Sunday, May 27, 2012

FRIED CHICKEN GRAVY WITH HINTS


Ingredients:

2-Tablespoons fat from frying the chicken. Get some of the brown bits from the fat with a slotted spoon and add to the fat in the skillet where you are making the gravy.

Extra info: If you are not making the gravy right away, pour the fat into a large glass measuring cup. Put it in the freezer. The fat will rise to the top and coagulate. There will be a darker colored substance at the bottom of the cup. Remove the frozen fat from the top and wrap it in a newspaper. Put the newspaper with the fat into a plastic vegetable bag and put it in the garbage.What is left on the bottom of the measuring cup, underneath the fat, is the piece de resistance. These are the rich delicious drippings to use in making the gravy. Add it to the skillet with the butter and fat.

2-Tablespoons butter
4-Tablespoons white flour
2-cups whole (not 2% or skim) milk

Spices:

1-teaspoon salt
¼ -teaspoon black pepper
¼ -teaspoon white pepper
½ -teaspoon paprika


Optional: Wondra (but only if you need it). Wondra is quick-mixing flour that won’t make lumps. Always keep this on hand for lots of things. When a gravy/sauce is too thin, sprinkle this on top and mix it in. It will thicken the gravy without causing lumps. You will have lumps in your gravy/sauce if you add white flour into an already hot gravy/sauce.

Optional: 1-package of McCormick Chicken Gravy Mix (FYI: the only packaged mixes without MSG are McCormick). This can be added to the white flour instead of the spices above. If you do add this package mix, you will need more milk. Proceed with the process as described and add more milk as needed.

Optional: 1-Knorr Chicken Bouillon Cube. I often add this to the gravy after the milk is mixed in. It needs hot liquid to dissolve.

 The McCormick Gravy mix already has the spices and chicken bouillon in it so if you are using one or both of these you won’t need the spices.

All of these things help make the gravy rich and thick.

Process:

To make the gravy, put chicken fat with brown bits and butter in a 10” metal (so you can scrape the bottom) skillet on medium heat. Heat it until the butter is thoroughly melted. If you are using the drippings, add them now and stir well.

Mix the spices into the flour mixture in a small bowl. Sprinkle the flour mixture into the hot fat and mix it in well with a wire whisk. Stir the mixture frequently until the flour is lightly browned, crumbly and cooked, usually about 5 minutes.

Gradually pour in the milk a little at a time, stirring it into the flour mixture with the wire whisk. Keep the heat on medium.

If it’s too thick, add more milk, a little at a time, and stir until it’s the right consistency.

If it’s too thin, sprinkle some Wondra over it, a little at a time, whisking it into the mixture until it thickens up.

Always taste your gravy. If you think it needs some extra salt and pepper, add only a very small amount and taste again. You can always add more but you can’t take it away if you get too much.




Thursday, May 24, 2012

CJ'S FRIED CHICKEN RECIPE


I call this recipe CJ’s because I guess it’s mine. No one ever taught me how to make it but it is definitely in my cooking and eating DNA. Grandmother Hunt, Great Aunt Bess and my mother, Foxie, all made it the same way.

When we visited Grandmother Hunt, she always put the chicken in a bowl of buttermilk in the refrigerator before we left for Sunday School on Sunday morning.




She would have already fixed a large breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, coffee and juice for everyone. Plus, she would have cleaned up the breakfast dishes and gotten dressed up for church.

Of course we had to stay for  “big” church after Sunday School, so we didn’t get home until noon or so.

Grandpa Hunt would have gotten some fresh green beans, plump juicy tomatoes and corn on the cob from his garden. Everyone pitched in to peel the potatoes for mashed potatoes, clean the green beans and corn, set the huge dining room table, fill water glasses and make sure everything was ready when the chicken was done.

Foxie checking on the table...looks perfect.
I always remember lots of ladies in the kitchen scurrying about. Grandmother was in charge of frying the chicken and making the chicken gravy.

This method of frying chicken takes approximately 90 minutes after it is taken out of the buttermilk.

This helps explain why Sunday dinner was eaten about 2:00 P.M. and a light supper of leftovers was eaten for the evening meal.

Cooking is always easier if you plan ahead. Buy or kill the chicken the day before you plan on frying it. You will keep it in the refrigerator overnight so that the brine can clean the chicken.

