There are few things I love more than fried chicken. Crispy, tender, moisty, and I like it just a bit salty. My mother made great fried chicken, but I have never been able to duplicate it. The best I have had, other than mom’s, is from the Delta Corner, in Indianola, next would be the Old Country Store in Lorman. Some of the fast-food chains are OK, but in that category, I would have to put Cajun’s as the best.
So, what can be so difficult about frying chicken? It is a mystery. Mom cut up her own chicken, seasoned it with salt and pepper, then it went into a milk and egg bath, next into flour. The chicken was fried in Crisco until it was a crunch and deep brown, then laid out oft drain on a deconstructed grocery store brown paper sack. It’s just that simple, and every time I have tried it, it was never as good as mom’s.
So, I decided to try again. But this time I was going to sous vide it, like Chef Alex Perry suggested, pan-fry for 45 minutes as my grandmother did, and deep fry like my mom. Three different recipes and see which was the best.
The sous vide recipe calls for cooking the chicken with an immersion circulator, in sealed Ziplock bags, at 155 f for two hours, then dipping in an egg wash, then in flour and frying at 350 f just until well browned. It was good, texturally different, firm but tinder. I like it but I think my mistake was to season the wash and flour and not the chicken. A sprinkling of salt sure improved the flavor.
My grandmother’s recipe (Estelle Gatlin Edwards, who by the way, road a mule from Tennessee to north Mississippi around 1900), only tossed her chicken in seasoned flour, then pan-fried, lid on, over low heat “for almost an hour.” I added the milk wash and cooked it for 45 minutes. It was a darker brown than any of the others, a little too crunchy, but tender, surprisingly moist, and good. Next time I’ll back the cooking time off to 40 min.
Mom’s recipe was the best I ever made it. Just crunchy enough, moist, and tender. I think I am getting close to getting to right. I used an egg and milk wash, seasoned flour, then deep-fried for fourteen minutes at 350 f. Again, I think seasoning both the flour and egg wash and the chicken will make a difference. Can’t think of why I didn’t think of that before.
I have often heard people talking about the food their moms made for them and how they have failed at recreating it, or never had anything so good. Of course, the difference is that your mom loved you and made that favorite meal just for you. It makes all the difference in the world. As I have said so many times before, there is nothing more fundamental to the human experience than sitting around a table and sharing food.
Now, I have to figure out that pan gravy recipe!