A Little Humerus Conversation.

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I believe strongly in the things that resonate between human beings.

Perhaps that’s why food is important to all of us. It’s something common and can almost always be switched up when an awkward conversation goes astray. (Where recently I had a conversation with a man who felt strongly about water boarding in the Middle East, in which I quickly tried to change the subject to food.) I could hear the backward screeching record in my head.

Less politics, more food. Am I right?

I am intrigued with fried chicken and the powerful force that it is to break down cultural and political barriers.

Yep. I’m going there, because it needs to happen.

So fried chicken is good. Real good. We all know that. At least if we eat meat and enjoy the comforts of breaded chicken, deep fried and spiced. **See blog header**

I’ve been known to show up random places with a box of Popeyes under my arm.

I consider it a peace offering. A way to a higher place. Not heaven-like, but maybe close. You can’t talk about fried chicken with someone and not see them smile. Or at least laugh. Because it’s ridiculous. We both know that.

fried_chicken_wings_macro_june_10_20103

 

There is white meat and dark meat.

Both sides are perfectly good. I prefer frying white meat and roasting dark meat. I don’t like dark meat to sit in hot oil for very long, but it must. We all know that feeling when we bite close to the bone and see that frightening raw pink, and throw it to our plates in fear. (But really, you shouldn’t be that freaked out by it.)

Whenever I cook fried chicken for the masses, I love white meat because like I said, it cooks faster. I usually debone it from the breast and make tenders, because I mean, who doesn’t love a chicken tender? There’s no bone to deal with, and to be honest, I can’t handle a gigantic piece of white meat. (Talk about privilege, right?)

I tell people my favorite piece is the wing. It is my weakness. It is my perfect nostalgic memory. A chicken wing with a side of banana pudding. Something my Grandad loved. Savory with sweet. Not eaten together, but to counter act the sweet and rich saltiness. To end the meal on a balanced tone. I like gnawing on wing tips. I love the humerus/wingette. The little drumette is good, but dang y’all, it’s those two bones that get me.

My dad and I were talking about it, as it comes up in conversation from time to time. Obviously.

The idea that you can deconstruct a wing just enough to place a thin layer of blue cheese or ranch. (Because we all know we love it and would prefer eating something of this nature in a dark room, alone.) Getting that perfect bite of spicy and crunchy and dairy of choice to round it out. It’s kinda great, ya know?

I know I sound ridiculous, but you get it. I’m just the dude saying it out loud.

Or that piece of fried chicken known as the thigh — when you can bite into the one side where’s there’s no bone, but fat and crispy and meat. I mean, it’s the best.

And I love that it’s so understood. I just nod my head and say, “Yep…yep..I know, I know…” and we relish in the thought.

It’s hilarious. Right? At least I think so.

Given the current climate, I could use a little ridiculous fried chicken talk. Maybe that’s why I needed to write this.

I also know that I didn’t need to remind people of what food does to us. I’m always blabbering about it.

But it is good.

And today, I could use a little goodness.

 

“Grandmama was the cornbread cookin’ Queen…”

Food, Story

As luck (and perhaps some grace) found me, I was only left with a week of unemployment.

Finding a cheap post-holiday flight deal, I decided to hop a plane and fly home to my Beloved South. I was able to surprise my mom, which truly meant a lot to me.

I flew in to a muggy, foggy New Orleans. The airport as empty as ever, late last Wednesday night. My VERY southern Louisiana grandparents were there to pick me up and whisk me away to their home off Powerline Road in Pearl River.

Waking up the next morning, I had coffee with my Me-Maw and Paw-Paw on the front porch. We caught up and listened to the rain. My eyes catching the glimpse of my favorite tree. Our Magnolia. The one we all climbed as kids and at some point, got too scared to come down.

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I could go on and on about the sentimentality of a place. We all have those places buried beneath the present. On the rare occasions when we can indulge in them, we do. Like waking up in an old familiar bed and partaking in the ritual that used to be.

My drawl slowly forming as I slur my S’s and release syllables like I never learned’em in the first place.

A place where soda is Coke and our mayonnaise of choice is Blue Plate (of which I brought home two bottles). White Lily is the chosen biscuit flour for biscuit afficianados and where shortening is called for instead of butter.

I spent a good amount of time eating and resting. Playing army men and checkers with my niece and nephew. Sweet little independent things they are. I love and miss them all too soon, even when they spill and lock me out of certain rooms. 🙂

My Gran and I traveled to Lorman, Mississippi. Home of the Old Country Store, and about one of the only businesses that resides in Lorman, besides Alcorn State University. My Gran, who is always up for an adventure, drove me down the Natchez trace in the freezing rain for Mr. D’s fried chicken.

We arrived and were the first ones there. It was a big, cold building. You heard someone singing in the kitchen and the waitress getting the buffet set up. We learned that it’s probably best to eat there after 12:30, but we wanted the freshest fried chicken. The first batch of the day.

And it was killer. The meat pulled off the bone as though it had never been attached. The crust was perfect and crispy. Good salt. Not much spice, but it didn’t really matter. The sides were pretty typical. Cole slaw, potato salad, green beans in vinegar, yams and biscuits. But we were here for the chicken. And yes, it is that good.

