Fried Chicken and the Fourth
7.6.10 § 10 Comments
There aren’t many traditions or rituals in my family that are exclusively about food. Sure, I have food memories and there are many meals that conjure up strong feelings of well-being that are all tied up in my childhood and family, but in terms of a specific meal that is had on a specific occasion or holiday, each year, without fail? We kind of dropped the ball on that one.
Except for the Fourth of July. And honestly, I’m not sure if anyone but me clings to this food ritual, but I know that it is something I look forward to and plan to continue.
A few years ago, my mom and I were trying to figure out how to celebrate our nation’s independence and for some reason, we decided that the best possible answer was fried chicken and sparklers. The two of us picked up a bucket from KFC, went over to my grandma’s house, and sat on her patio to dig in.
In addition to the fried chicken and requisite sides (corn on the cob, biscuits with honey, potato wedges), we also indulged in beer and margaritas. It was a celebration that felt unique and universal at the same time—three generations of women relaxing on a porch in the summer heat—I’ll refrain from waxing poetic about how much I felt like part of the ya-ya sisterhood. It was also one of the first situations in which I felt truly adult next to these women that I admire so much. Maybe that is why it’s so special to me.
Regardless of the reason, I’m now really attached to this idea of fried chicken on the Fourth of July. This year, I could have just run down the block to a restaurant I already know has amazing fried chicken, but I enjoyed the simplicity and ritualistic feeling of making it myself. I could almost imagine my great-grandmother pan frying chicken in her own kitchen when my grandmother was a child. The feeling of tradition and ritual was augmented by the fact that I used a recipe from an ancient copy of Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cookbook, which was given to me by my best friend.
It wasn’t the best fried chicken I’ve ever had, but I was fairly impressed with my first attempt. I can’t wait to make it again and again, perfecting the recipe and carrying the tradition forward.
What food traditions are special to you?
adapted from The Boston Cooking School Cookbook
1 3-4 lb chicken, cut into parts
salt and pepper
6-8 tbsp oil, butter, or lard (or a combination)
Dunk the chicken pieces into the milk, then season liberally with salt and pepper before covering in as much flour as possible. The easiest way to do this is to set up a little assembly line of bowls and then put each finished piece on a plate.
Put 1/4 cup water on to boil in a small saucepan. Heat the fat/oil (I used butter because I couldn’t find lard and I wanted to use the next most unhealthy thing) in a large skillet over high heat until almost at the smoking point. Place the chicken in the pan and let it brown for 3-4 minutes before flipping it. Brown on all sides.
Once browned, pour the boiling water in the pan, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 35 minutes until tender.
Note: I read a few recipes that claim if you turn the heat back up to high before taking the chicken out of the pan, it will help re-crisp the skin. I was too impatient to try it for more than a minute or two, but it seemed to help some.