09 April 2009

Fried Chicken

“Let’s not beat around the bush for one second. To know about fried chicken,
you have to have been weaned and reared on it in the South. Period.”

James Villas

John T. Edge is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi. He has written extensively on Southern food and cuisine so it is no big surprise that he took on that most iconic Southern dish, fried chicken. Searching high and low for fried chicken history, Edge followed Villas' pronouncement.


After exhaustive study…(ok, he ate a bunch of fried chicken from north to south and read some of the cookbooks we have featured here and will continue to feature. It’s a tough job but someone had to do it. Why wasn’t it us?) Edge came to the conclusion that Villas was wrong. He put forward his thesis in his book, Fried Chicken. If you read this blog, you know I’m a bit of a purest. Remember I didn’t want Nathalie Dupree putting yogurt in my grits, so it’s no big surprise that I agree with Villas, but Edge is persuasive.

Edge fully understands that great gospel bird. In that knowledge, he is well equipped to understand the alchemy that occurs when chicken dives into hot grease. So you can dredge it, batter it, brine it; you can soak it buttermilk, sweet tea or hot sauce; you can serve it with waffles or biscuits or all by itself, but when that bird drops into the hot oil, magic happens. And it happen no matter which side of the Mason-Dixon Line you heat up that oil!

As for famous "Yankee" chicken, Edge informs us that originally, “buffalo wings” were baked in the oven, but even Yankee’s come to their senses where chicken is concerned.

Buffalo Wings (Prepared in an almost Reverential Manner)

24 chicken wings (about 4 pounds), tips removed and remaining wings separated into drums and flats
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika (the hottest kind, if you can find it)Peanut oil
1/4 stick butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup Louisiana brand hot sauce (or any viscous hot sauce)

Mix cornstarch, flour, pepper and paprika in a paper bag. Toss in wings 6 at a time and shake to coat evenly. Pour oil in a deep and heavy pot to a depth of 3 inches. Heat oil to 350. Fry the wings in batches of 6 or 8 or so until firm, approximately 8 minutes. They may still be a bit blond, but their edges will be russet. Skein wings from oil and place on a wire rack to drain. Place butter and garlic in a metal bowl; pour the hot sauce over and heat over low until the butter melts and the sauce is combined. Toss wings in the bowl to coat, and remove with a skein. Serve with celery sticks and a dressing of blue cheese mixed with sour cream, a bit of chopped garlic, and a splash of aromatic vinegar.

Check out his website at www.johntedge.com.

* No chickens we know personally were fried in the preparation of this post.

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