Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Southern Fried Chicken Dilemma

It’s no secret that here in the south we take our fried chicken seriously. Recently, I discovered how seriously. To be honest, I’d learned the lesson about ten years ago when according to my family, I dishonored my heritage and was accused of “chicken counterfeiting.” I won’t deny it, I pled guilty and was practically disowned. (Hey, I couldn’t lie my way out of it, the proof had been caught on film.)


To this day, if fried chicken is brought up at a family gathering--and duh, it always is because the world would end if the Hunt bunch got together and didn’t have the finger-licking, artery-clogging pieces of meat as an offering—I get snickered at and reminded of my failings.

You must know, I learned how to cook fowl about the same time I was potty trained. As a matter of fact, I think there’s one of those pictures of me wearing a diaper, appropriately showing a bit of plumber’s crack, (I am my daddy’s daughter) standing on a chair watching grandma cook Sunday dinner. According to my grandmother, every southern gal should know how to fry a mean bird.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that my generation got off easy. My grandma, even my mother, didn’t have to just know how to fry the mean bird, they got to know the mean part up close and personal. They had to catch that bird, ring its neck, de-feather it, and cut the bird up into recognizable pieces of meat. Today Swanson takes care of all that for us. Between you and I, if I had to kill something to eat it, I wouldn’t have to belong to Weight Watchers.

I can remember watching my grandma drop the flour-coated pieces of meat into the cast iron skillet. It was that memory and the guilt brought on by the reminiscence that lead to my crime. You see, I realized that I’d failed my family responsibility and not taught my then teenage daughter the fine art of bird frying. I had good reasons. I had been brained washed by the Surgeon General into believing the southern “Crisco-is-a-food-group” way of thinking was a crime. I had even tossed away my “bacon grease/seasoning for every dish” drippings bowl that had been centered on my stove.

So, to make up for this failing, I decided to teach the frying chicken art to my daughter and to even write a heart-felt essay about passing down family recipes. I wrote it and it was beautiful. I sold it, and I beamed with pride. The magazine contacted me and asked if I could supply photos to accompany the feature article. That was when I learned a very important lesson—always throw away the evidence!

You see, after all the non-frying years in which I fit into my size five jeans, I could still fry a mean bird. Oh, it tasted finger-licking, so bad-for-you good. My only problem was . . . my mean bird wasn’t photo pretty. After the second frying failed to provide the Kodak moment I needed, I cratered. I went to a good friend of mine for help.

Colonel Sanders with Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I dusted myself and my daughter up with a few sprays of flour, popped my KFC into a skillet, set up the tripod and got the images I needed. No one ever needed to know. And they wouldn’t have if I hadn’t forgotten to remove the red and white bucket from the kitchen that was caught on film in the background.

Now the magazine was kind enough to cut the edge of the photo out, but I’d made the huge mistake of providing my family copies of the photos and article before it appeared.

Needless to say, my hubby supported me against the onslaught of remarks for bringing shame to my grandmother’s recipe. It wasn’t easy for my husband, because southern men have deep emotional ties to all things southern-fried. And recently I discovered just how deep my husband’s ties are for fried chicken. As a matter of fact, I’m worried about him.

Here in Texas we have a cafeteria called Luby’s. Luby’s is practically a Texas tradition. Well, recently during some of these hard economic times, Luby’s was sold to another restaurant group. Now they raised the prices, for which my oh-so frugal husband threw a fit about. But that fit was nothing to what happened last week.

The fact it was Sunday made the crime much more hideous. We were in line and my husband started picking out his menu selection. He didn’t see the fried chicken, but he assumed they were frying up a fresh batch. So when he told the man behind the counter what he wanted, and this poor man made the terrible mistake of looking my husband in the eyes and saying, “We don’t have fried chicken today,” and stared at my husband who had eaten fried chicken at Luby’s for last forty years, as if he had the audacity to expect fried chicken on Sunday. Well, let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty.

