Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mood Food #2 - End of Summer Pig Out on Fried Chicken!

after writing my post on crew meal, i was happy to find a few pounds of chicken legs in the walk in and decided to make fried chicken.  i don't know how many times i've made fried chicken crew meal, but i remember the first time was at the beginning of this summer.  the main reason was that we had gotten our first real week of heat.  i remember telling my co-worker, Steven, that i made fried chicken because it's hot and summer, and i want fried chicken!  who doesn't think of fried chicken when it comes to summer picnics? everyone lays out a blanket, music is playing, the kids are throwing a ball around, kites are flying, the ice cream truck has just pulled up, blue skies and hot, green grass, the ice is melting but the drinks are cold, and out comes the potato salad, biscuits and fried chicken.  

everyone loves to eat fried chicken.  when i was growing up, fried chicken came to me in the form of Kentucky Fried Chicken, with biscuit and mashed potatoes and gravy (including spork). later on it was the stuff of late-night college eating binges, where we'd pool our meager funds and buy a few buckets nearing closing time; i think it was something like 15 pieces for $5.99.  i even had friends who would sometimes eat nothing but the deep fried batter.  since then i have moved up to chicken and waffles and eventually making my own fried chicken recipe.  

eating my fried chicken the other night, i realized i didn't really have a summer.  i didn't get to go out and enjoy the sunshine as much as i'd liked, didn't get to sleep out on some lazy hammock after trying catch up on summer reading, and i didn't go out to one picnic or the beach (sigh). what can i say? working can do that to you especially when you work nights, get to sleep at 2 or 3am, then wake up at 11am and only have enough time to throw in a load of laundry before heading off to work again.  sure i had days off, but that time was spent always doing "other things".  i haven't had a summer vacation of my youth in a long time, and don't think i ever will again.

but at least, there's fried chicken; one of those foods strong enough to evoke a sense of nostalgia and take you back and away to somewhere, someplace else.  so, in honor of the last days of summer, i give you my recipe for fried chicken.  eat it outside while you can because before you know it, it will be November and TURKEY TIME!



5 lbs chicken legs and thighs (preferably organic)
gallon of buttermilk
1 bunch fresh mint 

take these ingredients and let soak overnight.  when you are ready to cook, preheat oven to 350 F and then get a tall pot (at least 5 qt.) and fill with some soybean or peanut oil (these oils have a high smoke point and can be reused) at least halfway.  you'll need a kitchen thermometer to gauge the oil until it reaches  325 F.  while the oil is heating, assemble the coating:

12 cups all purpose flour
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup smoked paprika
1/2 cup curry powder
1/4 cup ground black pepper

mix all these together in a large baking tray.  taste it.  you should be able to smell the spices and taste the salt.  remove chicken from buttermilk mixture and reserve the liquid.  take the chicken and place it the flour mixture to coat, then re-dip it into the reserved buttermilk.  after this, re-dip it into the flour mixture for a final coat and place it on a sheet tray with wire rack. do this until all the chicken has been double-floured.

at this point your oil should be ready (remember 325 F).  take the chicken in batches and deep fry until golden.  depending on the size of pot and how much oil you have, just remember that the chicken pieces should be deep frying, hence floating in the oil, completely submerged, not crowding each other and bubbling.  if this means you can only fry three pieces at a time then do so, otherwise you'll end up with a soggy coating that won't turn golden.  take your time with this step, otherwise all your hard work up until this point will be for nothing. also, you aren't cooking the chicken at this point, but sealing in the juices and creating the foundation for a crispy crust.  just make sure it's golden, then place it on some paper towels to drain the excess oil.

once all the chicken is deep fried, place it in an oiled baking dish, cover it with foil and put it into your oven for 30 minutes. if you are anal like me, you can place the thighs and legs in their respective baking dishes, as they do have different cooking times.  legs can take a little longer, especially if they are much larger than the thighs, and if the thighs have the back bone/ball joint attached, these can take longer also.  after this, check for doneness (poking it with a knife to see if the juices run clear is a good test) and take off the foil to brown to desired color.  if you fried it to the kind of golden color you like in the beginning, then there is no need for this step and the chicken is ready to eat.  all you need is a picnic basket and a group of hungry friends.  



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