What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

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What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Jenise » Wed May 10, 2006 4:13 pm

A sale on organic chicken thighs decided last night's main course: fried chicken and succotash. And I got to thinking as I made it that the ultimate fried chicken is still a moving target for me--I probably only make this meal twice a year (if that), and each time I vary something about the way I make it. Last night's was buttermilk-soaked chicken coated in flour seasoned with Lawry's seasoning salt, flakes of sage and enough white pepper to give the coating a gentle heat fried in 1/2 an inch of corn oil, turned once.

Was it good? Yes. Was it great? Maybe. Is there a better way? Entirely likely.

So I thought I'd compare notes. How do each of you make fried chicken? Oh, and what's your favorite wine choice? I served both a Reuilly (03 Denis Jemains, I think) and an 02 white Rhone varietal blend from California's Beckman winery. Much as I love the former wine, the richness of the latter made it the better choice.
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby MikeH » Wed May 10, 2006 9:36 pm

Sorry, but we don't eat fried chicken. I mean, adding the word "chicken" after "fried" is kind of misleading. All one tastes is the fried part. And its not just chicken.....just about any food breaded and cooked in oil loses its basic taste. At least to me it does.

Fried bread tastes so much better when it comes as a sugar-coated donut.
Cheers!
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Karen/NoCA » Wed May 10, 2006 9:45 pm

I never fry chicken anymore because I found something I love more.
Oven Fry Extra Crispy Seasoned Coating for Chicken. I've been using it for years.
I always soak my organic chicken in buttermilk, seasoned with some splashes of Tabasco. Soak all day. Drain off buttermilk and roll chicken pieces in Oven Fry. Bake in a non stick pan coated lightly with EVOO.
This product is made by Kraft. I think this is a great product and the results, for me, are better than frying.
The product calls for dipping the chicken in egg, but it already is moistened with buttermilk, so no need.
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Howie Hart » Thu May 11, 2006 7:39 am

Like the others who posted, I don't do fried chicken. ("Wings" don't count). I think I fried chicken once, about 30 years ago. The only time I eat it is if its offered on a limited choice buffet. The closest I come to fried chicken is browning it in bacon grease as the first step in coq au vin. I don't dislike fried chicken, but I just think there are so many better things to do with it.
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Robin Garr » Thu May 11, 2006 8:23 am

Like most of the others who've posted, Jenise, I rarely fry my own chicken at home. Unlike some, though, I do love the stuff, and would respectfully disagree with the assertion that it just "tastes like fried stuff."

I don't like to do it at home because it makes a mess, requires a lot of oil, and is enough of a specialized skill that I think there are plenty of eateries around here that make it much better than I could. (Although I hasten to add that locally based KFC is not among them. Once decent stuff in Col. Harland Sanders' time, it has now finally been dumbed all the way down.)

Anyway, when I think about perfect fried chicken, I think Golden Brown and Delicious, of course. The coating should be crisp, crunchy and grease-free; I'm open-minded about mild, subtle herbs or spicy Cajun heat; and the meat within should be tender, juicy and steaming hot, never dried out or stringy. Or raw.

How to get there is a tougher question, since I rarely do it. I do recall that once upon a time, maybe 25 years ago, when I was starting out in food and wine writing and made a personal commitment to learn cooking at a more professional level because I shouldn't write about it if I couldn't do it (but I digress), I made fried chicken several times to master the process. At that time, I found a couple of different recipes in one of Craig Claiborne's New York Times cookbooks that came very close to the mark for me. One was a "Southern fried" method with a light flour-and-herb dredge; the other called "Viennese fried" or something similar with a full-bore, schnitzel-style bound breading. They were both excellent, but my Euro-tastes overcame my Border South upbringing ... I liked the Vienna-style best. It was a lot more trouble to make, though.
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Barb Freda » Thu May 11, 2006 11:00 am

Mike,

I don't think you've had the good stuff. I like just the flour dredge as described by Jenise...any more than flour and if it's not done right (cooked at just the right temp, for example), it really does just soak up the grease...much like fried bread (a lovely British breakfast delicacy, but I digress).

I also agree with Robin. What a pain to make...Better off to find someone who does it right. NOt an easy task, but not impossible...and now I find myself wanting to make some. Am I nuts?

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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Robin Garr » Thu May 11, 2006 11:13 am

Barb Freda wrote:Am I nuts?


No comment, Barb! But not when it comes to cooking, though ...
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby ChefCarey » Thu May 11, 2006 12:46 pm

Jenise wrote:A sale on organic chicken thighs decided last night's main course: fried chicken and succotash. And I got to thinking as I made it that the ultimate fried chicken is still a moving target for me--I probably only make this meal twice a year (if that), and each time I vary something about the way I make it. Last night's was buttermilk-soaked chicken coated in flour seasoned with Lawry's seasoning salt, flakes of sage and enough white pepper to give the coating a gentle heat fried in 1/2 an inch of corn oil, turned once.