According to my husband, it is un-American and a sin against mankind for Luby’s not to serve fried chicken any day of the week, but on Sundays? He stood there in the middle of that cafeteria line and announced, “Fried chicken is the backbone upon which Luby’s name was built.” And he said it with such passion and devotion that I took my heart-healthy-weight-watcher-approved grilled fish, scooted away, and pretended I didn’t know him.
He asked to speak to the manager, and the man made his second mistake of saying, “You’re talking to him.”

Hubby ended up eating a vegetable plate, but he wasn’t happy. And there wasn’t one person in the restaurant who didn’t know it. Yup, hubby is like me in that he doesn’t mind talking to strangers. Even as we walked to our car, he informed everyone going inside, “You might as well turn around. They don’t have fried chicken.” Much to my surprise, a few couples actually got in their cars and left.

Anyway, my husband has researched the location of the Luby’s Corporation, and next week he’ll be knocking on their door. And while I’m gonna be busy that day, I did crater and do as he asked and blog about it. Not sure this is exactly what he had in mind, but it’s the best I could do.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m guilty of having a piece of fried chicken on occasion. However, if my hubby doesn’t let this go, I’m thinking about starting a Fried Chicken Anonymous group and checking on having him detoxed.

So what about you? What’s on your menu for supper tonight? Any family recipes to share? I will post my grandmother’s chicken recipe in the comments section. Just remember, it’s so good, it’s bad for you, but it ain’t pretty.

Crime Scene Christie—the Chicken Counterfeiter
Oh...and for the blog I love . . . oh, I wish I could pick two or three. I read different blogs for different reasons. But I guess I'll have to name my Bookends blog as one of the best for information on and about the market.

34 comments:

Jo Anne said...

Ah, Christie. We grew up in the same kitchen. I, too, learned how to "Southern Fry" a mean bird at my grandmother's knee. I still have my cast iron skillet, although now it's only used for cornbread on rare occasions. And I've also done away with the requisite can of stovetop bacon drippings, used to season every vegetable known to man - oh, and to make the cream gravy for the biscuits on Sunday morning, of course.

I did fry up some chicken for a critique group party about 6 or 7 years ago - and by God, it was better than KFC (or being from Louisina, I also like spicy Popeye's). Alas, it is a lost art in my kitchen, but then so is working like a field hand. So I'll stick to the WW preferred skinless baked chicken. Sigh.

Found memories in that kitchen though. Thanks.

Christie Craig said...

Hi Jo Anne,

Isn't it crazy? Nothing tastes like good ol' fashion southern cooking, but jeepers . . . it comes with a high price.

Thanks for stopping in.

CC

Jenyfer Matthews said...

I so miss Popeye's chicken. I never did learn to fry chicken myself but now I've got a powerful craving to order some KFC (they deliver here in Cairo)

Christie Craig said...

Jenyfer,

Have a leg for me!!!

Yum.

CC

Tracy Madison said...

Christie, LOL, I love the image of the tell-tale red & white bucket in the background of your picture. I laughed. A lot. And then had to go find a towel to mop up the coffee that splashed out of my mug.

And your poor husband! He was probably *really* looking forward to that chicken, and had to settle for veggies.

Christie Craig said...

Tracy,

You know some lessons stick with us. I'm much more aware of what's in the background when I snap pictures now.

Thanks for stopping in.

CC

Edie said...

Bookends is one of my favorites. My husband lived on a farm when he was young. He didn't kill the chickens, but he had to pluck them. Not his favorite childhood memory.

I'm making spaghetti tonight. An easy no-fuss dish, with ground turkey, tomatoes, seasoning, garlic, olive oil and whatever else I feel like throwing in.

Christie Craig said...

Grandma's Southern Fried Chicken

One whole cut up chicken
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 to 2 cups Crisco, (more may be needed depending on size of skillet.)


Wash chicken. (Discard chicken skin from breast and legs if desired.—this way it will only partially clog your arteries.) Add salt and pepper to flour. Roll moistened chicken in flour, coating well. In a large frying skillet heat one cup, or more if needed, Crisco on high heat. Drop chicken into hot oil. Brown chicken on all sides. Turn heat down to medium low, place lid on top of skillet, leaving an opening of an inch or two uncovered. Turn occasionally to secure even cooking. Cook for approximately 20 minutes, depending on size of pieces. (Smaller pieces, livers, wings and small drumsticks may be done sooner. Extra large pieces may need a little more time.)

