I’ve been pretty competitive ever since I was a kid. I used to read those tween girls magazines and see those stories about 12 year old geniuses – girls who won awards and medals, traveled around the world by boat, and invented prosthetic arms for handicap pigs in third world countries. Ironically, those stories were meant to inspire us young readers, instead it left me with an overwhelming feeling of ineptness. Like “why could she do that and not me?” Suffice it to say, at eleven years old I had a hard time coming to grips with the fact that I had yet to do anything really impressive. I couldn’t wait until I could find something special that I could do well.
Then when I got to middle school I was bit by the cooking bug. I read Ruth Reichl’s memoirs and was inspired – I started consciously watching my mom cook, taking notes in my head about how things looked when they were cooked and what smelled spicy or sweet. Ruth Riechl made her first souffle when she was 12, I turned out my first chocolate souffle when I was 13. Ever since then I’ve been sort of competing with myself to see what’s the most complicated or tasty recipe that I could turn out (in my spare time that is).
As it happens, fried chicken has been my home cook’s Moby Dick. I’ve watched countless hours of Food Network programming involving someone frying chicken – however, it always looked so complicated – a multi-step process full of pitfalls and potential disasters. Overheated oil results in burned (yet raw) chicken. Do you or don’t you use buttermilk? Do you season before or after dredging? And when exactly is the right temperature to drop your poultry in the pan?
For a long time I put off frying chicken, I figured I’d get around to it once I researched every single eventuality and had determined a safe and secure exit strategy. And then just a few days ago I stumbled upon a recipe from Lee Brian Schrager’s (Founder and Director of NYCWFF and SOBEWFF) newest cookbook Fried & True – I’ve linked the recipe here, for those of you who are ready to fry.
Following (most) of the directions, I have to say, for my first frying it was pretty spectacular. There were a few moments where, full of trepidation, I wondered if I should dump the expensive peanut oil down the drain and call it a night – but alas, the sirens call of crunchy, golden, juicy, tasty chicken was too hard to resist.
Here’s a pic of my final product:
What was the first impressive dish you ever made? Do you have experience frying chicken, a really great recipe, or handy tips – let me know in the comments below!