Saturday, 23 November 2013

Simple Fried Chicken

If you let it, cooking fried chicken can turn into a rather complicated affair, what with all the dredging and dipping. It doesn't have to be though. My simple recipe for fried chicken is easy to follow and delicious to eat.

The chicken

To start - if possible, buy a whole chicken. There are loads of tutorials online to show you how to cut a chicken up, or if you are fortunate enough to have a traditional butcher around, ask him to section your chicken for you and fillet out the breast if you don't want to cut it up yourself. Just be sure to tell him to bag up the carcass for you to make chicken stock.

A whole chicken will be way cheaper than buying a tray of chicken pieces and you'll be able to use the back to cook up a chicken stock for soup another day. If you don't want to make a stock that day, just pop the back pieces into a freezer bag and freeze them to be boiled up at a later date.

A whole chicken will give you 8 pieces of chicken - 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 breasts - plus the back. I sometimes go further and cut the front wishbone part off the breast before I split the keel, giving me 9 pieces. And if I cut the breast off the bone I will pull away the narrow fillet piece from each breast and cook it those separately.

Chicken coating

I like to coat my chicken pieces is matzo meal, but can't always find it in the local grocery store. My second choice is bread crumbs, or for a gluten free option I use rice crumbles.

Whisk 2 medium eggs in a shallow dish, adding a pinch of salt and a pinch of ground black pepper.

You could dredge the chicken pieces in flour, then egg, then the breadcrumbs or matzo meal. I generally don't faff about all that much with it.

I dip it in the egg with one hand, then over it with the matzo meal/ breadcrumbs. I do my best to only touch dry ingredients with one hand and wet with the other but am generally not successful. Not to worry, those eggy - crumbly bits can be tossed in to cook along with the chicken and make for some crunchy treats (cook's privileges).

Choosing an oil/fat for cooking

My fat of choice to fry chicken is lard. Yeah, I know lard has gotten a bad rap in recent years. However, it is the best for frying up delicious chicken. It's my opinion that lard is a lot healthier for a person than any of the hydrogenated options that are out there.

If you don't want to use lard though, use a cold-pressed oil like sunflower oil. It needs to be about 1/2 inch deep in the skillet with at least another 2 inches clearance as the level will rise when you add the chicken.

Rapeseed, or canola oil is currently becoming quite popular, but it is another oil that I refuse to use. Too many fields are being converted over to growing rape, to the detriment of other native crops here in the UK, and to the utter misery of hayfever sufferers. Even people without hayfever suffer from this plant when its pollen gets into the air.

Cooking the chicken

Heat the lard, or oil, in a heavy-bottomed skillet over a moderate heat. Then carefully place the chicken in the pan in a single layer. Cover with a tight fitting lid and leave it for about 10 minutes. Check after 5 minutes to make sure it isn't browning too quickly, and reduce the heat if necessary.

fried chicken
Chicken frying in SKK saute pan
Once browned on one side, using a pair of tongs carefully turn each piece over, put the lid back and cook another 10 minutes.

With practice you will get to know when the chicken is cooked by feel - give one of the fleshier pieces like the breast a squeeze with the tongs. When it is as firm as the end of your nose, it's cooked. Until you get to know what this feels like fully, go ahead and check for doneness by pulling a piece out and cutting into it with a knife.

 Place a double or triple thickness layer of kitchen paper in a serving dish and transfer the chicken to that once it has cooked. If you're going to make a chicken gravy, put the dish into a warm oven to keep hot until you're ready to serve it.

This chicken is just as nice eaten cold.