Christie Craig said...

Hi Edie!

I seriously don't think I could eat a bird I had to pluck. LOL.

Spaghetti is a favorite around here, too. And it sounds good. Hmm...you might have decided what I'm serving up tonight.

CC

Keri Ford said...

BEST way to do fried chicken-- batter the chicken in wet pancake batter FIRST (make batter like it says on the back of box), then coat it in flour, then drop it in your skillet. The crust is AMAZING! (I found this in my 50's version of Better Homes and Garden Rec. Book)

My cooking picture with grandma is patting out hamburger meat for burgers. I'm sitting on the counter, at the most of 2, smashing the meat!

Michelle said...

Hey Christie,

That is too funny, I tried to cook fried chicken once and well let's just say it probably was worse than what you spoke of. Though honestly, even though it wasn't pretty to look at it was delicious.

As for dinner, usually since it's St. Patty's Day we have Ham and Cabbage. This year though, we already had it, so we won't be having it again.

My specialties are casseroles and easy italian dishes. Turns out the italian dishes are good thing, as I got a guy who loves Italian food,lol. He actually thought I was Italian, don't know why and he didn't know either he just thought I was. Alas, i'm not but I can make a good baked ziti and lasagna.

Thanks for the laughs, I look forward to your blogs every week.

Bookmobiler said...

"Southern Fry" a mean bird"

If I was a chicken and got Southern fried I'd be feeling mean too!

Cholesterol is a form of revenge!

As for me, I'm an ace at frying water.

I'm with your husband. It's absolutely appalling how often new owners or management stop doing thing their customers loved.

Christie Craig said...

Keri,

I've heard of that and I know when I worked at a restaurant years ago, they 'wet' battered their chicken, too.

But . .. hey, I got in trouble for trying to pass off "bought" chicken as grandma's chicken, I can't imagine what they'd do if used a different recipe. LOL.

I think we all have those cooking pictures. They bring back good memories, don't they?

Thanks so much for posting. And hey . . . between you and I, I might see if your recipe won't cook up photo perfect chicken if I have to photograph it again!

Christie Craig said...

Michelle,

I hadn't cooked lasagna in years. Then last Christmas my sister in law suggested we cook something different. So I made a big batch of spinach lasagna. It was sooo good that now I have to cook it about every other week or my hubby has a fit. I may have to have him detoxed off that, too. :-)

And I'm happy to know that other people's fried chicken isn't camera ready either.

And being considered Italian isn't a bad thing. You can yell and scream and get away with it! (SMILE)

Thanks for stopping in.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Bookmobiler,

Frying water, huh? LOL!

Oh, listen, my hubby swears he's sending Luby's a link to my blog today.

Thanks so much for stopping in. And you're right, I'd be mean too if someone chased me down and rung my neck.

Thanks for popping in.

CC

Gemma Halliday said...

Fried chicken (southern or otherwise) is so out of my realm. I've been a vegetarian for twenty years. What can I say? I'm a native California raised by hippie parents. I even have the baby pics of me in love beads to prove it. ;)

~Gemma

Christie Craig said...

Gemma,

You can Southern Fry tofu. I swear it.

And girl, I can believe you were raised by hibbie parents. You make a fab hippy, hot shoes and all.

Thanks.

CC

Keri Ford said...

Gemma, fry you up some battered okra! Or green tomato slices! *bg* son LOVES fried okra.

Christie, after pulling your chicken from the pan, be sure to let it drip on a wire rack, NOT a paper towel. The paper will make the bottom of the chicken soggy while the rack keeps it crispy!

Christie Craig said...

Great tip Keri.

Grandma's chicken went straight to the platter. Of course, it never hung out long there.

I can't tell you how many times I burned my mouth eating a freshly fried drumstick.

And hey...fried Okra and squash is so good.

CC

CC

LuAnn said...

