Southern Fried Chicken

 

This week, I’ve been enjoying some time off from work, so for dinner tonight, I decided I’d cook up a big “country” style dinner. Nothing says country like some fried food and nothing fries food as well as my great-grandmother’s iron skillets. I have no idea their age; she received them as wedding presents in the first decade of the 20th century and they weren’t new when she received them. They were passed to my grandmother and then to me, and I treat them like they were gold plated! They NEVER have seen the inside of a dishwasher, and only when I cook something like creamed corn, do I even put soap in them. Normally, they get a swish of hot water when the pan is still hot, then they are wiped out and dried off for the next use. Because of years of this kind of use, they are slicker than any non-stick pans available on the market today.

Tonight’s dinner consisted of fried chicken, fresh lady peas, fried fresh okra, boiled heirloom potatoes with a little garlic butter, a pan of cornbread (must for a southern dinner) and a pitcher of sweet iced tea.

Since I am constantly asked how I make fried chicken with such a delicious crust, I thought I’d share that recipe with you this week. There’s really nothing special about my fried chicken, but my customers love it. Some people double bread their chicken, and I’m know to do this when making homemade chicken tenders, or frying boneless skinless chicken breasts, but for good ole’ bone-in chicken, simply follow this recipe:

1. Find a bowl (or a pot if you don’t have a large enough bowl) that’s large enough to hold the amount of chicken you’re planning to cook.

2. Wash the chicken and place it in the bowl. Cover chicken with non-fat cultured buttermilk, and let it soak for at least 20 minutes.

3. Find a second large bowl or pot. Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and put into the second bowl. Using a 5# bag of flour (all purpose or self-rising, whatever you have on hand), pour the flour over the chicken. You need to use enough flour to totally incase the chicken. The chicken has to be embedded in this big bowl of flour, so yes, you’re going to end up wasting a good bit of flour in the end. Toss the chicken to coat well, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss some more and then let the chicken stay in the flour for at least 20 minutes before frying.

4. To fry the chicken, use either an iron skillet, large teflon coated skillet (if that’s all you have), a stock pot or a deep fryer if you have one. Get the grease good and hot. On the stovetop, I usually cook on medium high. In a deep fat fryer, 375F is ideal. To test and make sure your oil is hot enough, sprinkle a little flour in and see if it fizzles and bubbles. Cook the chicken in one even layer (if using a pan) for 8-10 minutes, then flip and cook 8 more minutes (actually your cooking time will depend on the thickness of your chicken and if it’s white or dark meat). White meat cooks faster than dark meat, so to make sure your chicken is cooked thoroughly, invest in a digital meat thermometer.

White meat chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 165F. Dark meat requires an internal temp of about 180F or it will be pink on the bones.

Tip # 2.. DO NOT drain the chicken on a paper towel/plate. This makes the crust soggy. To keep the crust crispy and allow the grease to drain off, place a cooling rack (like you use for cookies) over a plate with a paper towel on the plate (in between the rack and the plate). Drain the chicken on the rack. That’s how we keep chicken crisp in the restaurants while holding for service and that tip works with anything fried with a crust.

For fried okra, follow the same steps, but use cornmeal instead of flour!

 

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Chicken Breasts with Mushroom-Sage Sauce

Every so often, I get a reprise from cooking, and today was one of those days. Yesterday I traveled to Tuscaloosa to see the Tide whip up on North Texas so I didn’t make it home until after midnight. Today was a lazy day so it was nice to not be the cook tonight and to my surprise, I was served a dinner that rivaled a restaurant quality dish, so I thought this week I’d share the recipe with you.

This would be an ideal “dinner party” entree. We had it served over farfalle pasta (bow ties) and the sauce was perfect for the pasta. It’s not a “low fat” recipe, but every so often it’s nice to splurge on yourself.

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots (a small red onion will suffice)
  • 8-10 oz shitake or crimini mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine (we used Sauvignon Blanc because we already had a bottle in the chiller)
  • 2/3 cups heavy whipping cream (light cream may curdle, so be sure to use the heavy cream)
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/3″ thickness
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms and parsley and saute 5-10 minutes more, until the mushrooms have absorbed the liquid and started to brown (mushrooms will first absorb your butter, then they will give off their moisture, then before the brown they will soak back up the moisture in the pan). Add the vermouth/wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the cream, bring to a boil, and cook the sauce until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes).
While the sauce is reducing, in another pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes on each side, until browned and cooked through.
Stir the sage into the reduced sauce and season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over cooked chicken to serve. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Vietnamese Chicken

When you work in the foodservice industry, food cost is a big factor in determining weekly menus. Fine dining restaurants worry about food cost, but not nearly as much as corporate cafes like mine, where I’m serving food for a set price each day that I normally can’t change. So I’m always looking for ways to cook “lower cost” items… that’s how I came up with this recipe. At work, I make this recipe using chicken thighs, which are about the cheapest part of the chicken you can buy (not including organ meat, which I don’t do.. I’m no Hannibal Lector!!), but this marinade is excellent on any piece of chicken. Breasts, strips and for game day tailgating, buffalo wings!! You can get away with a short time marinade for a few hours, but the longer you marinate the meat the better the flavor and the more tender and juicy the meat becomes. The sodium in the soy sauce “brines” the meat and anyone that’s cooked a big Thanksgiving turkey can tell you that brining is the way to ensure a juicy bird each and every time! So give this one a try sometime.. either for your next game day party, or simply for a low cost dinner at home with the family.

  • 4-6 chicken thighs, 4 breasts or 3 boneless chicken breasts cut into strips, or a bag of fresh/frozen buffalo wings (raw)
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Zest from 1 orange, minced
  • Juice from 1 orange
  • 1 large ginger root, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup low-sodium soy sauce**
  • 1 tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp black or white sesame seeds

** I only buy low-sodium soy sauce and for this recipe I recommend you pick up a bottle. Because soy sauce is loaded with sodium, marinating overnight in regular soy sauce makes the finished chicken too salty. It’s like soaking a steak in Dale’s!

Chop lower stem from cilantro and discard. Place cilantro tops, garlic cloves and fresh ginger in the bowl of a food processor and process to a fine blend. In a large storage container or large ziplock storage bag, add the processed ingredients, orange zest, orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds. Add the chicken to the marinade. Cover or seal and marinate for at least 2 hours, or overnight, in the refrigerator, turning every so often to ensure a good coating of marinade on the chicken. The longer it marinates, the more tender the chicken will become.

Remove the chicken from the marinade (discard the marinade) and arrange the thighs on a roasting pan or cookie sheet. Bake at 400F for an hour. If using bone-in breasts, cook on a hot grill until internal temperature reaches 165F, or if using boneless strips, stir-fry with Oriental vegetables and serve over hot steamed rice. Your cooking time with vary depending on the cut of chicken you are using, so it’s best to spend a few bucks at Walmart on a digital food probe thermometer. Chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165F and the longer you let it cook past that temp, the drier it becomes. (Think about an over-cooked turkey at Thanksgiving)

Garnish with sliced scallions, fresh orange slices or minced parsley.