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?

Fried Chicken
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.


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§ 10 Responses to Fried Chicken and the Fourth

  • Gabby says:

    I can almost picture you three (even though I only know one of you) on the porch–what a great memory! And now I really want fried chicken, I can’t even tell you when I had it last! It’s hard to choose just one food tradition…but definitely one of my favorites is making homemade bread with my mom and sister. The post is a draft right now…hopefully coming soon!

  • Shady says:

    Valentine’s Day and chinese food. I know for most families, chinese takeout is something you grab frequently as a cheap-ish dinner on nights no one wants to cook, but in mine, we rarely had it unless it was a special occasion, and always without fail on Valentine’s Day. It’s a tradition I continued into college: even though I was several states away, I’d bring home an order and call home and make sure they had done the same. Kind of an odd holiday for it, but it’s a tradition that’s stuck all the same. It’s just a nice way to connect back to home and a bit of my childhood. Of course, the thing to do now is figure out how to recreate my fave dishes at home.

    • tyla says:

      I love that! Take-out was a bit unusual for me growing up too (unless it was pizza), so ordering in always felt like a bit of an occasion. I think it’s so cool when it’s something unexpected like that that becomes a tradition…thanks so much for sharing!

  • Emily says:

    I love that you have 4th of July traditions–I feel like my family missed out on that one. We’re on a major fried chicken kick, so we’ll have to try your recipe in the deep fryer!

    • tyla says:

      Um, except for the fact that you have low country boil and oyster roasts and shrimp and grits….remind me again why I’m not living on your fam’s sleeping porch?

  • lola says:

    yum! the fried chicken looks great and i love the story. my family always makes enchiladas on christmas eve.

    • tyla says:

      Enchiladas? What kind of enchiladas?! So sad I’m from New Mexico but have never made them…I need to get on that.

  • Jen says:

    Every time I’ve tried fried chicken (or oven baked chicken, or pan friend chicken) it’s been an epic disaster. In fact, I think I have more food disappointments in the kitchen than food successes! The only food tradition in my family that I can think of is Ham on Easter (boring) and pork and saurkraut on New Years Day (boring). Well, that and bourbon sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving–which my husband thinks taste terrible and I think are perfection.

  • Gin says:

    Yay! I’m so glad you used this book!

    I don’t think my family has many food traditions. There is a ubiquitous “fruit salad” that shows up at a lot of gatherings (diced apples, bananas, pecans, doused with whipped cream) but I don’t think that’s a tradition so much as, well, we like fruit and cream.

    I like my birthday baked good tradition, wherein my loved ones get a baked good of their choosing on their birthdays. I love the challenge of baking new elaborate things, and I plan on continuing this.

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