I've never been very good at frying chicken. It never gets crispy like it should and ends up just sitting there like a lump!

Tori Lennox said...

Luby's not having fried chicken? I'm sorry but that's just unAmerican!!! What morons! I'm firmly with your husband on this one.

(I really love fried chicken. *g*)

Christie Craig said...

A fried lump, huh?

LuAnn, don't fret too much. You are healthier for having that cooking flaw!

Thanks so much for stopping in.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Tori,

My hubby will be so happy that someone sees it his way.

Thanks so much of stopping in.

CC

terrio said...

I'm not southern but I love fried chicken. However, though my grandmother was an awesome cook, she had no patience to teach me or my sister how to do it. Neither did our mother. So neither my sister or I can cook much of anything that doesn't come out of a box. (And my grandmother always used breadcrumb instead of flour.)

BUT, I can make most anything Italian including a pretty good lasagna. And I've recently started coating pork chops and boneless chicken thighs in seasoned bread crumb and baking them. They actually come out really juicy and no grease is used at all!

Now, about the Luby's thing. That reminds me of the time I went to Cracker Barrel and they had NO chicken & dumplins. This is the only reason I go to Cracker Barrel. I was so mad I ranted and raved and the manager ended up taking the food I did order (which was NOT good) off my bill. How does a Cracker Barrel run out of chicken & dumplins?!?!

Christie Craig said...

Okay, Terrio,

Take some deep breaths. I can see you have the same problem my hubby does. LOL!

That man went bat shit crazy right there in that restaurant.

Thanks for stopping by.

CC

Lucy said...

I'm kicking myself over something that I can't tell you because you'd help me out...with the kicking that is but, having said that...

I think you did more telling on yourself than you did your husband. And I have to say, you're lucky I wasn't drinking a liquid when I read that you left the KFC bucket in the picture!!! because we'd be discussing the cost of the repairs to my laptop. :) Not to mention, you pretended you didn't know your husband?!?! Okay, I probably would've done the same but I wouldn't have admitted to it in my blog. ;)

Happy Tuesday.

Christie Craig said...

Lucy,

Okay...tell me what needs kicking and I'll get after it!!

And about me telling on myself... Well, I hold my head in shame, and yup, I know it made me look bad, especially after he defended me against the chicken fury from my family. But girl . . . you should have seen him. It was so funny. And hey. . . I did sit with him while he grumbled and ate his veggie plate. (SMILE)

Thanks for stopping by and from now on, cover key board before reading. LOL.

CC

MJFredrick said...

I'm with your husband on this one, too! Luby's has the BEST fried chicken! (Love Popeyes, too, but it's pricey). I emailed the link to your blog to my mom-my stepdad would have done the same thing!

Alexis said...

My mother's family is from the Bronx, so I don't have any deeply held belief on fried chicken. But, the stories she tells about the liitle Italian grandmothers killing the chickens in the bathroom and plucking the feathers makes me think that I'll just have a steak.

Sandy said...

Christie,

I'm sorry its taken me so long to get here, but I knew I had to come knowing the topic.

You certainly brought back memories of my mother wringing the chicken's neck and plucking it feathers. We spent every Sunday at Grandma's house for dinner, and it was always fried chicken. There isn't a place anywhere who made fried chicken like she did. She knew how to cut it, too, and that's a lost art.

Great post.

Christie Craig said...

MJFredrick,

Thanks girl!! It's like I said, we take Chicken serious!

Thanks for stopping in.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Alexis,

LOL! I agree, no plucking my food!

Thanks so much for stopping by.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Hi Sandy,

It is a lost art. I think I could still cut a whole chicken, but don't even give me a live one. I'd have it named, a nice comfortable bed, and feeding it special corn before the hour was up.

Thanks for stopping in.

CC

Tambra said...

Hi Christie,

There is an art to making good fried chicken. Needless to say, I still haven't quite mastered it.

Then again, it's once in a blue moon when I do venture in the sacred southern frying grounds with my trusty cast iron skillet.

Great blog post as usual!

Hugs,
Tambra