Friday, February 5, 2010

Chicken Fried Chicken

The name really does make sense. Really! It does!

It’s Chicken Fried Steak made with chicken breast instead of steak, and while the steak is sometimes called Country Fried Steak, Country Fried Chicken is a common name for regular fried chicken. Thus we get to revel in the delightful redundancy of Chicken Fried Chicken.

I am new to deep frying. But back South, I had all the access to deep fried deliciousness I could want without doing the work myself. It’s different up here. I mean, they fry things, but not necessarily the same things and not necessarily the same way. I grew up watching Grandma fry chicken on a regular basis. (A favorite family story involves the first time Grandpa brought home a turkey. Grandma had never cooked one and decided to treat it pretty much like a big old rooster. She boiled it, floured the pieces, and fried it. For the rest of her life, she never cared much for turkey unless it was fried.) Fried Chicken was a not uncommon treat, but I always loved chicken even more when I didn’t have to mess with the bones (boneless wings are brilliant!).

So when my friend, Chris, decided to move to Orlando, and some of us were considering what might be a good meal to send him off with, I thought there couldn’t be a better time to try making the Chicken Fried Chicken which happens to be his favorite. I did some research and concluded that three thing (maybe four) are critical: double dipping the coating, buttermilk, lard or peanut oil, and lots of salt and pepper. So here’s the recipe:

Chicken Fried Chicken for 8

  • 8 (6-ounce) skinned boned chicken breasts, flattened to ¼ inch thickness
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus
  • 2 sleeves of saltine crackers, crushed
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (half if you want to lower the kick)
  • 2  large eggs
  • 2  teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2  cups buttermilk
  • Lard (or Peanut oil, if you must)

-Sprinkle the chicken pieces liberally with salt and pepper.
-Combine the cracker crumbs, flour, measured salt and pepper, and cayenne.
-Beat the eggs, adding the baking powder and baking soda before blending in the buttermilk. (It will be foamy.)
-Put the flour mixture in one shallow dish, and the buttermilk mixture in a wide bowl.
-Heat the lard or oil in a cast iron dutch oven or deep skillet to 375 degrees. (This is important! When the grease is hot enough, the moisture in the cooking chicken expands and keeps it from soaking up the grease. And lard just tastes better. Shortening is awful stuff, and the lard is not going to hurt you once in a while if you generally eat healthy.)
-Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, then the buttermilk, then the flour again, and fry it, 7-10 minutes on one side. Turn it and fry it for 4-5 minutes more. I fried 2 to 3 pieces at a time, depending on their size. It should be golden brown. It's helpful to have a cooling wrack on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven to keep it warm.

Then you make the gravy, which I never use a recipe for. Say, 3 to 4 tbsp of the frying grease or butter, 5-6 tablespoons of flour. Brown well, then stir in 4 cups of whole milk a cup or two at a time until it all thickens up. 1 ½ tsp of salt or so and a bunch of black pepper (to taste – Chris said enough pepper so that when you eat the first bite of gravy it makes you cough, I think it was).

And you can’t have Chicken Fried Chicken without the gravy. And mashed potatoes. Corn and green beens are pretty important, too.  

It turned out marvelously well, if I do say so. And it was a fitting send off for a friend who likes his meat fried and boneless!

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