You will need:

Sharp scissors
Large bowl
12” skillet with lid or electric skillet ( my favorite because you can control the temperature of the oil)
Metal tongs
Baking rack & deep-fat frying thermometer
Two brown paper bags
Paper towel
Baking sheet
Platter for serving

Ingredients:

For eight people:

Two 3-pound chickens cut into pieces or 6 pounds of chicken pieces such as legs, thighs, wings and breasts

2-tablespoons salt for brine

Buttermilk marinade:    

6-cups lowfat buttermilk
¼-cup salt

The following for coating the chicken pieces:

3-cups all-purpose flour
2-tablespoons salt
2-tablespoons paprika
1-tablespoon black ground pepper
1 ½ -teaspoon cayenne pepper
2-tablespoons baking powder

Fat for frying:

5-cups Crisco mixed with a little bacon grease (or not)

Process:

Day before frying:

Rinse the chicken pieces under cold running water and place in the large bowl.
Fill the bowl with cold water.


Sprinkle 2-tablespoons salt over the top of the chicken in the bowl and stir with large spoon to mix the salt into the water with the chicken. This cleans the chicken of impurities.

Cover the bowl with lid, foil or plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator overnight.

Day of frying:

Place some paper towels on the counter next to the sink.
Remove the bowl with the chicken and brine from the refrigerator and set it in the sink.

Wearing gloves, if you prefer, take one piece of chicken at a time from the bowl and cut off any excess skin or fat that has loosened on each piece.



Place the trimmed chicken pieces on the paper towel.

When all pieces have been trimmed and are on the paper towel, empty the brine into the drain.

Be very careful not to splash the brine all over the kitchen. This is what contains salmonella.

Rinse the bowl well with hot water and wipe it out with a paper towel.

Place the chicken pieces back into the bowl and pour the buttermilk marinade over the chicken, again turning the chicken to coat it well with the buttermilk.





Cover the bowl and place it into the refrigerator until you are ready to fry the chicken.

Very important: Clean the sink, counter and utensils you have used with a strong cleansing powder. This keeps your kitchen from becoming contaminated with raw chicken juices.



About 90 minutes before you want to serve the chicken, take the bowl of chicken out of the refrigerator.

Remove the pieces of chicken from the buttermilk and set them on a large plate.

Pour the buttermilk down the drain and run water down the drain for a minute.

Rinse the bowl and put it in the dishwasher or wash it thoroughly with soap and hot water.

Prepare the flour mixture to coat the chicken by dumping the ingredients into a brown paper bag.


I know you know what a brown paper bag looks like but it is prudent to ask that your groceries be placed in one at the market so you always have them on hand.
Put pieces in the bag, one-at-a-time, and shake to coat them well with the flour mixture.

Remove the pieces from the bag to a baking rack, letting them sit for about 10 minutes, so the coating can dry.







Once all pieces have been coated with flour, throw the bag away.

Start heating shortening in the skillet. On an electric stove, the burner should be between medium and medium high.



Wet your fingers under the faucet and shake your hand over the skillet. When the oil in the skillet sizzles from the water hitting it the oil is hot enough to add the chicken.

If the oil is smoking, it is too hot. Take the skillet off the heat, let it cool, put it in a glass-measuring cup and start over with fresh oil. Put the hot oil into a glass or metal container. It will melt plastic. Remember…I teach to the bottom.

Add enough pieces to fill the skillet but don’t crowd them. They will shrink and you can add more then. You may need to use two skillets.

Fry about 10 minutes on each side…15-20 minutes of browning total.


This is my mother's actual chicken frying pan. I still enjoy using it.
Always use metal tongs to turn the chicken over. If you use a fork you will poke holes in the chicken and it will let the juice out and your chicken will be tough.




You must be attentive, as the pieces can get too brown or not brown enough. It is better to err on the side of "not brown enough" as the chicken will brown more later.

Try to maintain the heat so that the oil is bubbling at a simmer.

While the chicken is cooking, place a flattened brown paper bag on the counter next to the skillet. Spread a layer of paper towels on top of the bag.

Remove the browned chicken pieces to the paper towel.


There was paper towel on this paper bag.
Pour the oil from the skillet through a paper towel-lined strainer into a large glass-measuring cup trying to get the brown bits into the strainer. Save the oil and brown bits for making the chicken gravy.

Pour some strained oil back into the skillet to about ¼ inch in the bottom of the skillet.

Heat the oil to sizzling and put the chicken pieces back into the skillet.

Reduce heat to low and cover the skillet tightly with a lid.



Cook about 40 minutes. The last 10 minutes, raise the heat to medium-high and take off the lid. Turn the chicken once more.This will make the chicken nice and crispy on both sides.

When the chicken has finished cooking, remove the pieces with tongs to the paper towel agian. If you are cooking in batches, place the cooked pieces on a baking sheet and keep in a warm oven (200-degrees).

If you will be eating soon, put the drained chicken on a platter.