Was it good? Yes. Was it great? Maybe. Is there a better way? Entirely likely.

So I thought I'd compare notes. How do each of you make fried chicken? Oh, and what's your favorite wine choice? I served both a Reuilly (03 Denis Jemains, I think) and an 02 white Rhone varietal blend from California's Beckman winery. Much as I love the former wine, the richness of the latter made it the better choice.


I just have one thing to say about this - page 141 Chef on Fire. :)
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Jenise » Thu May 11, 2006 1:13 pm

Mike, like Barb, when chicken is properly seasoned and fried I don't find that it has an overwelming fried taste, and I'm someone who eats almost no fried food otherwise so it's not like I've got the dulled senses of someone with a strong affection for frite. But that said, there are many ways to get a crispy coating on chicken via the oven.

Have you tried any? My favorite "fried" chicken of all are wing drummettes that I marinate in herbs, white wine, olive oil and apple juice, then coat with seasoned flour and corn meal. What the chicken absorbs during marination is generally sufficient to 'fry' the coating in place, and the result is both crispy and intensely flavored while avoiding any possibility of oiliness.

Chef Carey--I'll check it out. I have your Creole book but not the other. Yet.

Robin--it is indeed a huge mess to make. I have oil and flour everywhere when I make it. Like you, my mother despised the mess so much that fried chicken was nonexistent in our household. I only ever got to have it when we went to a smorgasbord style restaurant, wherein I invariably settled for a leg or thigh while actually preferring the white meat but for being an excessively modest child who could not bring herself to say 'breast' out loud. All of which probably explains why I like it so much--it early on got stamped with the allure of the forbidden. :)

Karen, I've never seen that product. BUT, I'm reminded now, you spoke of this Tabasco marinade on the old board, and shortly after I had some wings in a trendy pan-Asian style restaurant that were infused with a wonderful vinegary, Tabasco-like hotness. I adored them. But not owning Tabasco I didn't immediately pursue that, and then I forgot about it. You now have me salivating at the thought--and since there's a half a quart of buttermilk in the fridge, this would actually be an excellent time to get around to it. After I buy some Tabasco, of course.
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Karen/NoCA » Thu May 11, 2006 1:45 pm

Jenise wrote:Karen, I've never seen that product. BUT, I'm reminded now, you spoke of this Tabasco marinade on the old board, and shortly after I had some wings in a trendy pan-Asian style restaurant that were infused with a wonderful vinegary, Tabasco-like hotness. I adored them. But not owning Tabasco I didn't immediately pursue that, and then I forgot about it. You now have me salivating at the thought--and since there's a half a quart of buttermilk in the fridge, this would actually be an excellent time to get around to it. After I buy some Tabasco, of course.


What no Tabasco in your house? What about other hot sauces like Cholula or Sriracha?
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Jenise » Thu May 11, 2006 1:52 pm

Sriricha: yes, love the stuff with certain Asian foods. Often marinate chicken wings in it to broil for parties.

Cholula: yes, Bob's favorite taco sauce.

Tapatia: yes, Jenise's favorite taco sauce.

But no Tabasco.
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Paul Winalski » Thu May 11, 2006 4:53 pm

ChefCarey wrote:[I just have one thing to say about this - page 141 Chef on Fire. :)


Hear, hear! Definitely check Chef Carey's recipe out.

-Paul W.
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Larry Greenly » Thu May 11, 2006 8:16 pm

Jenise wrote:Sriricha: yes, love the stuff with certain Asian foods. Often marinate chicken wings in it to broil for parties.
Cholula: yes, Bob's favorite taco sauce.
Tapatia: yes, Jenise's favorite taco sauce.
But no Tabasco.


I'm mostly with you. I have all kinds of brands, which I get for being a Scovie judge. Cholula is my favorite. Tapatia is good. Sriricha is okay, but kinda garlicky for me. I much prefer Crystal Hot Sauce to Tabasco, which I find too vinegary.
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Jenise » Fri May 12, 2006 2:27 pm

Larry, almost everyone I know who considers Tabasco a neccessity converts to Crystal, or is it Crystal's, when they taste it.

I'm surprised that Cholula's your favorite--it has great flavor but it's pretty gentle for a chilehead like you.
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby MtBakerDave » Fri May 12, 2006 2:59 pm

I don't "do" fried chicken. When I think of the definitive fried chicken (which is frankly not often,) I think of Ezell's, which is just up the street.

http://www.ezellschicken.com/index.html

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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Jenise » Fri May 12, 2006 3:44 pm

Dave, never heard of them, but I've just made note of their locations for a future trip to Seattle. So this is where Oprah goes every time she visits Seattle, eh? Sounds great.
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Bob Henrick » Fri May 12, 2006 7:16 pm

I sure as He double hockey sticks disagree with most of that Mike. Especially that part about fried bread. Take a piece of crusty european bread the size of a hoagie roll and cut it diagonally into fourths and fry all cut sides in a decent quality olive oil (doesn't have to be evoo). Have this with a strong (espresso strength) cup of coffee and pay attention because it is going to sing! As an option you can even sprinkle it with a little powdered sugar, but I prefer it plain. So now you know the secret to my pants size! :-)
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Hoke » Fri May 12, 2006 7:49 pm

I'm surprised that Cholula's your favorite--it has great flavor but it's pretty gentle for a chilehead like you.


