As a child, I was “good” to the point of pathology, except for my reading habit. I had to be called multiple times to set the table, come to dinner, empty the dishwasher…you get the picture. I also tried, unsuccessfully, to develop a method of reading a book while eating dinner with the family. I got caught every time, and reminded fairly sharply that I was being incredibly rude. (It is a great pleasure of my adult life that, when I eat alone, I can read unrepentantly as I graze).
Of great interest to me in much of what I read was the food the characters ate. I didn’t really want the odd bits of the pig that the Ingalls girls ate in the “Little House” books, and “porridge” (I read a lot of books about orphaned English children) sounded unpromising. On the other hand, there were plum puddings, apple dumplings, tea sandwiches, and various Japanese and Indian foods courtesy of Rumer Godden. I can still become fixated on things consumed by fictional characters, and this week I’ve been reading a novel in which a man returns to his “homeplace” in the Deep South. Fried Chicken is mentioned, and when Sam said he would like fried chicken for his birthday dinner (this is the standard order of the past 6 years) I decided that rather than going the tedious recipe-reading route, I’d see if I could reconstruct the fried chicken described in the book.
Here’s what I “knew:”
- The chicken was deep fried in some type of fat
- The chicken was soaked in buttermilk
- The chicken was not battered, but coated with flour with unidentified spices
I also really knew that, despite the Crisco ads of my youth (remember Florence Henderson?) I would be frying in Canola oil instead of shortening, and that it would take about 25-30 minutes for the thickest breasts to cook through on high heat. Below is my “adapted from fiction”fried chicken, and may I say that it was AMAZING. Tender. Crisp, Flavorful. Addictive. Who knows what I could do if I hadn’t been cheated out of all the time I spent doing chores or being polite company instead of reading?
Fictional Fried Chicken
- The bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces of your choosing, allowing at least two pieces per person – I bought mixed fryer parts and an extra package of drumsticks because that’s what Sam likes best.
- 1 pint buttermilk
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- About 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- About 1 Tablespoon Sweet or Hot Paprika, depending on whether you want a kick
- Enough oil to come about halfway up the frying pan(s) you’ll be using. (Note: you may need to fry two pans of chicken at the same time if you are feeding a crowd and want it served hot; in the alternative, you may set your oven to 250 or so and fry a batch and keep it warm while you cook the second batch).
At least 8 hours before you want to eat (overnight is even better) wash chicken and place in a large, zipper-type plastic bag with the buttermilk. Turn it over whenever you think about it, so that all the chicken is well-buttermilked.
When you’re ready to cook, put the chicken in a strainer in the sink and drain off excess buttermilk. (Chicken will still be wet).
Pour oil into frying Pan(s) over high heat.
While oil heats, place flour, salt, pepper and spices in a second plastic bag, add chicken and shake to coat VERY thoroughly. If you have more than 5 pieces of chicken, flour it in separate batches.
Oil is ready when a bread crumb dropped in sizzles and quickly browns. If the bread burns quickly, turn your heat down a notch and try again until you get browining, not burning.
Add the chicken to the pan (be careful!) and cook 15 minutes on one side. Turn and cook about 10 minutes on the second side. Thick breasts may take a little longer; I started the breasts five minutes ahead of the wings, drumsticks and thighs so that they cooked for a total of 30 minutes.
When chicken is mahogany colored and has a fairly resilient crust, remove from oil, place briefly on paper towels, and serve. (As of today, I know that this is also really good cold).