If not, put it in a glass-baking dish, cover it with foil and put it in the refrigerator. It can be reheated in a 350-degree oven, with foil removed, for about 15 minutes if you want to serve it hot later.

If it‘s for a picnic, you’re done.



Not a great picture but it sure tasted good!














Monday, May 21, 2012

HUNTING DOWN THE CHICKEN!


No matter what the occasion or how plentiful the food from the huge and abundant gardens of my southern and central Illinois family…there would always be fried chicken.

My mother, my grandmother and Great Aunt Bess were the ones who cooked this recipe exactly alike. It is my assumption, though not based on fact, that it was my Great Grandmother who taught them to make this recipe.

When that platter of fried chicken was presented at the table, it looked like manna from Heaven. I wanted to reach and grab a piece right then. Did I? No. I tried to be polite. What a good reason to learn to cook. You can make your favorite foods and eat all you want.

First you have to kill the chicken.

Did I lose you with that one? Someone has to kill the chicken. Why not have it be your own chicken? That way you at least know where it’s been and what it’s been eating.

Son HD built a chicken coop and is raising chickens with his kids’ help. A project, for sure…but the end result is having fresh food and the children learning where their food comes from.

The biggest problem with that is that the children get attached to their little bird friends. AJ’s favorite baby chicken died rather early on in their chicken raising experiment. She had a funeral and burial behind the chapel in the family animal cemetery. She mourned for days and memorialized her baby chicken by painting a t-shirt with his picture on it that she had drawn. His name was Tiger.

I’m not sure that my grandchildren will be able to “do the deed” as I was taught by Wylie. I was certainly no older than AJ is now when Wylie decided that if I wanted to have fried chicken I would have to learn how to get it.
Until then, fried chicken came out of the kitchen to the dining room table already cooked to a crispy, golden brown.

The title of this lesson is “How to kill and prepare chickens for eating” by Molly Wylie. It went something like this.

At Wylie’s house the chickens were always running around in the yard eating bugs. She instructed me to catch one. She showed me how to grab the chicken under its belly and hold it so it didn’t scratch me.

She asked me to put his little head on the stump while holding the chicken’s body. There were two nails in the stump and I was to put the head between them. She helped me with that. Then, Wylie grabbed a hatchet that was leaning up on the side of the porch and heaved it over her shoulder. Down it came and WHACK!…right on the chicken’s neck. Off went the chicken’s head.

She told me to let go of the chicken and let it run around in the yard to “bleed” it. A headless chicken is not a pretty sight. It ran around throwing blood everywhere until finally it stopped. The chicken’s head continued to cackle too.

Once the chicken died, we had to pluck the feathers. Wylie had a big pot of boiling water ready for the chicken. I think it makes it easier to pluck the feathers after she’s (the dead hen, not Wylie) had a dip in boiling water. Or…maybe it’s to make sure the chicken is dead. I think it was just a quick dip…a minute or so.

We plucked all the feathers quickly. The hardest ones to get out were the little ones called pinfeathers.

Then Wylie would cut off the feet and the ends of the wings with her hatchet.

I don’t remember the rest of the butchering. Maybe she sent me on an errand so I didn’t have to watch it.

After that event, she placed the parts in a clean bucket of salted water she called brine and put it in the icebox. She said that this process cleaned the body of the chicken. I guess it’s true because I have done that with turkeys and chickens for all my cooking life and the yucky stuff that is left in the water afterwards is terrible stuff. I will spare you the description.

The brining process is also said to tenderize the meat.

Today, most of us think we can go to the supermarket and buy chicken for frying.

Well, let me tell you what I discovered recently.

You can buy chicken already fried in the deli section or on the hot table by the deli. You can take it home and have fried chicken for dinner. No news here.

I assure you, this is not the fried chicken you were hoping for…unless, of course, this is the only fried chicken you’ve ever had. If that’s the case, you probably don’t like fried chicken.

The pieces are small and have little to no meat on them. The skin is flavorless and tough. Your bowl of discarded bones, skin, etc. is huge and overflowing. What nutrition have you gleaned from this event?

For the past several years we have been warned that we should eat only boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Recipes abound online about this protein choice. Oh, and those boneless, skinless chicken breasts must be all natural, organic, range fed, with no added steroids or chemicals. Yup.

A few days ago, I decided to write about summer food. My childhood memories of summer family gatherings and picnics had a star of the “show”…fired chicken. Hot or cold.

In preparation for creating a blog with our family fried chicken recipe, I started thinking about frying some chicken. After all, I have to take pictures of the process and review all of the steps. There is the additional benefit of eating fried chicken as well.

That’s where mi amigo Pedro comes in.

