Friday, August 5, 2011
We're Alabamy bound, boys, Alabamy bound!
Two hearty Southern meals in one week--I could get used to this. We went with a southern classic: fried chicken and okra with a side of watermelon!
Frying chicken is an art--one that I haven't quite mastered. My mother's fried chicken was always very good--perfectly crisp outside, moist inside and not at all greasy. She simply dredged the chicken pieces in seasoned flour and fried, first uncovered at a high heat (about 375) then covered at a lower heat (about 325-350) then uncovered it again and turned the heat back up for a final crisp. However, she also only ever cooked dark meat and, for me, it's the breast pieces that are tricky.
I cut up a whole chicken, purchased from a local farm the day it was butchered. If you've never had fresh, farm raised chicken, you won't believe the difference in flavor from a grocery store bird. It actually tastes like chicken.
I soaked the pieces in buttermilk for about 4 hours before frying. I used peanut oil and heated it in a large cast iron dutch oven over a medium flame until it was good and hot (I can never get the oil thermometer to work, so when a small piece of bread browns quickly, I figure it's ready.)
Brown both sides of the pieces well, frying steadily for about 25 minutes. Here is where cooking the breasts becomes a little tricky--they dry out much more quickly than the dark meat. This time, I waited and put the breasts in about 10 minutes after everything else. The white meat cooked well, but the skin wasn't as crispy as it should have been. Next time, I think I'll put it all in together, but take the white meat out first.
This was the first time I had prepared okra, a good friend from Alabama recommended that we have it fried. My father used to enjoy okra boiled, which is rather a disgusting thing to watch, as the thick juice creates a "slime" that trails behind each spoonful. Following our Alabama friend's directions, Lucy sliced the okra into small pieces. After the juice started to come out, we salted it and tossed it lightly in corn meal. We pan fried it in a cast iron skillet.
Interestingly, okra tastes very different cooked than raw. Raw, it's crisp and fresh like a green bean. After it was cooked, the flavor changed and Lucy decided that it tasted like a french fry. Both girls liked this dish--though Lucy preferred the okra raw and Maia enjoyed it cooked.
This meal was a hit with everyone--fried chicken isn't new to our dinner table. We often call it "barbarian chicken" because the drumsticks provide many opportunities for uncivilized eating. The watermelon came from our CSA box. The variety was Sugar Baby, it was bright red, very sweet and loaded with perfectly spittable seeds. Even Maia, who generally doesn't prefer watermelon admitted that this one was good! Since we ate in the dining room, seed spitting was not an option. Maybe we'll include this in our next picnic!
Next stop: Heading West to Montana!