Southern Fried Chicken with Pan Gravy

February 18, 2009 at 9:00 am (Pan gravy, Recipes, Southern Fried Chicken) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Brother John

Fried Chicken with Pan Gravy

Ask any southern woman the best way to her man’s heart, and she will tell you it’s her crispy Southern Fried Chicken! Today I’m going to walk you through making my version of this all time favorite. We’re going to make Southern Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes with Pan Gravy, and a nice veggie side. Yummy! You’ll get the step-by-step right here, and I’ll include a recipe on our sites “Food and Wine Recipes” section to go along with it.

Mixing a dry rub.

For extra flavor, I like to first make a dry rub that I’ll use to directly coat my raw chicken pieces. It gets flavor directly onto the chicken skin, (or if you are eating healthy, directly onto the chicken meat). Just mix up some sea salt, black cracked pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Apply generously to your fresh chicken pieces.

Mixing a dry rub.

The moisture from your fresh chicken will allow the rub to stay in place with enough remaining moisture to hold onto the first layer of the crispy coating that’s coming up next. Be sure to generously coat both sides of each piece!

The Crispy Coating

Next, we want to prepare the crispy coating that will go onto the chicken. I like to use a combination of flour, sea salt, cracked black pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper (since I always enjoy a touch of heat). You’ll want to mix these ingredients into a bowl large enough to easily dredge your pre-seasoned chicken. I like to double coat my chicken so we’ll use this mixture in two stages. The first stage is done right after applying the dry rub (mentioned above), and the next stage will occur right after soaking your chicken in an egg wash.

Making an Egg Wash.

I like to mix up a simple egg wash to which I add a small amount of hot sauce. But that’s just the way I roll!!! Your chicken will then have a layer of pre-seasoning, and an initial first coating of seasoned flour. With that said, it’s ready to take a dip in the egg wash. Your flour coating should get moistened (become a bit gummy) but should not be allowed to actually wash off the chicken. Do this carefully, and slowly. You’ll need enough moisture to later dredge back through the flour mixture a second time. We (in the cooking trade) call this: “Double Dipping”. It makes for a very crispy/crunchy final product!

Chicken 'Double Dipped' in Flour Mixture.

So, let’s review what we now have. We have a pre-seasoned layer, another layer dredged through our flour mixture, an egg washed layer, and a final layer dredged through our flour mixture one more time. Our pieces are ready to be fried in hot oil. (At this point, you could also deep fry these, which is probably better and faster, but I’m going to want to make pan gravy from the rendered fat and oil).

Chicken Starting To Fry.

As always when working with very hot oil (350°), please be sure to carefully lower your chicken pieces so that you won’t get burned. I use tongs and try to lower each piece by its front, then middle, and then its back. (If any splashing were to occur this way, it would be away from me, not toward me).

Fry Until Golden Brown.

You’re best bet for crispy fried chicken is to let it bask in the hot oil and don’t mess with it!!! I like to fry my chicken in just two passes. Since it takes about 30 to 45 minutes until done, turn your chicken after about half that time. The goal is to have it turn golden brown in the time it takes to be completely cooked (but not overcooked). Practice makes perfect it’s true, but it’s also not that hard to judge if you keep an eye on it from time to time.

Ready To Eat.

When golden brown and crispy lower your heat (medium-low) and carefully remove the chicken pieces from the hot oil. Place pieces onto paper towels to drain off any excess oil, then we’ll let them rest in a warm oven (175°). The pan gravy will happen fairly quickly so our pieces won’t have to rest in the warm oven for long.

The Gritty/Brown/Good Bits.

And now for the pan gravy. This will be a milk based gravy that starts out with all that gritty brown goodness at the bottom and sides of our pan. We need to drain off all but a few tablespoons of oil, (but we need to be very careful not to lose any of the gritty stuff!). Believe me when I tell you, the bits left behind are full of flavor!!! Next we’ll add some flower to make a roux (pronounced “Roo” or “Rue”). A roux is made from equal parts flour and oil. You slowly whisk in your flour until the mixture is thick (think plaster of Paris or cake frosting). It’s important to keep whisking/stirring so that the flour will be evenly cooked by the oil. We want the thickening properties of the flour, but none of that raw flour taste. Eventually the flour will begin to brown. You can stop browning at any point between light golden to mahogany in color but don’t go beyond mahogany. The darker the roux, the more flavor added to the gravy. And don’t have your heat too high! You’ll go from white flour to burnt!

Creamy Pan Gravy.

Once we have our roux paste, we can begin to slowly add cold milk to it. You must always add cold liquid to a heated roux and we’ll do this a little at a time. As we add the milk, we’ll keep whisking/stirring it so it stays creamy and free from lumps. As the roux begins to absorb the milk, it will begin to thin out. At that point you can pour in the rest of your milk but continue to stir! To get best flavor, you should simmer the gravy for about 10 to 20 minutes. That will allow all of the remaining flour to absorb the liquid making it silky smooth.

Creamy Buttery Mashed Potatoes.

