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Walker’s Eastern Shore fried chicken recipe

Food For Thought
By Deborah Lee Walker | Feb 15, 2018

(Feb. 16, 2018) Americans love fried chicken. The sweet, succulent meat along with the crisp, flavorful skin is a delight indeed.

I remember as a young child being mesmerized as my grandmother fixed this southern classic. Her attention to detail was obvious and this whole process fascinated my youthful curiosity.

How I loved hearing the crackling of the sizzling oil and the aromas of the meat magically being transformed into a delicious dish. Nanny told me the secret was to add a little bacon fat to the oil for extra flavor.

Recipes are passed down from generation to generation and that influences our personal point of view. But inspired chefs continually ask the proverbial “why” for further insight.

Science plays a key role in cooking and fried chicken is no exception. Let us delve into the specifics so we can achieve the best finger-licking chicken.

Sometimes logic takes an unexpected approach. We must first think about prepping the chicken from within. Brining (a solution of water and salt) is crucial to moist, tender chicken.

According to The Food Lab: The Best Southern Fried Chicken, as the meat sits, the saltwater slowly dissolves key muscle proteins – most notably myosin, a protein that acts as a glue, holding the muscle fibers together.

As the myosin breaks down, three things take place. First, the ability of the meat to retain moisture increases. In addition, brining alters the texture of the meat by allowing dissolved proteins to cross-link with each other. Finally, as the brine works its way into the meat, the process of seasoning takes place.

That being said, is water the best ingredient for brining chicken?

Consider buttermilk as an alternative to water when brining chicken. In addition, the buttermilk adheres to the chicken much better and allows for the breading to have more sticking power. It also has fats and acids which breaks down the outer skin for a crispier crust.

While we are on the subject of brining, add a little vodka to your marinade.

According to The Food Lab: Four Secrets to Fried Chicken, “vodka evaporates more rapidly and violently than water which helps drive moisture off the crust of the chicken faster while at the same time creating larger vapor bubbles.” In other words, as the liquid evaporates the breading dehydrates which produces the coveted, crunchy crust.

Have you ever wondered how restaurants that specialize in fried chicken get so much texture in their crust? Add a couple tablespoons of buttermilk to the breading mix and work it with your fingers. This will add coarseness to the batter.

Sometimes the smallest details can produce the biggest results. After you have developed a gorgeous crust, finish cooking the chicken in the oven. This helps cook the meat evenly and will yield the best results.

There is nothing more comforting than crispy fried chicken. The cold, wintry season is the perfect time to add this to your menu. A hefty helping of mashed potatoes and good old greens makes this an Eastern Shore favorite. Enjoy!

 

Eastern Shore Fried Chicken

Ingredients

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

2 cups buttermilk

2 tablespoons vodka

kosher salt

1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds, individual pieces cut up, or 3 ½ pounds bone-in, skin-on breasts, legs, thighs, and/or wings

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup cornstarch

4 cups vegetable shortening

4 teaspoons bacon drippings

1.  Combine garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme, cayenne pepper, paprika and black pepper in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.

2.  Whisk buttermilk, vodka, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 tablespoons of spice mixture in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat. Transfer the contents of the bowl to a doubled, gallon-sized Ziploc bag and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours, flipping the bag occasionally to ensure even brining.

3.   While the chicken is brining, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, 2 teaspoons salt and the remaining spice mixture in a large bowl.                             Add 6 tablespoons of the marinade from the Ziploc bag and work it into the flour mixture with your fingertips.

4. Remove one piece of chicken from the bag and allow the excess buttermilk mixture to drip off. Place the chicken into the flour mixture and toss to coat. Press with your finger tips to make sure the chicken gets a thick coating. Repeat this process until all the chicken pieces are thoroughly and evenly coated.

5. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350 degrees.

6. Heat the shortening to 425 degrees in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or frying pan.

7. Carefully lower chicken, skin side down, into the skillet. The temperature of the shortening will drop to 300 degrees, maintain this temperature. Fry the chicken until both sides are golden brown.

8. Transfer chicken to a baking sheet. Finish the chicken in the oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 165 degrees. Serve immediately.

* If the chicken is not going to be eaten right away, place cooked chicken on a rack with a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over it. Do not place the cooked chicken directly on paper towels, the paper towels will get soggy and compromise the crispy skin.

Secret Ingredient – Chance. “The best thing you can give someone is a chance.”

– Unknown

 

 

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