Arthur “Mr. D” Davis came out and talked to me. I think my Gran had mentioned to him in passing that I was a cook in transition. I got to shake his hand and he showed me all the magazines he was in. He said, “I just cook how my Grandmama taught me, and now I got people from all over the place comin’ to eat my fried chicken!” Lots of belly laughs ensued, and told me, “It’s all about fresh, fresh, fresh.”

He leaned in while shaking my hand as we left, and said, “Keep cookin’. Keep lovin’ what you do. The money is not as important as you think.”

I learned so much in such a short amount of time. One of those life-changing moments, to a certain extent.

And as he sings from time to time,

“Grandmama was the cornbread cookin’ Queen, and she raised me to be the Fried Chicken King…”

 

The ebb and flow of the South is much like it is any other place. After all, it is just a place.

But it’s one of my favorite places — a pride I hold to my heritage,

a pride I hold deep in my breath and belly.

 

hot damn! fried chicken!

Food, Story

I’ve been making fried chicken for a long time.

I’ve been eating fried chicken for as long as I can remember. From seeing it at family reunions, to dinner after Sunday morning church. Fried chicken has, in a sense, always been there.

This past Friday, the world celebrated National Fried Chicken Day. There’s a lot of nostalgia in fried chicken. For most kids in the South, you grow up eating a lot of it. It’s only natural for us to feel warm and fuzzy when we bite into a piece, flooding our brain with those powerful chemicals.

The way I make fried chicken is forever changing. I grew up soaking it in milk and egg, flour and Tony Chachere’s. The process was a little gross to the foreign. The first time I visited Hannah in Oregon, I made this fried chicken for her friends. They were a little freaked by the process, but after they ate it, they ate some more…and more. Ah, the power of soul food. We became good friends after this. After all, food connects us deeply to other people, and those memories seem to stick.

After searching around for the best means of fried chicken, I stumbled upon a recipe, which I’ve altered to my own taste and technique that I’m really happy with. I don’t believe this will be my final recipe, but it’s a damn good one.

There are two important things when dealing with fried chicken. Time and labor. Well, clean up too. But that’s always somethin’, ain’t it?

Fried chicken is a labor of love. It always has to be done fresh. You will get messy. Prepare yourself well.

This is how I make fried chicken.

As a pre-note, I love fried chicken on the bone. In general, that is how it’s supposed to be eaten and this recipe works just as well. But, for fun, I love chicken tenders. Or at least fried chicken that’s easy to grab and cut and mix with other food. For this recipe, I’ll just be using boneless chicken breasts. Dark meat lovers, you can do the same with thighs. I just like how the breast fries up. Nothing against dark, ya heard?

What you’ll need: 
4-5 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts; sliced into strips/chunks (or as I like to call them the “mom choice” cuts of meat)
4 cups good buttermilk
2 cups AP flour
4 T kosher salt
3 T **freshly ground** black pepper
2 T Cayenne pepper (I know that seems like a lot, but add more or less depending on your tolerance of heat. What’s fried chicken without a little heat??)
1 T garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 T mustard powder
4 sprigs fresh thyme
About six cups (or a lot) of vegetable oil for deep frying (Or canola or whatever. I like vegetable oil these days.)

How to Cook it:
You’ll need to soak the chicken over night (or at least up to 8 hours), so prepare this part in advance.
Mix together all the spices. Half of your spice mix will be for your buttermilk marinade. The other half will be for your flour/batter.

In a big bowl, toss in your chicken. Poke the chicken with a fork, but not too much. Maybe a few pokes in each piece. Enough so the marinade/brine has a way to get all up in there. Toss in one half of the spice mixture you reserved for the buttermilk. Mix and massage into the chicken. Pour in your buttermilk, mix. Throw in your thyme (keep on stem), mix again. Cover and put in your fridge up to 8 hours or preferably over night.

The next day when you’re ready to fry, fill up a deep, heavy bottomed pot with your veggie oil. Enough so that your chicken will be able to deep fry without hitting the bottom of the pan. Kick the heat up. If you have a deep fry thermometer, get it up to 375. Keep an eye out. Don’t let it get too hot. Oil temp is important. If it’s not hot enough, you’re gonna get some soggy-ass chicken. Nobody wants soggy-ass chicken.

Prepare your flour by mixing in the rest of your spices you reserved the night before. I prefer the double dip method. This makes it much messier of a process, but I think it’s delicious. You can use tongs or something if you don’t want to get your fingers all cakey. Take each piece of chicken, cover in flour mix, dip back into buttermilk and again in flour mix. Do this for every piece. You can also do a lot at once and set it on a dry rack over a sheet pan. This is generally how I do it so I can keep an eye on the chicken while it fries and to not have to wash my hands a billion times.

Slowly submerge battered chicken into the hot oil. Do not over crowd the pot. The chicken should not touch each other. They need their personal space just as much as we do.

Monitor the oil temperature. Raise the temperature a bit after sticking in your first batch because the cold chicken will drastically lower your oil temp. Turn it back down once you’ve gotten back up to 375. It should take about 5-7 minutes for white meat. Usually takes longer for dark meat. When I take the chicken out of the oil, I place it on another raised cooling rack (on sheet pan), toss a little salt on it, and place it in our oven on “warm”.

That should do it! I love eating fried chicken with collard greens, black eyed peas, and cornbread. I don’t know. It’s like the perfect meal.

I also like eating fried chicken with a lot of people.

So cook it for them and soak in those good times.

You will always be reminded of them.