Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tuesday fried chicken

fryers 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.

pepper vinegar fig. b: yes! pepper vinegar

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.]


andrea said...

Glancing at the photo, I thought there was some sort of creepy hand reaching into the vinegar jar.

aj kinik said...

there is!!!

no, that's just a couple of chiles, one dried red (thai) and one fresh green (serrano).

sorry about the scare

Anonymous said...

Oh,that chicken does look good,OK OK it looks great! I'm one of those people, you know, the grease fearing ones, but I think I'll take the plunge now that windows can be opened in Montreal, looks dead easy to do too, I was always overwhelmed by complicated recipes with batters and all that dipping and dredging you know, the one wet hand and one dry hand variety, that intimidated the heck outta me. Love finding simple recipes like this, thanks for sharing, next Tuesday is fried chicken day, oh look out!

tiny banquet committee said...

That's it, I am going to start a jar of pepper vinegar this weekend. It looks so science experiment-y and it seems like it would be great to have around to drizzle on everything.
I made fried chicken just once (and oddly chose this persian-influenced recipe from Ana Sortun's Spice) and totally stunk up my tiny kitchen. More recently I decided to try frying again and I made some catfish and there was no smell whatsoever. I think the key was not the difference in spicing as much as it was the difference in oils - the first time I used canola oil, and the second time I used peanut oil. I have since noticed that many recipes for something fried specify peanut oil, like this Lee Bros. recipe, and I am now convinced there must be some property is has that makes it superior for frying.

Stockton said...

great post guys - when done right, fried chicken is heavenly!