Fried Chicken: The Grease Fires, Constant Fear Of Salmonella, And Impossible Clean-Up Make It Extra Delicious! (And by “Delicious” I Mean “Infuriating.”)

1 April 2009

I'm going to sue the South for intentional infliction of deliciousness.  Then I'm going to subpoena all their fried chicken.

I'm going to sue the South for intentional infliction of deliciousness. Then I'm going to subpoena all their fried chicken. For me to eat.

If there’s one thing I have in common with the Oraon tribe of western Bengal, it’s that I love a good ol’ human sacrifice to mark the beginning of the Festival of Sarhul.  If there are two things I have in common with the Oraon, it’s a good ol’ human sacrifice, and the love of a post-ritual meal of fried chicken.  This is somewhat odd for me, though, because I typically try to avoid chicken in the meals I cook, and will almost always opt for duck or goose if I’m in the mood for fowl.  I was going to write the last part of that sentence as “…if I’m in a fowl mood” but, luckily for you, I’m feeling generous today.  In any event, the shining exception to this general poultry rule has always been fried chicken.  Indeed, fried chicken is one of my most favorite meals ever, and would almost certainly play at least a small role in any death-row meal I’d have to put together after they found all those hooker parts in my basement.  In fact, fried chicken satisfies several criteria which any great food must have: (1) deep fried; (2) involves eating with your hands; (3) is often served in a bucket; (4) can be just as good, if not better, the next day, straight from the fridge; (4) actually, that “bucket” requirement didn’t make much sense at all, back there – feel free to ignore that one; and (5)  after eating, one is able to look at the mangled carcass of his consumed chicken and pretend that the bones strewn about the table are actually those of a tiny, yet formidable, vanquished foe, dispatched on some ancient and hallowed battlefield, the name of which will no doubt echo through all of time, as will the legend of your valiant heroism.

a

Oh, sure, he looks cute now. But just wait until the salmonella he's carrying around turns your guts into mush and makes your eyeballs melt.

Unfortunately, getting to this pinnacle of skin-, fat-, and oil-based deliciousness is a time-consuming endeavour, filled with perilous culinary balancing acts and the omnipresent threat of dastardly salmonella.  Salmonella, which sounds like the name of a hot Latina chick who would cut you if you forgot to pay her wireless bill like you promised to, is the world’s most insidious enterobacteria.  Let’s see what the Centers for Disease Control has to say about it:  Once infected, the skin of the unfortunate ingestor begins to crawl and itch, much like that of a junkie coming down from his high last weekend while trying to mellow out by watching golf.  Shortly thereafter, the person becomes gripped with stomach cramps, resulting in vomiting and doo-doo butt.  The worst is yet to come, though, and salmonella’s final salvo occurs when the victim’s organs begin to liquefy, his eyeballs fall out of his head, and his genitals spontaneously combust.  It’s a real motherfucker, in other words.  Yikes; sounds serious.  And, if you listen to anybody on TV discussing raw chicken, you’d think that any errant drop of poultry juice, any contact with the carcass, or even the slightest bit of under-cooking will subject one to the above-described horrors of the poultry-based menace.  I don’t know about all that, but I do know that I don’t want my junk to explode, nor my eyeballs to fall out, so I like to marinate my chicken in bleach before breaking it down, all in a portable Haz-Mat lab I got at a government auction.  While you don’t have to take the precautions I do, it is best to practice common sense when butchering a chicken and subsequently cooking the shit out of it.  I’m not going to re-hash stuff you’ve already no-doubt heard, but suffice it to say that cross-contamination, much like a Spike Lee movie about race relations, is a bad thing.  Use plastic cutting boards, throw away your imported chef’s knife after using, and always wash your hands in boiling water.  If all else fails, avoid contracting salmonella by committing seppuku after your meal, thereby avoiding a nasty case of mud-butt, while simultaneously honoring your family name.

