fig. a: mmm, fried chicken
Sometime late last year we came to the decision that it was about time we rolled up our sleeves and learned to fry some dang chicken. Having the tangy fried chicken at Ange & Ricky one day, fresh out of the fryer, was the turning point--especially because for some strange reason every bite kept reminding me of my Slovak grandmother's fried chicken. I felt like I owed it to her. I felt like I owed it to the two of us. Anyway, early 2007 saw us dabbling with recipes, trying to find our sure-fire method, but still a bit hesitant to dive in and officially become regular chicken fryers. Then the Lee Bros. stepped into our life. Their no-nonsense approach to fried chicken freed us right up. Grease? Ventilation issues?
We hear people say they don't fry chicken at home because they don't want to live with the grease, and our answer to that is this: we've fried in galley-sized kitchens with no ventilation whatsoever, and it's rarely been a problem. If you were running a fried-chicken restaurant from such a kitchen, there might be cause for concern, but you're not. So just open your windows wide and fry away. You'll be glad you did.
The other thing the Lee Bros. helped us out with was our frying temperature. It's kind of hard to believe, but even among fried chicken experts, there's a fair bit of debate about that most essential of chicken-frying factors. We'd tried a few of these other methods with mixed results, then we heeded the Lee Bros.' advice, keeping the temperature pegged at 325º F, as much as humanly possible, and our results were, well, golden. We've never looked back.
We've yet to make the Lee Bros.' Sunday Fried Chicken recipe, which involves a good 4 hours of brining, but we've been using a slightly modified version of their Tuesday Fried Chicken--a simplified version perfect as a "pick-me-up at the end of a long, bluesy workday"--for the last couple of months.
Tuesday Fried Chicken
3 cups peanut oil
1 recipe AEB Spicy Fry Dredge
3 pounds chicken legs and thighs
essential equipment: candy thermometer
Preheat the oven to 250º F.
Pour the oil into a 12-inch skillet and heat over medium-high heat until it reaches 325º F on a candy thermometer. [Note: if you use a different size skillet, make sure you've got 1/3" of oil in order to ensure proper frying.]
Place the fry dredge in a medium bowl or in a large, sturdy plastic bag. Dredge the chicken thoroughly by rolling it in the bowl or shaking it in the bag. Shake off any excess dredge. Using tongs, transfer 3 legs and 3 thighs to the skillet, skin side down, and cover. Fry the chicken, maintaining a constant temperature of 325º F or higher, until the chicken is golden brown, about 6 minutes. Uncover the skillet, turn the chicken pieces with the tongs, and fry 6 minutes more, until the chicken is golden brown all over. Turn it and fry for another 3 minutes, then turn again and fry for 3 more minutes. The chicken should be an even dark golden-brown all over.
With the tongs, transfer the chicken to a paper-towel-lined plate and place in the oven to keep warm. Repeat above steps with the remaining chicken.
When all the chicken is done, serve immediately, and pass a cruet of Pepper Vinegar at the table so you can spritz your chicken.
Serves 4 hungry people.
AEB Spicy Fry Dredge
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp stone-ground cornmeal
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 rounded tsp smoked sweet paprika
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper twice. Use as directed.
Makes 3/4 cup.
fig. b: yes! pepper vinegar
1 cup white wine vinegar
2 Thai, serrano, or bird's eye chiles, fresh or dried
With a funnel, pour the vinegar into a cruet or mason jar. Add the chiles and use a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon to submerge them, if necessary. Cap the cruet or place the lid on the jar and refrigerate. The vinegar will be well infused in 24 hours and will keep for months in the refrigerator.
It's Tuesday. Start frying.
[Thanks again to the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook.]