Cooking the Book: Fried Chicken and Fixin’s
While I have vacationed and lived in (and near, depending on if you count Southern Indiana, and some people do) the South, I am by no means a Southern Fried Girl. I love the food of the American South, but it’s not what I grew up eating or cooking, so it wasn’t until I was living in Atlanta in my 20s that I learned the finer points of potlikker for your greens and how to properly double-dip your fried chicken (God bless and thanks be to Kathy of “Kathy’s OhmyGodfriedchicken”).
The fact that there is bacon or a ham hock or some other cured meat product in most Southern food was no revelation to me as I learned some Southern cooking tricks, but the need for patience was. Part of the reason so much of that stuff tastes so good is because someone spent hours or all day or sometimes two days making it — you cannot speed up the amount of time it takes for buttermilk to soak into a chicken or for water to soak into a grits.
So with all of that said, I want to warn you that these, then, are not entirely Southern recipes. They are very tasty and might even make you wish you were sitting on the porch at Tara or Twelve Oaks with cool lemonade (ahem, make mine a mint julep) waiting for the chicken to fry up. This greens recipe is actually meet-free and it will not take you two days to whip up this fried chicken. In fact, if you start everything at 5 p.m., you can have it all packed up and be on your bike to the boathouse for a picnic by 7:30, and that’s with pauses to kiss the cook and a conference call with your realtor.
Also in the Southern tradition, bring your appetite for this dinner. Mr Kitchenette and I got two meals out of these recipes with no alterations (though it is frequently impossible to buy a not-huge chicken breast at a chain grocery store these days, so that was probably a factor).
Ironically, it’s not the South that this paddle-worthy picnic transports me to, it’s points north. One of my very favorite things in the world to do is pick up some Kentucky Fried in Parry Sound, Ontario on the way to Hartley Bay House, put the canoe in the water and feast of still-warm, slightly-greasy fried chicken and fixins after a short paddle to the first nights’ destination on a week-long wilderness adventure. It is one of my favorite memories with both of my favorite men in the world (my dad and my husband), so imagine my delight when Mr. Kitchenette bit into his chicken on the banks of the Anacostia and proclaimed it as good as KFC on the banks of the French River. “Nuff said.
All three recipes are from Cooking for Two, 2011 and serve 2.
Batter Fried Chicken
[A light batter coating and a shallow fry was new for me, and I love it. The chicken stayed crispy in transit and was flavorful and moist. We'll be coming back to this one for sure. I might try it in our wee deep-fryer, though, since not all the pieces of chicken entirely floated and they tend to scorch if they end up on the bottom of the pan.]
We used a saucepan with an 8-inch diameter for this recipe; if your pan is wider, you may need more oil to reach the 1/2 inch depth. If using kosher chicken, do not bring. If brining the chicken, do not season with salt in step 2. Be sure to lower the chicken slowly into the oil in step 3 to prevent the batter from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
1/2 cup cold water
1 1/2 cup vegetable or peanut oil (see note)
1 1/2-ounce bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts, trimmed, cut in half and brined if desired.
Whisk flour, cornstarch, baking powder, paprika, cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon sale and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Whisk in 6 Tablespoons water until smooth (batter should be just thinner than pancake batter; if too thick, stir in remaining 2 Tablespoons water, 1 Tablespoon at a time, as needed [I needed all the water...].) Refrigerate until ready to use (but no longer than 1 hour).
Pour oil into large saucepan until is measures 1/-inch depth. Heat oil over large saucepan until it registers 375 degrees on an instant read thermometer. When oil is hot, pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt.
Whisk batter to recombine, add chicken and toss to coat. Using tongs, remove chicken from batter, one piece at a time (allowing excess to drip back into bowl) and slowly add to oil (to prevent sticking).
Fry chicken for 1 minute to set coating. Gently flip chicken and continue to fry, adjusting burner as necessary to maintain oil temperature between 300 and 325 degrees, until chicken is deep golden brown and registers 160 to 164 on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through. Transfer chicken to wire rack set over rimmed baking sheet and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
[These are just fine. I don't usually measure when I make mashed potatoes, instead chucking butter, milk, buttermilk or sour cream in there and tasting until I like it, so this was a bit of a departure for me. Melting the butter and mixing it with the buttermilk probably assures even dispersal, but I found these mashers to be a little dry and not as buttermilk-y as I would have liked.]
To achieve the proper texture, it is important to cook the potatoes thoroughly; they are done if they break apart when a knife is inserted and gently wiggled. To reduce the chance of curdling, make sure the buttermilk is a room temperature when mixed with the cooled melted butter.
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (about 2 medium), peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
salt and pepper
1/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature (see note)
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Place potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium saucepan, add enough cold water to cover potatoes by 1 inch, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until potatoes break apart when pierced with a knife, 12 to 15 minutes.
Drain potatoes and return to saucepan set on still-hot burner. Using potato masher, mash potatoes until few small lumps remain. Gently stir buttermilk and cooled butter together in a small bowl until combined. Fold buttermilk mixture into potatoes until just incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
Braised Hearty Greens
[Frankly, these greens are amazing. We used collards and I don't know that I will ever make greens for two any other way. The quick braise creates the perfect amount of flavorful liquid and doesn't suffer from a lack of ham hock or bacon at all. Make sure you get stellar, fresh greens and wash well; vegetarians can easily swap the chicken broth for their favorite vegetable broth for a delightful meat-free Southern-style side.]
Don’t dry the greens completely after washing; a little extra water clinging to the leaves will help them wilt when cooking. If using collard greens, allow 2 to 3 extra minutes of cooking time in step 1.
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 pound hearty greens (kale, mustard, turnip or collards [we used collards]), stemmed, leaves shopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth [or vegetable broth for a vegetarian version]
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
salt and pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add greens, broth sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and cayenne. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely tender, about 10 minutes [a little longer if using collards; they are quite hearty].
Uncover and increase heat to medium-high, stirring occasionally until liquid is nearly evaporated. Off heat, stir in remaining 1 Tablespoon butter and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.