America is a great place. There are 49 states and one independent country (Texas). We Europeans often sneer at the gastronomic endeavours of “them over there”. I don’t really subscribe to the “They all eat nothing but burgers and tacos” school of thought. However, of the 49 states, the one with that has some culinary questions to answer is Kentucky. I have done my research. Kentucky has more elk, deer and wild turkeys than you could shake a bottle of bourbon at. But, they are not famed for cooking any of them. Those good old bluegrass lovin’ Louisville folk are famed for sending buckets, yes buckets, of spiced, fried chicken to all points of the globe.
“That’s nice of them.” I hear you say. At one stage of my life, I would have been inclined to agree. A face full of pints followed by a greasy bucket of fried chicken was at the zenith of my culinary aspirations. But that was over 30 years ago. Time moves on but the bucket of chicken has not. It’s time for me to address this situation and I do my own take on fried chicken – Colonel Conor’s Fantastic Fried Free Range Chicken.
“But the recipe is a secret.” you blurt. “And you are not a Colonel.” Thanks be to bluegrass for not having the recipe. I suspect that I can concoct a very tasty spice recipe and produce crispy, delicious chicken without blocking every artery in my ageing body. I live in hope of the Irish Government making me an honorary ‘Colonel’ or ‘Knight Exemplar’ or ‘Chicken Tzar’ or something. Here’s how I approached the task.
First, the ingredients:
- 1 good quality free range chicken (and some chicken pieces if you have five sitting down to eat.)
- 2 teaspoons of salt, paprika, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried thyme, cumin and chili powder.
- Zest of one lemon
- Half a litre (1 pint) of milk
- A pile of panko breadcrumbs. See the picture for an idea of quantity.
- A smaller pile of flour. Ditto on the picture gazing.
- 3 eggs
Side note on the chicken: Buy good quality chicken. One of the reasons that internationally famous chicken purveyor fails to produce good food is the chicken is not the best quality. If you live here in Ireland, buy good quality free range (or corn-fed if you can afford it) chicken.
Chop the chicken into big bite pieces. Place them in a dish and pour over the milk.
Cover the chicken and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Place the lemon zest into a warm (50º C) oven for about 20 minutes. The resulting crispy lemon zest can be beaten in the mortar along with the mustard seeds and black peppercorns. Turn the oven up to 200º C.
Mix together all the spices along with a half table-spoon of the flour.
Beat the eggs.
Drain the chicken.
Set up a production line in the order of chicken, spice, egg, panko, frying pan. The pan should be medium hot and shallow filled with oil. Transfer the chicken from process to process along the production line.
Fry the chicken in batches to brown it and make the outer crispy.
Place the chicken pieces on a wire rack in the oven at 200°C for 30 minutes or so.
While in the oven, the chicken will release some fat and most of the oil used to fry it. It ends up deliciously crispy on the outside, succulent and juicy on the inside. I served this with a nice mixed salad and some mayo.
I served the chicken on a plate rather than in a bucket, accompanied by a bottle of buttery, oaky chardonnay. The perfect partner, thanks to Stefan for the thoughtful gift. This all left me thinking “Why can’t the Kentuckians get their chicken crispy?” They have some explaining to do. My version is crispy, juicy and tasty. Do give it a go.
Addendum: Since cooking this, a good friend suggested that I should have added some nutmeg to the spice mix. It sounds like a good idea. I will try it the next time. I wonder, does the Colonel use nutmeg?????