Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Fried Chicken Fit for a Picnic
Memorial Day heralds the summer picnic season. Whether tail-gating at an event or going on an outing at the lake, beach, or mountain trail, a well-stocked picnic basket is a must.
The picnics of my childhood are some of my favorite summer memories. Way back in the woods, a deep spring connected to the river by a winding ice-cold, mossy brook. How we endured the chilly water I don’t know, but when the air temperature reached a humid 100 degrees, nothing was more refreshing.
As soon as we arrived at the swimming hole, a big, Georgia grown (best in the world) watermelon, complete with seeds for spitting contests, was lowered into the spring. It would stay there until we’d turned blue and our parents had pulled us out of the water. After we’d devoured our fill of all the other food, the usual fare of salads and desserts, we'd return to the water for awhile before slicing the watermelon.
I’m sure there was a variety of meat dishes at these picnics, but all I remember is the fried chicken my mother brought.
Fried chicken is one of those dishes where the cooking depends on technique and experience more than ingredients. I still can’t make it as well as Mama did, but here’s the recipe, and the result is a lot better than KFC. Notes in parenthesis are from my experience.
3-4 lbs whole chicken, cut into pieces, skin on. (Best to cut up your own chicken. Butchers do it wonky these days. If you eat low fat, wait until it’s cooked to pull skin off. Breast meat, especially, will be dry if skinned.)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 cups buttermilk
Self-rising flour for coating
Vegetable oil or peanut oil
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken in a zip top bag and add buttermilk. Seal and chill for at least 2 hours. (Overnight is OK. Buttermilk is a great tenderizer and commercially raised chicken is tougher than home raised.)
Pour oil to a depth of 1 ½ inches in a deep iron skillet or Dutch oven. Heat to 360 degrees. (Measure temperature. If it’s not hot enough, chicken will absorb too much oil.) Add flour coated chicken a few pieces at the time. (Don’t coat until ready to cook and don’t crowd.) Cover and cook 6 minutes. Uncover and cook 9 minutes. Turn chicken, cover and cook 6 minutes. Uncover and cook 5-9 minutes. (Larger pieces need longer cooking.) Turn the chicken the last 3 minutes.
Drain on paper towels spread over a wire rack.
Pack when cooled to room temperature. You’ll lose the crunch if you pack it hot. (This chicken is better eaten cold in my opinion, so it’s especially good for picnics.)
Enjoy your Memorial Day picnic.
What’s your favorite picnic food? Comment for a chance to win Cinderella’s Boots by Darlene Franklin.