There’s a part of me that wants to be Aunt Bea , frying up chicken and corn fritters and packing it in a basket for someone’s lunch down at the Mayberry police station. I’d wear sandals instead of sensible shoes and trade her shirtwaist for capris, but I definitely want to clone her chicken. Andy and Barney just love it, don’t they?
For years I presumed the fried chicken gods cursed anyone north of the Mason-Dixon Line who dared plunge poultry in a cast iron skillet. My versions (I’ve tried many, believe me) were either too bland or too greasy or too underdone, or too quiet–the crispy coating always slid away during cooking. A very un-Aunt Bea result. But today the gods were crushed by fictitious Swift & Company home economist Martha Logan. Her 1952 meat cookery paperback was a staple in my mother’s kitchen. Today it’s barely holding itself together. Yellowed and creased and falling away from the cover and binding, this book is not to be cast aside. Inside that dog-eared cookbook was the best and easiest fried chicken I’ve ever encountered.
Here’s the recipe that took me to the mountaintop:
Quick Fried Chicken
1 1/2 to 3 pound frying chicken (I used thighs and drumsticks)
Coating (see below)
2 pounds shortening (I used vegetable oil)
Place the chicken in a colander or large sieve. Place the colander in a kettle with one inch of boiling water in the kettle. Cover the kettle and steam the chicken 30 minutes or until tender. Do not let the water touch the chicken. The cooked chicken may be kept in the refrigerator until meal time. AH-HA. Precooking the chicken takes away the guesswork. It will be nearly cooked by the time it hits the frying pan. What a concept!
Heat shortening (I used oil about 1/2-1-inch deep) to 375 degrees. Dip pieces of chicken in batter or a dry coating (I used the dry). Fry the chicken in the hot fat 5 minutes (I did mine 5-10)or until well browned.
Flour coating: 1/2 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt (I used 3/4 tsp.), 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/8 teaspoon poultry seasoning.
A corn-studded side dish is mandatory in late August, when the crop is as high as an elephant’s eye and you’re feelin’ like you want to use every morsel of local produce available. With such stellar ingredients, I felt like I was willing to try something new. New, as in corn fritters. A Calumet Baking Powder Company cookbook I had from the 30’s (my estimate, judging by the illustrations) seemed like it was a reliable source.
Marian Cole Fisher, an obvious baking dignitary (probably the Martha Stewart of her time), is impressed with the product. And anyone who looks that serious must know of what she speaks. I like my chances.
2 cups corn, cut from cob ( I think you could use canned or frozen)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup flour
2 beaten eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon melted shortening (I used butter)
Sift dry ingredients thoroughly, rub in butter (I mixed in with my hand) and add liquids, beat well and fry like other fritters (they assume this isn’t your first fritter rodeo) in a deep kettle (I used my wok) of hot fat (I used vegetable oil).
Note: I served these crunchy fritters plain, although I’ve learned that syrup or powdered sugar are sometimes preferred. Also, add a tablespoon or two of sugar to the ingredient list if you’d like a sweeter batter.