Poor Joe 😦
He loves fried chicken. Especially the awful offal – heart and gizzard – drumsticks and thighs. Me, I’m a wing person and once in a while I’ll have half a breast. Over the years I’ve just pan fried the chicken when I do make it….about once every two years. KFC, Popeyes, and Bojangles do a better job at frying chicken than I do.
While we were in Savannah at The Lady and Sons we enjoyed the tasty fried chicken on the buffet. Crispy and crunchy, not over the top in spices. It was just plain good stuff. In Paula Deen’s “It Ain’t All About The Cookin’ Memoir” she has a recipe for her Grandmomma Paul’s fried chicken. I read it over and thought the recipe was pretty simple. I’d give it a try when we got home.
Well, the Keystone Cops could have been in my kitchen Wednesday night.
I have a cast iron dutch oven, which her book recommends using, but I don’t have a candy/frying thermometer. We had to make a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond to purchase one. The comedy of errors begins as soon as we get home.
I put the big heavy dutch oven on the stove (electric) and turn the dial to 5 which would be medium high heat to me. I pour in an entire 48 ounce bottle of Crisco Vegetable Oil into the pot. I waited about 15 minutes thinking that should be enough time to get the oil pretty hot. At that time I attached the thermometer to the side of the pot with the handy little gadget and rested the steel prong in the oil. No thermometer with mercury for me – I’m a clutz. After the 15 minutes the temperature was only 150 degrees. The oil needed to be 350, I had a long time to wait.
While I’m waiting for the oil to get hot I read the recipe and go to my pantry. Flour. Ooops, I don’t have 2 cups of flour. There might be one cup in that bag but there definitely is not two. Oh, wait! I have Krustez Buttermilk Pancake Mix. I pour out the 2 cups of pancake mix in an 8×10 glass cake pan.
The recipe calls for a “pinch” of “House Seasoning” found on page 96 of the book. The “House Seasoning” is 1 cup salt, 1/4 cup ground black pepper, and 1/4 cup garlic powder. I grab the salt from my pantry and search for the ground black pepper. I have pepper corns and a bit of coarse ground black pepper but not 1/4 cups worth. What am I going to put this all in? I went to my craft room and found a jar I had been saving for scraps or embellishments that had begun life as a rock salt container. That will work.
The pepper corns I measured out 1/3 cup and dumped in a small food processor and set it to whirring around. It was breaking the pepper up fairly well but not fast enough. I have a coffee grinder so I dumped the contents of the small food processor into the coffee grinder and that did the trick.
In a 4 cup measuring cup I dumped the 1 cup of salt and in a smaller measuring cup I checked to see how much pepper I had ground. Just a bit over 1/4 cup not quite 1/3 so close enough for this. The garlic powder I’ve had in the pantry for several years, I must confess, and thought I’d just go ahead and use it. So 1/4 cup of the really old garlic powder was dumped in the measuring cup.
By this time Joe had come into the kitchen to see what all the noise was about. I was trying to get the salt, pepper, and garlic powder to mix together and not having much success. I have a sieve that fits well in my 4 cup measuring cup so I carefully dumped the mixture in the sieve and held it over the measuring cup. Joe began telling me that I was making it too hard, just dump it all in the cup and stir it up. I gave the cup to him to work on. Time to check the oil temperature.
I told Joe how long the oil had been on the heat. Joe turns the knob to 7 and I get all excited. “No, no! I don’t want it to get too hot and we have a grease fire!” All the while I’m hopping from one foot to the other and waving my hands about in the air the temperature is rising. Joe gives me his mega watt grin and says “See, just a bit more heat”. I’m still not so sure.
On the counter I have another 8×10 glass baking dish for the 3 eggs and 1/3 cup water. I crack the eggs in the dish and add the water. Using a fork I beat the heck out of the eggs to get the water to blend in. Then back to the Krustez pancake mix. The recipe calls for a “pinch” of the House Seasoning. How much is a pinch? There is a lot of flour stuff there and a pinch won’t be much. I take a regular spoon from the silverware drawer and dip it in the jar – oh I forgot to tell you how much fun Joe had pouring the salt, pepper, and garlic powder mixture into a narrow mouth jar. Some escaped to the counter but not much he was so careful about it his moustache was kind of tilted as he concentrated on his task.
All right, the House Seasoning is dumped in the Krustez mix and I blend it in well with my fingers, the eggs are beaten good and all the water is incorporated. The chicken pieces have all been rinsed and are resting in the kitchen sink on the store container. I’m ready to begin the dredging process. Another quick look at the recipe to make sure I did not forget anything and I read that Paula Deen’s grand mother put the dredged chicken in the refrigerator for two hours before cooking it. I had about 10 minutes before cooking commenced.
