Monday, June 20, 2005

Fried Chicken #1: Cape May's Onion-Fried Shore Chicken

Nothing says summer like fried chicken, and my summer project is trying each of the fried chicken recipes in Fried Chicken: An American Story. (My standard fried chicken recipe, Scott Peacock's brined-and-buttermilk soaked method, is listed at the very end and kind of mocked as too fussy, so I was especially curious to see if I was working too hard at making fried chicken.)

In anticipation of this project, I bought a splatter screen to fit over my cast iron skillet, a fried chicken necessity. (It turns out the skillet/splatter screen works even better than the cast iron dutch oven, especially in terms of keeping grease off your walls.)

Now, I was a little dubious of any chicken recipe from New Jersey- no offense to New Jersey, which is actually a lovely state, but it is hardly known as a fried chicken epicenter. I was wrong, though. The frying method includes first frying some onion slices in the oil, and then discarding them- this is supposed to give an onion fragrance to the chicken. The chicken is coated in a mixture of self-rising flour, lemon pepper, and salt. I was out of lemon-pepper so I substituted Tony Chachere's, which worked just fine. After you fry the chicken (and John T. Edge thinks you can get a whole cut up chicken in one 12 inch skillet. I was dubious, but it turns out, he was right. He just cut my chicken-frying time in half.) you take some more onion rings, which you have been soaking in water, and toss them in the leftover chicken flour and then fry. Now, I have only had battered onion rings, and I was convinced these would be weird. But they were not- the flour made a very, very light coating for the fried oniony goodness.

And the chicken? The skin was crisp yet tender, and the meat was incredibly, unbelievably moist. Jeff called it the "closest to commercial" fried chicken I had ever made. I did find the skin to be oddly sweet- but Jeff found it a little salty.

Jeff gave it a 10 out of 10. I rated it a 7 out of 10, but upgraded it to an 8 after eating a leftover refrigerated piece- it held up beautifully, and the skin remained crisp.