Dinners

A Northern Southern Dinner

Last week, I got a massive craving for fried chicken. You know those cravings that are so insistent they last for days? Yeah. I love me some fried chicken – southern food in general, really. Born and raised in Michigan, I’ve always hoped to be adopted by some southern grandmother who can teach me her beloved soul food recipes, but alas, I haven’t met that southern granny yet. I’ve dreamed of being able to fry up juicy, crispy, golden brown, gorgeous fried chicken. I’ve tried many times, a few different ways, but my poor chicken has always turned out dry and rubbery, or completely undercooked. I figured I knew what I was doing, as I cranked the oil heat to volcanic levels and tossed seasoned chicken in. Nope.
I went to a party once and got to talking to a Southern girl who also loved to cook. I explained my dilemma to her and described my fried chicken results and she just laughed. “You gotta crawl before you can run, girl!” But I’m ambitious. And determined. So I took the tips that she gave me and have been trying to perfect my own way of frying chicken. One night last week, Bronson and I decided to give it another shot, and make our own little northern southern dinner.

We started this batch of fried chicken by thinking small, literally. We bought thin cut chicken tenderloins, so that the meat would be juicy, and so we wouldn’t have any issues with possibly under-cooked chicken. We dipped the chicken in an egg wash mixed with a little milk, and then dredged it through a mix of flour and spices.

We put a large frying pan of canola oil on to bubble and when we thought it was ready, we tossed a sweet potato fry in it to test the oil’s heat (Bronson wanted sweet potato fries with our southern dinner, so he grabbed a bag of frozen ones). We didn’t want to screw our chicken before we even started by dropping it into a pot of lukewarm oil. After the sweet potato fry was crispy and fully fried, we slowly dipped our chicken into the oil. I want to buy one of those fancy oil thermometers, but I don’t cook enough fried food to justify buying one. But, I suppose that could be a good thing……

Look at that oil bubble!
Bronson decided that there would be sweet potato fries in this dinner, so I decided that I wanted greens! I love collard greens, but I’ve come up with a southern-inspired cooked greens recipe that I like even better. I make mine with kale……Kale-ard greens if you will. I like using kale as southern greens because they keep a lot of their ‘chomping’ quality. Unless they cook down forever, they remain somewhat firm and don’t become waterlogged. First, I ripped the kale from the stalk, and then tore those into large, but manageable, palatable pieces.

I sliced an onion and three cloves of garlic very thinly, and cut a few strips of bacon into 1-inch pieces. I fried the bacon in a separate frying pan, and then pulled the bacon from the pan and saved the oil. I tossed the sliced onion and garlic into the pan. When the onions had cooked down, I started adding the greens one handful at a time. I had a massive pile of greens in the beginning, but they cooked down to 1/4 the size in the pan. 

I tossed the kale around in the pan to get it all steamed and start the process of it breaking down. Once the oil had been incorporated into the greens, I added some chicken stock to help them cook down and soak in extra flavor. When the greens were almost done, I re-added the bacon and mixed it all around. I squirted a dash of lemon juice over top it all, and threw on some salt and pepper. 

While I was working on the greens, Bronson had been manning the chicken. When the pieces were a bright, golden brown he tested one with a meat thermometer. It stopped exactly at 165 degrees – perfectly cooked! This took about fifteen minutes or so. 

Look at that pretty little motherclucker!
Once our chicken was as golden as Achilles, we pulled it from the oil and set it on a plate with paper towel to dry and rest for a few minutes. Bronson took this opportunity to fry up the rest of his sweet potato fries. I’ve never been a fan of sweet potato fries. It’s one mix of sweet and savory that I just can’t get behind. This time, I tried one to humor Bronson, and I actually liked it! Maybe because they were fried in fried chicken oil, like McDonald’s does with their fries to make them so addicting…..
We had a glorious little northern southern dinner! The chicken was crispy, juicy and fully cooked! Hoorah! My greens had a great mix of texture – the crispy, chewy bacon between the cooked onions, garlic and full greens. And, Bronson got me to like sweet potato fries. Looking forward, I think that next time we’ll double batter the chicken to get the coating thicker and a little crunchier. Still, a great dinner all in all, I would say.
Do you have any great fried chicken advice? Were you lucky enough to have a southern grandmother who taught you her amazing recipes? Take kindness on those of us who weren’t so lucky and share your knowledge!
Recipe for Fried Chicken:
*These directions include my suggestion above for double-battering the chicken
4 pieces chicken tenderloins, thin cut
4 eggs
¼ cup milk
4+ cups flour
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
½ gallon canola oil
Pour canola oil into a large pot/pan. Allow to heat for at least 10 minutes. Mix eggs and milk in large bowl. Mix flour and spices in a separate, large bowl. Dip chicken in egg wash, then dredge through flour. Repeat. When the chicken is golden brown, check it with a meat thermometer (or a fork and knife, ain’t no shame in that). When the chicken is cooked, let it rest on a plate with paper towel for 5 minutes.
Recipe for Kale-ard Greens:
1 bunch of kale greens
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 pieces bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
Salt
Pepper

 

Rip the kale greens from the stalk, and tear those into large pieces. Fry bacon in frying pan, pull out when crispy and chewy. Cook the onions and garlic in the bacon oil. When those are fully cooked, add the greens, salt, pepper and chicken stock. Mix the greens around to ensure that they all steam. When the greens are almost done, add the bacon. 
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