I wouldn't say we have the most conventional holidays. But we always have fun and there's always an element of surprise.
This Easter was no exception.
I decided to have a Fried Chicken Tasting for several reasons:
1) I've never made perfect fried chicken.
2) Publix has great fried chicken.
3) Our neighbors, Patrick and Tim, love and adore fried chicken. And I felt it was our duty to serve them something they actually like since we've sort of forced them to explore food they otherwise wouldn't. We dragged them. We bribed them. We kidnapped them. (They still like us.)
4) I read The Glory of Southern Cooking by James Villa (a book in my book club called Cook My Book, submitted by Woo Brower) and there were FOUR fried chicken recipes in a row!
5) Dad said he'd help.
So here we go.
From left to right:
Publix Fried Chicken
Perfect Southern Fried Chicken
Beer-Battered Fried Chicken
Maryland Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy
Arkansas-Style Buttermilk Fried Chicken
The Perfect Southern Fried Chicken was the clear winner. It was even great on day two! I used some of the leftovers to make some Sweet and Sour Chicken and it was terrific. You know your recipe is a keeper if you still like the fried chicken on day two.
As for the other recipes, here is a condensed version of the results:
- The Publix fried chicken, chicken the entire group of us normally love, tasted chemical-y next to the Perfect Southern Fried Chicken. We were all caught off guard by the result. I actually thought Publix would end up being the winner!
-No one cared for the Beer-Battered Fried Chicken. That said, we all agreed the batter would probably taste great on fish.
- The Maryland Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy was a dud. Enough said.
- We all loved the Arkansas-Style Buttermilk Fried Chicken but felt it was chicken that should be served over pasta or rice. Still, it was very flavorful and we will probably make this again.
Perfect Southern Fried Chicken Tenders
adapted from this cookbook
1 package (about 8) fresh, not frozen, chicken tenderloin strips (chicken tenders)
about 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper (throw some in and then add a little more)
bacon grease, about a tablespoon
Place the chicken in a bowl and cover with buttermilk. Let sit 1 hour.
Place the flour, salt and pepper in a brown paper bag* and shake it up.
Add two chicken tenders at a time to the bag of flour (shake off excess buttermilk) and shake the bag. Remove the tenders and put them on a plate. Repeat until all tenders are floured.
Put a cast iron skillet on the stove top over medium heat and add Crisco until you have about an inch melted up the side of the skillet. Add the bacon grease. You will know your Crisco is hot enough if you flick some water in the center and it sizzles. Add the chicken tenders with a little room in between in the skillet and cook about 6-7 minutes per side. Use metal tongs to turn the tenders over. When cooked, drain the tenders on a clean brown paper bag and serve.
*It's difficult to find a heavy brown paper bag these days. You used to be able to get one at the grocery checkout lane but now it's either plastic or you bring your own. I used a large paper bag but it didn't have a heavy bottom so I would suggest doubling or tripling the bag.
P.S. I'm not sure the Phillips Sonicare toothbrushes went over that well in the Easter baskets on Easter morning. Personally, I thought the Easter Bunny's choice was totally inspired.