Get:

Fryer Chicken
Buttermilk
Smoked paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder
AP flour
Crisco, vegetable oil, or whatever
Frank’s Red Hot
Clover Honey

Do:

a

"Are you not entertained?!?!" No.

Breaking down your own chicken is pretty easy, and makes you feel like a real, honest-to-goodness chef.  However, it’s pretty difficult to describe, in words, how to do this, so I’ll let Ming Tsai take over.  Once you’ve gone all Green River Killer on your chicken, place the pieces in a gallon-sized zip-top bag and pour in the buttermilk.  This is a dicey step, because at some point you’re going to think to yourself, “Hey, I like milk.  I also like butter.  Maybe I should drink some of this buttermilk.”  I want to caution you to avoid this temptation, but the only way to learn, unfortunately, is the hard way, just like I did.  Place the bag in a dish of some kind, and stash it in your fridge, overnight.

Alright, here’s the deal.  Making fried chicken is not easy.  You’ve got to get the temperature of the oil right, you’ve got to play a tight-rope act by cooking it through, but not so much that you burn the crust, and you’ve got to make sure you flour the meat precisely, or else all that delicious brown crust is going to fall off the chicken.  And that’s not even taking into account that even a successful frying will leave your kitchen covered in a thick miasma of grease.   If you want to cut your losses right here, I’ll completely understand.  Albertson’s has surprisingly great fried chicken, perhaps the best I’ve ever had, so feel free to take this opportunity to drive over there and get you an eight-piece and some potato wedges.  If, however, you feel the need to finish what you started, let’s get to cooking…

a

Trying to maintain proper oil temperature makes trying to keep a bus at 50 mph seem like an acting job by Keanu Reeves, in comparison. By that, I'm implying that Keanu Reeves is simple. Simple like a fox.

Pour the contents of the bag into a colander to drain.  Season liberally with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper.  In a cast iron skillet (much like with making a proper roux, or hitting a cartoon character in the face with, cast iron is the only pan fit for the job), fill with enough shortening or vegetable oil to come about an inch up the side of the pan.  Bring the oil up to 360 degrees, and don’t be a smartass like me and simply wave an empty pan around in a circle and tell everyone you’ve done it.  Coat the chicken with the flour, shake off the excess, and place in the oil.  Here’s where shit gets tricky: you’ve got to somehow maintain the same heat throughout cooking, but I have no idea how to do this.  My oil generally jumps up to 385 for a minute or two after I’ve dropped in the chicken, then backs down to 320 or so.  I’ll crank the heat a little, and will be baffled at how the temperature continues to drop.  Thinking I’ve encountered some anomaly in the physical  and quantum makeup of my very own kitchen, I’ll call NASA, only to later discover that my deep fry thermometer accidentally got nudged out of the oil.  Cook until golden brown, then flip.  I forgot to mention this, but always have a splatter guard covering the pan.  This won’t keep anything clean, but at least feel like you’re doing something proactive.  Remove the chicken to a rack (no, not the sexy kind) and let sit for longer than you’d think.  I like to eat mine by applying honey and Frank’s Red Hot to every bite, then waiting a couple of hours to see if my insides start to melt.

I'm including this picture of Diora because writing about fried chicken reminded me of the Fuzzy Zoeller/Tiger Woods imbroglio at the '97 masters.  Diora, here, has a golf club in her hand.  See, it all makes sense.

I'm including this picture of Diora because writing about fried chicken reminded me of the Fuzzy Zoeller/Tiger Woods imbroglio at the '97 Masters. Diora, here, has a golf club in her hand. See, it all makes sense.

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One Response to “Fried Chicken: The Grease Fires, Constant Fear Of Salmonella, And Impossible Clean-Up Make It Extra Delicious! (And by “Delicious” I Mean “Infuriating.”)”

  1. Aliwood said

    This post really whet my appetite but then as I read further, I just wet my undies:

    “Salmonella, which sounds like the name of a hot Latina chick who would cut you if you forgot to pay her wireless bill like you promised to…”

    CLASSIC

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