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Fried chicken for July 4th

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Tomorrow's the beginning of the July 4th holiday weekend! Most people are off of work today and tomorrow, planning for those classic summer activities everyone enjoys. This week, I've been sharing recipes that would fit in with a July 4th gathering or even anytime during the summer. If you missed any of them, here's the links to those so you can get them:

http://www.examiner.com/article/dessert-that-s-a-southern-tradition

http://www.examiner.com/article/preparing-for-july-4th-with-a-different-...

http://www.examiner.com/article/potatoes-hearty-enough-for-a-picnic

One staple at many picnics is fried chicken, an American standard. Since I'm from North Carolina, I've talked to many local cooks that have their own way of making this Southern favorite. There are no two cooks that prepare it alike. A few use an actual written recipe, but more often than not, many cooks have the recipe in their heads. They judge the preparation by look and feel rather than by measurements and directions.

You would think that fried chicken would be among the easiest dishes to prepare, but I've found out that many cooks have trouble with it. Some cooks find that the breading won't stay on the chicken, whereas some tend to overcook it. If you like gravy with your chicken to go with biscuits, rice or creamed potatoes, this is another issue. Some claim they can't make good gravy, in that it turns out flat and tasteless or the consistency of paste!

My first attempts at frying chicken weren't that great, but I've come across a recipe that has turned out very well and I'd like to pass it along to you. "Country Fried Chicken" is a spicy chicken that can be pan fried or deep-fat fried. If you pan fry it, you can reserve some of the cooking fat to make gravy to accompany it, which I'll also share the directions for.

The recipe calls for 2-1/2 to 3 lbs. of chicken pieces. This equals one frying chicken or you can use your favorite chicken pieces. I like to wash the chicken pieces and dry them on paper towels before preparing it. Because we have to be careful with salmonella with poultry products now, it's a good idea to thoroughly clean the any surfaces that the chicken has touched (like countertops, the sink, etc.) with a disinfectant cleaner to eliminate any possible contamination.

The chicken is dipped in an egg wash followed by shaking the pieces in a flour coat that contains several spices. Reserve any leftover flour to make gravy, if you choose to. Either vegetable oil or vegetable shortening can be used in frying the chicken. The chicken is first browned, then it continues to cook until chicken is tender. To make certain it's completely cooked, slice a large piece of the chicken towards the bone, such as the breast, and check that no pink areas remain inside. If you own an electric skillet, this recipe will work perfectly as it regulates heat very well.

This produces some wonderful chicken that's equally good cold. Cooked chicken will keep under refrigeration for about three days....if you can keep it that long! Serve this chicken with the gravy, rice or creamed potatoes, a green vegetable and biscuits and you'll have one very successful meal!

Since we must have biscuits to go with the chicken, I shared some biscuit recipes in a previous column. Just in case you didn't get it earlier, here's the link to it:

http://www.examiner.com/article/a-sacred-southern-staple-biscuits

If you've never been successful with frying chicken, try your hand at this recipe and see if it doesn't work well for you!

COUNTRY FRIED CHICKEN

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 2 teaspoons Accent flavor enhancer
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 frying chicken, about 2-1/2 to 3 lbs, cut up (or use favorite chicken pieces)
  • vegetable shortening or vegetable oil for frying

Combine flour and seasonings in a plastic bag. Shake the chicken pieces in this mixture. Beat together the milk and egg. Dip chicken pieces in this mixture, then shake them again in the flour mixture to coat evenly and thoroughly.

To pan fry: melt enough vegetable shortening or heat enough vegetable oil to about 1/2 to 1 inch in depth, heating it to 365 degrees. Brown the chicken on all sides. Reduce heat to 275 degrees (medium-low heat) and continue cooking until chicken is tender, about 30-40 minutes. Don't cover, but do turn the chicken several times during cooking. Drain on paper towels.

To deep fry: heat vegetable shortening or oil in deep fryer to 365 degrees. Cook chicken pieces for 15-18 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Yield: 4 servings.

Variation: For Extra-Spicy Chicken, increase poultry seasoning to 1/2 teaspoon and black pepper to 2 teaspoons.

To make gravy: After chicken is fried, remove it and all but 1/4 cup of the fat from the pan. Set temperature to about 210 degrees. Add the remaining flour mixture which was used for coating the chicken and brown it slightly, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in 2 cups milk and continue cooking at 210 degrees for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to keep mixture smooth. Taste for salt, adding about 1/2 teaspoon more, if needed. If a thinner gravy is desired, stir in about 1/2 cup hot water. Yield: about 2 cups.

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