With summer upon us, and with thoughts of imminent barbeques, days spent sitting in the park or at the beach swimming through our heads, one cannot help but think of that picnic classic, fried chicken.
Though fried chicken is most strongly associated with the southern United States, it was likely brought to the South by Scottish immigrants, and has since been subsumed by and forever tied to Southern culture.
The traditional method for making Southern fried chicken is to coat the meat in a breading or batter—often a mixture of flour and seasoning—and then fried in vegetable oil in a pan or deep fryer. For those concerned with the health ramifications of fried food, when cooked at the proper temperature, the chicken does not absorb very much oil at all. According to the Martha Stewart Living website, “eight servings of chicken (two per person) absorb only about 2 3/4 tablespoons of oil.”
To inaugurate my pan-fried inklings, I decided to do a chicken run through the neighborhood, the first stop to be made at trusty Palace Fried Chicken at 630 Manhattan Ave. I had the chicken combo meal that comes with mashed potatoes, gravy and a biscuit. Now, I think the chicken at Palace is pretty good, (the sides I could do without). It’s a little on the greasy side, but is crispy and has a price point that can’t be beat. My combo meal came in at $4.
With that as comparison, and with a little break to shore up my stomach I headed over to Jimmy’s Diner, 577 Union. I had the fried chicken there as well, but cheated a little bit with the mocha malted milk shake, sweet potato fries and a cheese sandwich. The milkshake, though pricey at $5 was sweet and thick. The cheese sandwich was crisp and loaded with American cheese, and the sweet potato fries had good flavor but were a little on the floppy side. The chicken, which came with mashed potatoes, was crunchy on the outside, flavorful on the inside, wasn’t at all greasy and was smothered in delicious gravy. Certainly it is closer to the Southern home-style standard than Palace, and perhaps the best chicken I have had in the borough to date.
I wanted to include a third leg of the race, but forgetting that many local restaurants close on Mondays, I wasn’t able to make it. I suppose it’s more anatomically correct this way to have two. So to make up for it I would like to include my own recession special, a recipe to make fried chicken at home.
3 pounds chicken
3 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
pepper to taste
2 pounds of vegetable shortening
Place buttermilk and chicken in an airtight container making sure pieces are thoroughly coated and refrigerate overnight. Drain chicken and set aside. Combine flour with salt and pepper to taste in a shallow dish and lightly coat each piece of chicken tapping off the excess. In a deep pot heat shortening to 350 degrees and place chicken in one at a time. Make sure the temperature remains constant and turn every 6 minutes until the chicken reaches a rich brown color. Remove from oil to a wire rack to drain and season with salt.
I don’t know what American cuisine—let alone summer fun—would be without fried chicken. The satisfying crunch of crispy skin and the juicy meat inside proves to be irresistible. So to answer the question posed by the band Train in their 2001 hit “Drops of Jupiter, “Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken?” Nope, bring it on! Though maybe next time not all in one day.