Author Archive

The World’s Best Fried Chicken

December 29, 2007


1. You must brine the chicken pieces ahead of time.

2. There is no substitute for buttermilk; don’t even think about it.

3. No, you cannot use any other kind of pan but a cast-iron skillet. No.

4. Temperature – you’ll have to do a few test pieces to determine the right setting on your stove for the pan you’re using. On my stove, it’s just under medium with a 12-inch iron skillet. You’re aiming for a temperature that’s lower than what you’d normally use for grease-free deep fat frying, but not so low the chicken gets soggy. But, it has to be low enough that the outside doesn’t burn while the inside stays raw.


– about 6 thighs and drumsticks, brined

– 2 and 1/2 cups flour

– scant tablespoon salt

– two teaspoons garlic powder

– slightly less onion powder

– a couple vigorous shakes of HOT paprika, or cayenne pepper

– 1 teaspoon crushed thyme

– Lots of fresh-ground black pepper

– 1/2 teaspoon MSG. Yep, that’s right, MSG, sold as Accent. No, it’s not toxic, and no, you’re not allergic to it (big food myth). Leave it out if you’re paranoid.

– Enough Crisco to have about a half-inch of hot oil in the skillet


Mix your dry ingredients and put them in a wide, shallow bowl. Pour buttermilk into another bowl, replenishing as needed. Take chicken and dunk it in the buttermilk, shaking off excess. Mash (yes, mash) chicken into flour mixture all over, coating everything. You can be really decadent and give it another dunk in the buttermilk and another flour mashing (mmm, mmm). Set chicken aside on plate.

IMPORTANT – Let the chicken rest for at least 20 minutes after coating. This lets the coating set up and stick to the chicken so it doesn’t peel off during cooking.

Fry chicken two – three pieces at a time. Cover and fry for about 20 minutes, then turn, recovering the skillet and cook for another 15 minutes or so. Remove the cover and cook for another 5 minutes, turning the chicken again to recrisp the outside and evaporate the water that’s gotten into the crust from the covered skillet. This method is the best, and is well-described in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.

Drain the chicken on paper towels, and keep warm on an uncovered plate in the oven until all the pieces are done.

Best served with other heart-attack-inducing dishes, such as creamy mashed potatoes with cream gravy. I like to accompany it in the traditional Southern way, with greens stewed with ham hocks, and lard biscuits. This is a not a meal for health sissies.

Cream gravy:

Reserve about two tablespoons of the Crisco, scooping up the little browned bits that fell off the chicken. Add three tablespoons of flour and make a roux. In a separate pan, boil a chicken bullion cube in a minimal amount of water, just until dissolved. Set bullion aside.

Slowly add about 1 and 1/2 cups whole milk to the roux, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Add bullion, and let thicken, stirring constantly. If you need a little more thickener, whisk flour into cold milk and add. Be sure to add a generous amount of fresh black pepper.


Homemade Shake-n-Bake Chicken

December 29, 2007

Homemade Shake-n-Bake Chicken — I love Shake-n-Bake, but I decided to see if I could top it. This recipe is MUCH cheaper than the store-bought version, and I think it tastes even better. You can double or triple the coating recipe and keep it on hand in a covered container for use any time with chicken or pork. I never buy Shake-n-Bake anymore. Use your favorite spices, or whatever savory ones you have on hand. The point is to use what you have without spending extra money. The recipe below is my favorite after several experiments, but be creative with your spices.

Ingredients for dry coating:

1 and 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

1 tbsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. sweet or hot paprika

plenty of salt and pepper.

Mix dry ingredients, making sure to crush thyme in your fingers as you add it — that really makes a difference in the flavor — and use as below, or store in cupboard for later.

4 – 6 pieces chicken (thighs and drums work best. . leave skin on for moistness and flavor)

1/2 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt (gives a moistness and tang; essential if you’re using skinless chicken breasts as these dry out and are bland without the buttermilk or yogurt

Dip chicken in buttermilk, then press into coating firmly until they’re well-coated. You can even dip them again in the buttermilk and into the coating a second time for a really thick crust. Bake the chicken at 350 degrees, for about 45 minutes. They come out crispy, tender, and moist.

Easy Variation — This comes from the mother of an old boyfriend, David, whom I knew in college. She was very cute, and wrote on this recipe card, “David likes this one.”

4-6 chicken pieces

1/2 cup Hidden Valley Ranch

1 cup plain bread crumbs

Dip the chicken in the dressing, then press firmly into the bread crumbs. Bake as above. Quick and Yummy.

Chicken-Fried Steak

December 29, 2007

Chicken-Fried Steak

1 pound cube steak (four pieces)

3/4 cup flour

salt and a generous amount of pepper

1/2 tsp. onion powder

a couple dashes cayenne pepper, or sweet paprika, if you like it milder

1/2 cup buttermilk

Soak the meat in buttermilk for about an hour, or, if you don’t have time, simply dunk it in. Combine dry ingredients, and press moist steaks into flour mixture until well-coated. Fry in medium hot oil in a skillet (preferably cast-iron) until both sides are crispy and goldenf. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Cream gravy — drain all but two tbsp. of the pan drippings. Return to heat, and blend in two tbsp. flour with wooden spoon. Add 1/2 cup milk, and one cup water (or all water), stirring constantly to get lumps out. Let bubble up until thickened, pour over steak and mashed potatoes.

Crab-Stuffed Chicken

December 29, 2007

Crab-Stuffed Chicken or Fish — this recipe comes from my good friend Cathy, a true Massachusetts Yankee from the fishing town of New Bedford. I’ve made it for years and every guest raves about it.


1-2 cans (depending on how rich you feel when you’re shopping) crab meat

1 cup dry bread crumbs

couple dashes of Old Bay seasoning

couple dashes of hot pepper sauce (really essential, and Tabasco is best, but vary to your taste)

1 snipped stalk of a green onion

1 heaping tbsp. mayonnaise

4 chicken breasts, pounded thin, or slit in the middle to spoon in stuffing


4 fillets of haddock, cod, flounder, or other firm white fish

Drain crab, and mix with bread crumbs, seasoning, onion, mayonnaise, and pepper sauce. If using chicken, place 1/4 stuffing in each breast, secure with toothpicks. If using fish, wrap the long fillets around 1/4 of the stuffing spiral fashion (this is easiest), and secure with toothpicks.

Squirt lemon juice on top of fish or chicken, and bake in a covered dish in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes, or until done. Great with hollandaise sauce, or with melted butter and lemon juice as a garnish.

The Perfect Meatloaf

December 29, 2007


1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground pork

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1/4 cup minced onion

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried basil or oregano

couple dashes worcestershire sauce

1 egg

salt and pepper


1/3 cup ketchup

2 heaping tbsp. brown sugar

1 tbsp. yellow mustard

dash cinnamon (optional)

Mix meatloaf ingredients together with your hands, press into loaf pan. Top with glaze, and bake for abotu 25- 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Even better the next day cold on sliced white bread for sandwiches.