He headed off to the supermarket to buy the chicken for frying because our Homeowner's Association frowns on chicken coops. I explained to him about my favorite package of chicken that our local market carried. It was called  “Pick of the Chicks”. It had two legs, two thighs, two breasts, and two wings. It didn’t have the negative chicken parts like a back, neck, heart, liver and gizzard. Just the good stuff!

He returned with no chicken. His report was that they had no “Pick of the Chicks”. They had packages of legs, packages of thighs, packages of wings, and packages of breasts. No package of an assortment of the best parts.

Shocking! Couldn’t be true!!

Next day, we both went to Wal-Mart for various supplies and to look for chicken for frying. Of course they would have just what we needed. They have lots of business and try to meet their customers’ needs.

Nope.

No packaged assortments of chicken.

They offered the same thing as our local supermarket.

Also…all…I mean all…of the chicken breasts were boneless and skinless.

The thighs, legs, and wings all had bones and skin.

What was going on??

I can’t fry a chicken breast without skin.

We went home with packages of legs, thighs and wings.

I decided to make a return visit to the local supermarket and see if mi amigo Pedro had missed something. As I approached the meat department, a nice young man asked me if “I had found everything alright”. I replied that I would let him know. It only took me a few seconds to realize that, indeed, there were no chicken breasts with skin. None. Zilch!!

I asked him if he understood my dilemma. With a puzzled look, he said that he didn’t remember packaging chicken breasts with skin and bones. He offered no solution but said that he would speak to the meat manager and regional supervisor about the issue. He apologized for not having what I needed.

I asked if I purchased a whole chicken, would he butcher it and package the parts that I wanted. He agreed that he could do that. That won’t work now. I already have three large packages of legs, thighs and wings.

The fried chicken in the deli has two breasts with skin and bones. I guess that’s where those chickens come from. That’s the chicken I told you about in another blog post…the chicken that is close to the expiration date so they cook it and sell you “old” chicken.

I still don’t have chicken breasts to fry with the other parts. I have another place to try to find them.

Wish me luck!







Saturday, May 19, 2012

PATRIOTISM AND PROSPERITY



I noticed this week that our neighbor has put up her patriotic holiday decorations. This is our first sign, in addition to the 100-degree temperatures, that summer is coming.

She is very clever in calculating her timing.

The dreaded Homeowner’s Association (HOA) guidelines for holiday decorations state, “ Winter holiday decorations may be displayed from November 15 to January 15. All other holiday decorations may be displayed no more than fifteen (15) days prior to the holiday and must be removed fifteen (15) after the holiday.”

It is my calculation that these same decorations will be “flying” until the Thanksgiving decorations go up and will be within the guidelines…sort of.

We need to get the bunting strung across the top of our garage.

Just in case you are shaking your head and thinking that we cannot possibly have patriotic holidays in 30-day intervals from now until Thanksgiving, consider this information from my 2012 Daughters of the American Revolution calendar:

·        May 28-Memorial Day (Decoration Day)
·        June 14-Flag Day
·        July 4-Independence Day
·        August 14-V-J Day (Japan surrendered ending WWII)
·        September 3-Labor Day
·        September 11-Patriot Day
·        September 17-Citizenship Day
·        October 8-Columbus Day
·        November 11-Veteran’s Day
·        November 15-Thanksgiving decorations go up

Today…I am more patriotic than I was yesterday. Something that happened to us snapped me into reality. My coping mechanism of denial isn’t working anymore. Today I am sad and sick with regret about what has happened to our country.

As we walked through a mall in Mesa yesterday, we were stunned and speechless while we wandered around taking in what had happened to this mall. Not that long ago it had been vibrant and prosperous and busy.

We had gone there to visit a department store to buy some shoes. This particular department store used to be a “high-end” establishment where you could be certain to find a few very good quality items that would last for a long time.

Our philosophy is to buy less and buy better. We weren’t going to “buy better” here.

The department store had closed its upper floors. The escalators were silenced. All display fixtures were gone from the main floor except for the miles of clothes racks and huge yellow, red and black signs hanging from the ceiling announcing what clothing was underneath the sign.

No cosmetic counters to welcome you with beautiful sales people and lovely fragrances.

Our first clue that things had changed was that there was ample covered parking just outside the one door that remained open.

Had the lights been dimmed in the mall to save electricity?

From the kiosks scattered throughout the mall, hawkers were beckoning passersby in Spanish as well as various forms of unintelligible English.

The economy is recovering? Not in Mesa. Stores are boarded up and parking lots are empty.

America is losing its star-spangled glory! This isn’t a casual occurrence anymore. It’s everywhere.

I don’t think flying a flag will help but it can’t hurt.

LET FREEDOM RING!