Saturday, September 15, 2012

Southern Fried Chicken a la Fierce!

Now my Mama makes some of the best fried chicken that I have ever tasted. To be specific her fried chicken wings have been known to cause small riots as folks stampede to grab the last one at the end of a meal. Mama learned years ago that when she was in the mood to make chicken wings, she might as well go on ahead and make the entire bag of 50 frozen wings so as to avoid bloodshed at the kitchen table.

That is some damn good chicken. And though I wish my mother another 50 years of life, when she goes on to make chicken wings for the Lord, the first thing I am claiming is her cast iron skillet. She's had that thing for most of my life, and if you know anything about frying chicken, you know that the only way to get it perfect is to deep fry it in Crisco in a cast iron skillet that has been heated to a temperature somewhere around the surface of the sun. If you are really old school, and you want to do it the Southern way, you heat up a cast iron cauldron and you fry that shiz out back of your house over a grate laid across the top of an outdoor fire.

Unfortunately, I live in heart of Manhattan, and the city frowns on bubbling hot grease snapping and popping on your fire escape above the heads of the residents of Hell's Kitchen. Plus, our building is 100+ years old and has very little wall between us and the outside, and, for example, I am tempted to pour boiling hot Crisco on the heads of the folks being loud down below my windows as we speak. Also, there are two schools next door to my apartment building and across the street. Those way too grown and often too sassy children would work my last gay nerve one day and there would be a mighty tragedy. Southern Fried Elementary School Children is just plain wrong.

But back to the chicken. I have a good friend by the name of Jason Chan that has an unnatural love for the yard bird. He scalps a piece down until ain't nothing left on that bone but teeth marks. Last week, I found an excuse to make fried chicken for my friend Snehal, where I experimented with a new recipe that was inspired by an episode of the television show "Chopped," and I perfected it with Jason two days later. This is the first time that my chicken would go toe to toe with my Mamas, and if I had that cast iron skillet, I might even beat the old yard bird at her own soul food game!

So here it is, my new fried chicken recipe.

Southern Fried Chicken a la Fierce!

Batter Mixture

6 cups white flour
3 cups Corn Meal
4  packets Goya Sazon con Azafran
4 tsps cumin
2 tsps Cayenne Pepper
2 tsps Chili Powder
3 tbsp Lowry's Seasoning Salt
2 tsps salt
2 tsps pepper
 2 large eggs

In a large, deep, and preferably resealable container, mix all the ingredients together except the eggs, which are the basis of the batter. The powder mixture can be saved nearly indefinitely and be reused. In a separate large bowl, crack the eggs and whip and set aside.

Chicken and Oil

1 whole fryer chicken cut up
1 medium sized bottle of vegetable oil (I recommend Crisco)
4 cloves of garlic
1 whole red onion chopped up
1 large tablespoon of Jeow Bong (this is an optional ingredient and is a traditional sweet-spicy chili paste, also, though I have not seen Jeow Bong in US food stores, I have seen other similar pastes, if not you can experiment perhaps with some chopped up tamarind and red pepper flakes or perhaps some garlic pepper hot sauce that is easy to find in the Asian food island at your local market).

The first order of business is to combine to heat your oil over high heat. You want the oil to get as hot as it possible can get without burning.  The hotter the oil the crispier the chicken. Also, a cast iron skillet maximizes the heat level if you happen to have one, otherwise a big soup pot will work as well. One the oil is hot, add the onions, garlic, and Jeow Bong or tamarind/garlic pepper sauce and cook until the garlic starts to brown and the onions become transparent. You will have to stir the oil to make sure that the paste breaks down.

While you are working on the oil, you will also want to dip each piece of chicken in the egg, make sure it is evenly covered and then drop several pieces at once into the batter mixture. Close the lid and shake vigorously until all pieces are completely covered. Once the oil is ready and spitfire hot, drop your chicken in.

PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THIS! The chicken needs space to crisp. Do not overload the oil with too much chicken at once. The pieces need to be able to bob around a little bit to cook up the best. Once the chicken is tender to the fork and the skin is crispy and it has started to float towards the top of the oil, pull it out and set it on a plate that have a layer of napkins across them to soak up excess oil. The frying shouldn't take anymore than 12-15 minutes for the larger pieces and a little shorter for legs and wings. If you buy a whole fryer, drop the neck, gizzard, heart and liver into the oil as these make an awesome and tasty amuse bouche!

I promise you that this chicken will change your life.

If you have access to a butcher this dish will cost you less than $10 to make if you have the more common ingredients lying around at home and perhaps $17 if you have to purchase the chicken from the grocer and some of the other ingredients. This should feed a family of four, but if Jason is around, it's just enough for two.