And nothing goes better in the world with homemade pan gravy then creamy buttery Mashed Potatoes!!! Now I know that some of you will pour some of the pan gravy onto your crispy southern fried chicken and that’s fine. But me? I’m a purist. I like my southern fried chicken to stay crispy/crunchy on the outside, and tender/moist on the inside. But don’t worry… I always make up for it with extra helpings of mashed potatoes! Yummy! The only thing left to do is to make up a side veggie. I’m partial to french style greenbeans so that’s what I’ll make. And now… it’s eatin’ time!!!

Advertisements

Permalink 10 Comments

Cooking Thanksgiving with Uncle Mike

November 26, 2008 at 9:26 am (Brother John, Family, Friends, Stories, Visit) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Cooking Thanksgiving with Uncle Mike

First of all, I’d like to issue a disclaimer. To any family members who were actually AT this Thanksgiving dinner, and actually READ this: I have a somewhat dim recollection of all the events that occurred but I’m going to write about them anyway. This is how I remember it!

It was the first Thanksgiving after Granny died and the whole family was making a special effort to get together for dinner at Granddad’s. My second husband Greg, my son Roger, and I had made the trip in from Indiana to stay at my parents for a nice long visit through the holidays. Rog was only about three and I was still in respiratory school. I volunteered to go over to Granddad’s the evening before to help Granddad shop, get the turkey ready, make the pies, sweet potato casserole, and anything else that could be done ahead of time. My Mom said she would stay home with Rog and then they would all come over early Thanksgiving morning. I was surprised when Uncle Mike said he would come down the night before and help with the cooking, but tickled too.

Uncle Mike has always been a very cool uncle. One year when Brother John got a microscope for Christmas Uncle Mike not only let us stick pins in his fingers a billion times so we could look at blood, he also let us look at skin flakes, boogers, arm hair, and spit. He would babysit us when we were kids. I don’t think we ever got to bed on time when Uncle Mike was there. I can remember being cranked up on soda and candy and jumping up and down on the bed yelling at the top of my lungs just for the sake of the irritating noise of it. Uncle Mike took it like a sport.

Now, by this time I was a grown up married lady and had had my hand up many a turkey’s cavity to fill it with stuffing, but mind you always with my Granny or my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law around for moral support. This would be my first solo run without a matriarch to guide me. But, I was no stranger to cooking and was ready for the task at hand. Sure I was.

I arrived at Granddad’s and after he greeted me with his usual “How are you Sweet Thing?” we settled in at the table to make lists. Or rather I made lists, consulted Granddad, and he read me bits and pieces from the newspaper and showed me the Thanksgiving cards he’d received. God love him, he wanted everything to be just like it was when Granny made Thanksgiving dinner. As he went down the list of food I began to feel the first creeping signs of unease. Surely in past years we hadn’t had all that food? Yes turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, corn, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie. But did we really have in addition corn bread, deviled eggs, pickled eggs and red beets, three bean chowder, Lima beans, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, stuffing balls, ham, pineapple upside down cake, cookies, apple dumplings, a pickle and olive tray, dips for pretzels and chips, and hot dogs for my son who at that time in his life ate nothing but hot dogs? How did Granny do it? Granddad had lovingly gotten out all of Granny’s recipes and placed them in a (towering) stack for me to look over.

Armed with my list, Granddad picked up his crutches (he’d been injured in an industrial accident several years back and had nearly lost his legs) and we went out to his big salmon colored Cadillac. Talk about a beautiful car. Leather seats as soft as butter. He handed me the keys and we floated our way into town. That car just about drove itself. I was doing 90 before I knew it. Granddad’s hand on the armrest never even tightened its grip, not even when we sort of sailed over a huge bump and I’m sure all four white walled tires left the ground.

Our first stop was the liquor store. I was a little puzzled when Granddad grabbed a shopping cart on the way in. I soon understood as he went down the aisles. “Now, Sweet Thing, get you a bottle of that Scotch you like, and get your Aunt Deb some of that stuff there, I forget what it’s called but that’s the bottle, and your cousin Tim drinks Jack Daniels and Kathy drinks Old Granddad and your dad likes a Seagram’s Seven and seven -up…” and the list went on and on. He knew what everyone from family members to family friends liked to drink and bought it. The bill was more than I took home in a week! I was thinking that all that liquor never took into consideration that most of the men hung out in Granddad’s shed before dinner and drank his homemade plum brandy anyway and smoked their cigarettes and cigars while he sharpened their pocket knives!