I'm with Larry on this one, Jenise. I really like the Cholula too. It's not the bite or heat of the sauce, it's the roundedness of flavor in the Cholula.

It is now what I keep in my fridge.

Around here (Sonoma) it's not Tabasco. It's either Cholula or Tapatio. And I'm neutral on Tapatio.
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby MtBakerDave » Fri May 12, 2006 10:52 pm

Jenise wrote:So this is where Oprah goes every time she visits Seattle, eh? Sounds great.


The story I heard, and it may well be apocryphal, is that Oprah liked the chicken so much that she's had it FedExed to her in Chicago. From personal experience, it's mighty good chicken ...

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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Eric Ifune » Sat May 13, 2006 4:30 am

If I had a last meal, it would be my mother's fried chicken. I do a pretty good approximation. It's seasoned and flour dredged only, then pan fried. Tender and juicy. And then there's the pan gravy afterwards! Once you get the assembly line going, it doesn't take too long. And clean up is only the one pan. A large well seasoned cast iron skillet is the best choice. To me, it's not too much a chore and the results are worth it.
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Randy Buckner » Sat May 13, 2006 12:14 pm

Let's hear it for Eric! We'll line up all of these danged Yankees and blast the varmits. Where's Yosemite Sam?

Freshly killed and cleaned chicken, seasoned with salt, pepper, a little poultry seasoning, dredged in flour, then fried crisp and juicy in a hot iron skillet. Make chicken gravy, mashed potatoes, and fried okra -- Yowza! It dosen't get much better for an old southern boy unless there is a piece of pecan pie afterwards. :-)
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Jenise » Sat May 13, 2006 12:47 pm

Hoke, agreed about Cholula's balance, Bob likes it for exactly that reason (and I do, too). But if we're putting it on a taco, well, Tapatia's more pronounced red chili flavor (and heat) are what wins me over. Ultimately, I like having both around.

Eric and Bucko---gravy and mashed potatoes, too? It's an indulgence I give in to almost never, but Eric if I were choosing a last meal I have to admit that chicken plus gravy and mash would be hard to beat. By the way, on the subject of gravy, I caught an episode of Paula Dean wherein she made a pan gravy--without milk! I thought all self-respecting southern women made milk-based pan gravies for fried chicken.
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Bob Ross » Sat May 13, 2006 1:16 pm

Jenise, thanks for mentioning the Lewis/Peacock book. There are some really interesting recipes in it, including the fried chicken version.

Epicurious published a moving memoir when Lewis died earlier this year; it reads in part:

People who know Lewis can't say enough about the life she has led, or about the woman herself. "Edna is both a grand lady and an unpretentious person," says John Egerton, author of several books on Southern cooking. "Every place she's gone, she has touched and inspired people." For decades, aspiring young chefs have profited from her guidance, Egerton notes. "Edna has always been free with her skills and techniques. She doesn't create masterpieces to be observed only from a distance. She invites you in."

Perhaps that helps explain what makes Southern cooking so magical, even to non-Southerners. Comfort food isn't just taste, after all, but a whole set of relations. The relentless specialization of modern life has taken its toll on home culinary life, eroding skills and weakening the chain of cooks passing along family lore in the form of favorite recipes. Not only our kitchens, but our lives, our very selves, are decreasingly well-equipped for home cooking. And thus — the deep, near-mythic resonance of Lewis's life and vision, with its ecstatic unity of food, farm and family. Her personal memory cues our collective one, inviting us back to a place we're only half-aware we left behind.


http://www.epicurious.com/cooking/holid ... tory/lewis

Don't you love that smile? :-)

Regards and thanks, Bob
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Re: What, for you, makes the "definitive" fried chicken?

Postby Eric Ifune » Sat May 13, 2006 2:01 pm

Eric and Bucko---gravy and mashed potatoes, too? It's an indulgence I give in to almost never, but Eric if I were choosing a last meal I have to admit that chicken plus gravy and mash would be hard to beat. By the way, on the subject of gravy, I caught an episode of Paula Dean wherein she made a pan gravy--without milk! I thought all self-respecting southern women made milk-based pan gravies for fried chicken.


I use both milk and chicken broth in my gravy. And being of Asian decent, I prefer rice over mashed potatoes. I like the way the gravy coats each kernel rather then mixes with the potatoes. That said, I still would never turn down a serving of potatoes and gravy!
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