Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bonus Recipe, Fried Chicken

So, recently, there was a terrific buy on some local chickens. $5 each. Can't beat that with a 10 foot pole. We bought 10. We have roasted two, and number three was destined to be fried chicken. These chickens are ALL over 6 pounds, with some being over 8, like the one I decided was destined to become fried chicken.

Ok, I didn't know WHAT I was going to do with it. But we had electrical issues last week, and while my refrigerator wasn't affected, my cooking plans were. Friday, I just kinda decided that this weekends foods were going to be more "fussy." Hence yesterday's acorn squash, and today's fried chicken.

Now, while I'd love to tell you all that "my grandma made the bestest fried chicken in the whole world," I can't. Love my Nana, but cooking is NOT what she does well.

So, as it's been years (yes, years) since I made a batch of fried chicken, I figured I'd better hit the usual suspects for recipes. Food Network, All Recipes and for good measure RecipeSource are the three main places I search for recipes. Recipe Zaar is another fairly decent place to look. I love Recipe Source for ethnic dishes. A lot of inspiration comes from that site. As usual, I came up with several different possibilites, from go-to guys Alton Brown, Emeril Legasse, and Tyler Florence. Poor Paula, didn't have anything I was looking for today. I came up flat at All Recipes and Recipe Source; at least for the kind of recipe I was looking for. We like buttermilk fried chicken. The acid in the buttermilk really helps tenderize the chicken and flavor it. This is especially important since these birds have not been pre-brined at the packing plant.

You know I can't leave well enough alone, so I adapted the recipes to what I have on hand and came up with my version. Each recipe had a different marinading time, so I went half in two and decided four hours sounded good.

Insert Cool Name Here Fried Chicken

1 chicken, cut up into serving sized pieces*
1 quart buttermilk (if you can find full fat buttermilk, I'm all for it)
1 - 2 TBSP Old Bay seasoning
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
salt, to taste

If you have a whole chicken, cut it up. Serving pieces are usually: 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 breasts and 2 wings. In a large bowl, put the remaining ingredients and whisk them together. Put the chicken in the marinade, and make sure it's all evenly coated. Place in fridge for 4 hours. FYI, I've been known to cut wings of chickens, pre-cook stage, and toss them all in a bag in my freezer....when I have a goodly amount, we get the ultimate treat: Momma's Chicken Wings. Yep, I make four mean styles of those, and we gotta have 'em all at the same time. Takes a LOT of wings.

*The chicken I ended up using was 8 pounds. Yes, EIGHT. Guess what, I cut each breast into two pieces, and the thighs were as big as a "normal" chicken breast. And I ended up having to use my full 1/2 gallon container of buttermilk because believe me, the quart wasn't gonna do it. I did add more of the seasonings when I added more buttermilk.

Fry time

2 - 3 cups flour
salt to taste
1 - 2 TBSP paprika (it does help bring out a pretty color)
1 - 2 TBSP Italian seasoning
Enough of your choice of frying medium to make about a one to two inch depth of fat in the bottom of a large skillet like object*

Put flour and seasonings in a gallon sized ziploc baggie. Shake vigorously, until mixed. Pull out one or two pieces of chicken from the buttermilk marinade(depends on the size of the pieces, really. On Godzilla-Chicken, one is all I can do) and let excess liquid drain off. Put the chicken in the ziploc baggie, shake it all about till chicken is coated. Pull out of bag, shake off excess flour, and put on a rack over a cookie sheet (mess cleaning made easy). Once all chicken is floured, warm your oil. Note, I said AFTER it's all floured up. The flour will have time to kinda soak up the buttermilk and help keep your coating ON the chicken if you give it this time to rest. Plus, it's coming to room temperature, a good thing when working with hot oil. Get the temperature of your cooking medium to 325F. Some say 300, some say 350. For me, 350 is too hot, 300 not quite warm enough. When you add food to the oil, it will cool down the oil, and oil temperatures below 300 (as will happen if that's the temperature you start at) can leave the food excessively greasy. When the temperature is right, add the chicken to the pan. Put the dark meats (legs and thighs) in the middle, where it will be a bit hotter, and the light meats (breasts and wings) around the edges. Cook for 10 - 12 minutes until golden, flip and cook for another 10 - 12 minutes.

You can put a lid on the whole thing. This does 2 things. It keeps oil from gracing your oven top and kitchen walls and it keeps the heat in the pan, cooking the chicken instead of heating up your house. If you use a lid, be aware that the chicken MAY cook faster than the times listed above.

*I don't care if you use Crisco, peanut oil, veggie oil, canola oil or motor oil. Really. Use what you feel is right for the health of your family. I think olive oil's smoke point is too low as well as adding a flavor I'm not sure is complimentary, and I am pretty sure they'll look at you funny if you use motor oil.

Serve this with fries, smashed taters, salad, whatever you like.

We like it hot, can ya tell? Add some Franks Hot Sauce (or your preferred brand) to the buttermilk.

Use the Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix in your flour mixture (this will make your fried chicken taste pretty close to that national brand).

I never make anything the exact same way twice. (Well, except.....wait, I change that around too, nevermind.) But we enjoy the variations, and I always have the recipe skeleton to use as guide, so I don't get too far off base.

Oh, and the reason this is Insert Cool Name Here Fried Chicken is because I couldn't come up with a cool name. So, call it what you want!

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