love is in the oven and just getting better with time so enjoy your time with the fixings.

 And oh yeah, if you have leftovers, cold fried chicken for lunch is money.


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