Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Good Livin'


“Chicken fried steak /country gravy and bourbon straight
Ain’t it great? /It’s good livin’!”
-The Supersuckers-“Good Livin’”

I don't think you need any special reason to have chicken and waffles on a Tuesday night.

This requires a fair amount of work and time. Not only is there the two-day process of brining, then marinating the chicken, but deep frying without an actual deep fryer can get a bit hairy, what with the constant threat of splatters, fires and scorched chicken, not to mention the amount of oil you need to go through (I have three jars of used oil sitting on my counter at the moment looking like exhibits out of an old-time cabinet of curiosities). That's why I suggest finishing the chicken in the oven.

It's not as much work as, say, Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc fried chicken, but it's a big commitment for a weeknight. But the payoff is in the crisp, spicy batter and the tender and juicy meat. I wouldn't be exaggerating much if I said this was the best fried chicken I've ever had.

On the side, the waffles came out a bit dry, but the country-style cream gravy was flat out amazing. Using the seasoned flour mix from the chicken as a base gave it a nice bite.

I don't really have a source for these recipes. I pulled a little bit of this and that from here and there, including the incredibly versatile Cajun powder D. mixed up ages ago.

Two-Day Fried Chicken - Serves 2

  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts or four thighs
  • 4 Cups cold water
  • ¼ Cup coarse salt
  • 1½-2 Cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 1½ Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Cajun seasoning or paprika
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • Vegetable oil, such as safflower or canola
  1. In a large bowl, combine salt and cold water. Add chicken, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Combine buttermilk and tobacco in a large bowl with a pinch of salt. Remove chicken from brine (shaking off excess water first) and add to buttermilk mixture. Cover and return to the fridge for another 6-8 hours or so.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together flour, Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper. Set 2 tablespoons of seasoned flour aside for gravy.
  4. Lift chicken from buttermilk, allowing excess to drip off, and dredge in flour mixture (shaking off excess). Dip the coated chicken pieces once more in the marinade, then again in flour. Set aside for a spell to give the coating a chance to set. Now would be a good time to clean up and start your waffle mix.
  5. Preheat oven to 450°F. In a large, heavy Dutch oven, heat about two inches of oil over medium heat until it reaches 350°F. Fry chicken pieces one at a time until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Watch carefully, as the flour will start to burn if you leave it in too long.
  6. Transfer chicken to a wire rack set on a foil covered baking sheet. Bake chicken for 5 minutes or until instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part registers 165°F. Again, keep a close eye on things in case the chicken starts to burn. Let them sit on some paper towels for a few minutes while you get the rest of dinner together.
“Cornbread” waffles
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp dried sage, crushed
  • A dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  1. Mix wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls, then stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just blended.
  2. Pour batter into a pre-hated waffle iron, about ¼ cup at a time (or however much batter your waffle iron can comfortably hold) until golden and crispy.
And, finally, a good reason to get into the bacon fat I've been saving.
Country pepper gravy
  • 1 Tablespoon bacon fat
  • 1 Tablespoon of flour
  • ¾ Cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper*
  • Bit of salt to taste
  1. Heat fat in a skillet or shallow pot. Add flour and stir until a caramel-coloured roux develops.
  2. Slowly whisk in the dairy, making sure you get the lumps out.
  3. Turn heat to low and continue stirring until mixture is thickened, a couple more minutes.
  4. Add pepper and salt to taste. If gravy is too thick, thin it out with a bit of water or dairy.

    *to make cracked pepper, place whole peppercorns on a cutting board, cover with foil and bash them with a hammer or the flat side of a kitchen mallet.

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