Joe went to the stove, checked the oil temperature and saw it had not risen much over 200 degrees so he turns the knob to 9. I totally spaz out about that because I’m sure that oil will now explode out of the pot like a volcano and it would be all over with but the crying.
Joe shushes me and tells me to get the chicken ready. So I go over and do the dredging business. Looking over my shoulder quite often as I’m working the chicken to make sure the oil is not going crazy on us.
Look, the life of a control freak is a sad one. Common sense is totally derailed during times of stress. I know that Joe would have pulled the pot off the burner had the temperature risen too fast but I was nearly manic in my panic of an oil fire.
Chicken dredged and waiting on a plate. The oil temperature is still not to 350 degrees just yet but it is rising. Joe says another minute or two will do it.
In the recipe it says to put the dark meat pieces in the pan first then add the white meat pieces last. All at one time. Put the lid on and let it cook for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes then turn the meat in the oil to get the other side cooked and to stop any of the chicken from sticking to the pan. I knew what my job was so I was getting a bit more focused.
Joe backed the knob down to 7 from 9 and the oil was a bit over 350 degrees. I put the drumsticks and thighs in the oil and there was a cacophony of crackles, hisses, burbles, and the oil was rapidly boiling. Back to high stress levels for me. “Now what do we do?” Joe asked. Not so certain any more I timidly told him “Put the lid on”. I set the time for 5 minutes and steam began coming out from under the lid. The noises going on inside the pot were tremendous and getting louder.
Now remember, I only had the drumsticks and thighs in the oil. I had not put all the chicken pieces in the pot that had been indicated in the recipe.
When the 5 minutes were up Joe lifted the lid. Condensation rained down from the lid into the hot oil and there was more noise and a whole lot of splattering going on. I’m past spaz now. I’m just outright ready for the rubber room. The chicken doesn’t need turning. It is pretty crispy and a very dark brown. Not quite charred but getting close to it.
“Get it out, get it out!” I’m pathetic in my panic as I’m trying to use the tongs to get the chicken pieces out of the oil and I don’t have anything to put it on. Thank God Joe has all his brains still in his head. Mine seem to have left. He went and got a cookie or jelly roll pan from my collection and put a couple paper towels on it. I put the really browned thighs and drumsticks on the proffered pan and they went in the oven on low heat to keep them warm.
Now it was time to put the breasts and wings in the hot oil. Gingerly I placed the two breast pieces in the oil so as not to splash everywhere. The wings went in on top. The lid was placed on the pan and the timer set for 5 minutes.
Now that was done I thought to ask Joe if he had any grease burns on him from all the craziness of the minutes prior. Nope, he didn’t have any burns. No oil splashed him. That was at least some great news.
When the timer went off Joe lifted the lid and we checked the chicken. It was nicely browned and not charred like the previous pieces. I turned them and he put the lid on again. When the timer went off we put the pieces on the cookie pan with the other chicken and put them back in the oven. Joe got the pot off the burner and over in corner to cool down.
I took a deep breath, let my body relax, thanked Joe for his help and realized that I had not yet peeled the potatoes and cut them up to be boiled and made into mashed potatoes. My heart rate went back up to sky high, my brain left my head again, and I began waving my arms and hands. “No potatoes, no potatoes” was all I kept saying. Joe began laughing at me and told me to calm down I can put them on now while the chicken is still in the oven. I’m so fortunate to have Joe in my life.
About 40 minutes later I had the mashed potatoes made, gravy steaming in a skillet, creamed corn ready in a small pan. Dinner was finally ready. We filled our plates and began to eat. The chicken was not cooked all the way through. Joe had eaten more of it than I had before I stopped him. I just hoped that we were going to be alright and not be sick from the under cooked chicken.
Wasteful, I know, but I tossed out all the rest of the chicken. What a nightmare.
Yesterday morning Joe began complaining about his stomach rumbling and he felt queasy. He continued on his work outside getting equipment ready for us to leave next week. Each time he came in to get a tool or some kind of supply he looked worse and worse. His face was nearly as white as his beard and I knew I had made him sick from the chicken.
I called the doctor office to get him in. Carefully driving him to the doctor so I would not make sharp turns and cause him to vomit in the water pitcher I gave to him for that purpose. At the doctor office he was given a shot with a broad spectrum antibiotic and informed by our doctor that there are no tests for Salmonella in early stages so he was giving Joe something to deal with everything.
Joe is back to normal today and he is fine. I won’t be deep frying chicken again any time soon.