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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pan Fried Chicken

While our kitchen was going though a remodel, I found an Alton Brown recipe for Pan Fried Chicken that I could make in our garage using our camp stove and Dutch oven.  I watched Alton’s program on pan-fried chicken and I found the recipe in his book: Good Eats on page 212.

I made a trip to the store and purchased a whole fryer, low-fat buttermilk, a can of shortening, and some cayenne pepper.  I noticed that Alton must get chickens about the size of pigeons because he specifies 3 1 /2 pounds and the smallest I could find was about six pounds.

I set to work the day before I was to cook to octo-sect (Alton’s word) the chicken.  As we had no usable kitchen, I setup in the garage on our newspaper-covered workbench.  I followed the seven instructions in the book on how to properly dismember a whole chicken into eight pieces.  Once the chicken was cut up, I placed it in a gallon Ziploc bag and poured in two-cups of the low-fat buttermilk.  Into the refrigerator went the bag of chicken to chill for about twenty-four hours.

When I went to start cooking, I retrieved our twelve-inch cast-iron Dutch over from the attic (stored with the camping gear) and set it on the propane camp stove with enough shortening to reach 1 /4 of an inch up the side of the Dutch oven.  I turned on the heat and inserted our digital meat thermometer into the oil to monitor when the temperature reached the desired 325 degrees.

I retrieved the bag of chicken parts, drained off the buttermilk in our laundry room sink and took the chicken back to the garage workbench.  I mixed the spice mixture; kosher slat, paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper in a small container and sprinkled it over the chicken pieces.  I place one-cup of flour in a plastic bag, and one at a time I placed the chicken pieces into the bag and gave it a shake to coat the chicken with the flour, then set the coated chicken pieces aside for two minutes.

The oil was hot, so I followed the directions and added the thighs (skin side down) into the center of the pan, and followed with the rest of the pieces around the outside.  I quickly found the problem of having too large a chicken, the breast pieces would not fit in the pan.  The other parts completely filled the bottom of the Dutch oven.  Ok, I will just cook in two batches.

I immediately noticed I the temperature of the oil dropped, I had a very hard time regulating the temperature to keep it at 325 degrees.  When the first batch of chicken was cooked, the coating was very dark in color due to the paprika and was not very appetizing.  I added the chicken breasts and cooked them and they came out even darker.

I thought the chicken tasted fine, but my wife was not that thrilled about eating it, mainly due to the very dark color.  Overall, this was a disappointing recipe that I probably will not make again.  I will try frying chicken again, just not this recipe.

After reading about frying foods in oil, I realized that I tried to cook too many pieces at one time, which lowered the oil temperature; I also should have cleaned the oil between batches to get up the extra flour and spice bits.  I could have done that by cooking some potato slices as the starch in the potato grabs all the extra stuff in the oil.

I am glad that I cooked this in the garage as the cooking smells would have been overpowering and lingering in the house.  Next time I fry chicken, it will be outside where the odors are free to escape into the wild - free-range odors!

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell

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