I pulled the now loaded Caddy into Granddad’s driveway, just missing the snow-ball bush to the right and the big walnut tree to the left (at least missing the big walnut tree THIS time) and pulled in beside Uncle Mike’s car. We got the groceries unloaded and it was time to cook. I forgot to mention that Granddad had gotten some of the groceries a day or so before I got there. To my consternation I saw that he had gotten real potatoes to make the mashed potatoes. Not the instant I had planned to make, then hide the box, and hope no one noticed. He had also gotten “real” bread cubes, four big bags of them, for the stuffing. No Stove Top, I sighed. Fortunately, Uncle Mike turned out to be a pretty good cook and took everything in stride. We got the turkey washed and the giblets cooked. (Granddad was horrified when I prepared to throw out the neck. No neck? “Why there’s some commin’ that’d soon have the neck as the whole dang turkey,” he said. By this time it was late, and things were moving along very slowly. Uncle Mike got the pumpkin pies in while I was peeling the hard boiled eggs to put in with the pickled beets. New eggs. New eggs that didn’t want to peel. Lots of new eggs that didn’t want to peel. Uncle Mike lent a hand and we made the most pitted and cratered plate of deviled eggs you ever saw. The pickled eggs floated in the dark beet juice looking like I had beat them with a stick. Uncle Mike said, “Tastes good, all that counts.”

Finally, just about everything was prepared. Granddad had long since nodded off at the kitchen table and was finally persuaded to go to bed. I was yawning and Uncle Mike kept saying, one more thing, and then I’ll go home for awhile and see you in the morning. The last thing on the agenda was the making of the stuffing balls. Now our family likes their stuffing done outside the turkey. We use an ice cream scoop to make balls of stuffing that are cooked in pans in the oven. The stuffing comes out crispy on the outside and the inside is moist enough to stick together but no more. Many a heated discussion has revolved around the stuffing balls and whether or not they were the desirable “bone dry” balls. Granny always got it just right. As we started to shake out the bags of bread cubes into the big mixing bowl I noticed what I thought was a piece of blue bread wrapper in the bowl. I picked it out, and then immediately spied another piece. “Uncle Mike,” I cried aghast, “these bread cubes are MOLDY.” Granddad had gotten the stuffing cubes a day or so ago and had put them on top of the refrigerator. The top of the fridge gets warm, the moisture left in the cubes provides a nice growth medium, and there you have it. We just looked at each other, knowing there was no place open (especially in those days) to buy more. Granddad only had a few slices of bread left in his loaf. So, we started picking mold off the cubes. Uncle Mike said, “penicillin won’t hurt you, right?” Now I’m thinking that that’s not the only kind of mold that can grow on bread, and some people are allergic to penicillin anyway. But, Thanksgiving dinner and no stuffing balls? There would be mutiny. So, until two A.M. I picked and pored over the bread cubes. Finally we made the stuffing balls, ready to pop in the oven come morning. We stored them in the fridge to retard further growth. Uncle Mike left for home and a few hours sleep and I poured myself a hefty Scotch, shed a few tears in the dishwater as I cleaned up, and started getting out the “good” dishes, serving spoons, extra silverware, and coffee cups.

Thanksgiving day dawned. I know it dawned because I saw it. I had gotten as far as putting on my pajamas after Uncle Mike left, but that was as close to beddy-bye as I got. As I watched the sun come up into a clear sky that promised a crisp perfect day I gave thanks that I was blessed with such a large loving family. I also prayed that no one would get sick from the meal, that I would manage to be awake for over 24 hours without becoming a demented shrew, and that Granny would forgive me my many trespasses in the preparation of the family meal.

My mom, dad, husband and son were the first to arrive, followed quickly by pretty much the world. Aunts, Uncles, cousins, second cousins, neighbors, friends, all were welcomed. Everywhere I looked I saw mouths filled with food. The kids were running around the table snatching an olive or pickle here, a cookie or some chips there. And then, it was the moment of truth. The turkey came out of the oven at the right moment and was done to perfection. The mashed potatoes I had delegated to mom with a certain amount of desperation. I had peeled them, I had cooked cooked them, and then she did all sorts of mysterious things with warm milk and butter and came up with smooth mounds of creamy goodness. I made Uncle Mike take the stuffing balls from the oven and pass them around to the ohhs and ahhs of anticipated satisfaction. The balls were lightly browned, pleasing to the eye. They smelled heavenly and I saw that most people took at least two. My dad took the first bite as I bit my tongue and he pronounced, “Bone dry.” The highest compliment. I felt my face turn as red as the pickled beets and I choked back the laughter that was holding hands with the urge to tell on myself. Mom patted my shoulder, “She’s shy.” I felt my face grow redder and added to myself, “and possibly a murderer.” I coughed and mom said, “I hope you’re not coming down with something.” Uncle Mike passed me a stuffing ball. “Here, fix you right up.” (Brother John here… ah yes… and I’m sure he said it with a twinkle in his eye… So much humor and irony expressed with so few words!)

I watched closely for the remainder of the day but no one’s throat swelled up forcing me to do an emergency tracheotomy with the pen Uncle Dave had given me that said, “From the desk of Dave Reed.” One of my second cousins DID throw up but I think that was due more to the entire box of chocolate covered cherries she had eated when no one was watching. By mid afternoon Granddad had run out of chairs and sofa’s for uncle’s to sleep on. Uncle Mike was stretched out on the lining room floor in front of the football game on TV. The snores were so loud and varied that we women giggled from the kitchen as we gossiped and washed dishes. There were no left over stuffing balls. My mom hugged me and said , “Granny would be proud of you.”

Permalink 1 Comment