Woah, the faithful reader is getting fired up, and I don’t want to upset my faithful reader, so I am back with a vengeance. I still have to tell you about ribs, chicken pot pie, a bridal shower, making sushi, making pizza, some good quick weekday dinners, ravioli, guacamole and salmon cakes. But today I will tell you about fried chicken.
I don’t know why it took me so long to write about fried chicken, because it was VERY exciting. Fried chicken has a certain enigmatic quality to it. Everyone has their own tricks and tips and family recipes, and good fried chicken is the stuff of legend. So I was nervous to make it. Plus there is the whole risk of a grease fire thing…spooky, scary (not unlike a Werewolf Bar Mitzvah.) But never fear, there was no grease fire and according to my guests and faithful eating companions, the chicken was a success. Huzzah.
I started with chicken pieces. I had leg quarters that I separated, all drumsticks and thighs. I prefer dark meat, so that is what I went with. The night before I was going to fry it, I mixed buttermilk, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper together, and I added the chicken pieces and refrigerated overnight.
The following night was go time. I was not deep-frying the chicken, I was skillet frying it, which means I was filling my cast iron frying pans about half or two-thirds full with peanut oil, and cooking the chicken in that.
I mixed flour, a bit more cayenne, salt and pepper in a pie plate, and then I added just a bit of buttermilk to give the mixture some clumps. I learned that from an episode of America’s Test Kitchen. The idea is that the clumps that form in the mixture after the first couple pieces are dipped in get really crunchy on the finished chicken, so if you pre-emptively add a bit of buttermilk then even the first pieces get those crunchy bits. I dredged all the pieces and then laid them out to rest on a cooling rack while the oil heated up.
I used peanut oil to fry it, because according to pretty much everyone, you are supposed to. Various and sundry recipes say the oil should be about 325-350, but since I have a very untrustworthy thermometer, I tested for temperature by dropping in a bit of the flour mixture and seeing if it bubbled fiercely, when it did, I added the chicken. As soon as I did, I turned up the burner for a minute, to make sure the heat stayed fairly even, as the temperature always drops pretty significantly when you add whatever you are frying. I put several pieces in each pan, but didn’t over crowd it, so the oil could get to all the sides.
I turned the chicken pieces several times during the cooking, which took about 25 minutes. I cooked it until the pieces were evenly browned and, I hoped, cooked through. I was most nervous about it being cooked through, and I was kind of afraid it wouldn’t be, but it was great. I drained the chicken on paper towels, and served with smashed potatoes.
I must say, I was pretty proud of myself. This was wildly successful for my first fried chicken go ’round. It was crunchy and cooked through, and pretty well-flavored, though I think I could up that a little. There were no grease fires- not even any threats of a grease fire. The troops were happy, and I have no qualms about making this again. In fact, I am looking forward to it. One of these weekends I will do it again and tweak things a little. I’ll keep you posted.
There is no real recipe, because I didn’t measure anything. 10 or 12 pieces of chicken, one carton of buttermilk, a tablespoon or so of mustard powder, a couple shakes of cayenne, a fair amount of salt and pepper, and then flour to fill a pie plate, and peanut oil to fill two cast iron skillets about two-thirds full. There’s your recipe. Enjoy!