Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy with a side of green beans. This is the first meal I ever learned how to prepare. I know my chicken frying. A third-generation Kansas farm girl, I grew up on my mother’s family recipe for fried chicken. On the farm, my father would kill a chicken, my mother would dress it, cut it up and promptly place it in a large pot of salted water to brine for a coupe of hours. This ended up on our dinner table several times a week during wheat harvest when we had a table full of hired hands helping my father with the farm work. By the way, dinner was the meal served at mid-day, supper was our night-time meal. The preparation was simple but attention to details important. The right kind of oil at just the right temperature and knowing when to turn the chicken…all were important. Never did we jazz up the breading mixture with things like buttermilk, corn flakes or herbs. And use a deep fryer??? Never. I wouldn’t touch our classic recipe. The results, sweet milk gravy over creamy mashed potatoes and perfectly crunchy fried chicken. 1 whole fryer chicken, cut in pieces. Don’t you dare try to get all healthy on me and remove the skin…it won’t work…don’t bother. After your skin-on chicken pieces have been soaking in salt water for at least an hour…let’s get started with the oil. I’ve never fried chicken in anything but Crisco. Well, maybe one time I tried olive oil for a healthier version, which didn’t work well at all. As far as I know nothing fries up chicken better than Crisco. I only make fried chicken a couple times a year, so I figure a little Crisco isn’t going to hurt anybody. Is anyone else old enough to remember the television commercial from the 60’s with the little girl in the kitchen exclaiming in that strong southern accent “My mom made fried chicken…and I haalped”? There, about three giant heaping tablespoons ought to do it. Make sure to use a large fry pan with deep sides. This time I tried my cast iron skillet. It worked great, but any large fry pan will do. Turn the burner to medium high. Remove the chicken pieces from the brine and pat dry. While the oil is heating in the pan fill a dinner plate with flour. Mix in about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Dredge each chicken piece on both sides in the flour mixture. As you work, place the pieces in the pan with the oil that has reached approximately 375 degrees. I usually don’t use a thermometer for the oil temperature, I just sprinkle a bit of flour in the pan and if it sizzles I know it’s ready. In the meantime, turn on the burner under those peeled potatoes you’ve cut up for your mashed potatoes. Dredge each chicken piece on both sides in the flour mixture. As you work, place the pieces in the pan with the oil that has reached approximately 375 degrees. I usually don’t use a thermometer for the oil temperature, I just sprinkle a bit of flour in the pan and if it sizzles I know it’s ready. In the meantime, turn on the burner under those peeled potatoes you’ve cut up for your mashed potatoes. Once you have all the chicken pieces situated in the pan, let them fry at a bubbling speed for about 10-15 minutes. With a fork, take a peek to see if you’ve achieved just the right golden crust. Nope, not ready yet. I’ve just turned this thigh. Now that’s perfect. Continue to turn the pieces as they reach that crispness and brown on the other side for another 15 minutes, or so. After both sides are crunchy and browned, I briefly cover the pan and let everything steam for about 5 minutes only. Any longer will turn that crusty goodness soft. I’m just doing this to make sure the internal meat is cooked through. Having removed all of the pieces, pay special attention to the two large breast pieces by turning them on their sides for a few minutes. Just want to make sure each side has that crust. Total time to cook a full pan of chicken is about 30-40 minutes. Before we start the gravy, dip out about 1/2 cup of that starchy water that the potatoes have left behind from boiling. Now we’re ready to make the gravy. While the chicken is resting on paper towels, carefully pour off the oil leaving about 3 tablespoons in the fry pan. Make sure you don’t let any of those brown crunchies on the bottom escape the pan. That’s what really makes a gravy flavorful. With burner on medium low, add an equal amount of flour and stir into a roux. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes, sprinkling in a little more flour if you feel the consistency isn’t thick enough. You’ve got to get this part right because you can’t add any more flour after this step, or you’ll get those undesirable lumps. Add about a cup of milk. Stirring constantly allow mixture to thicken. Stir in about 1/2 cup of reserved potato water and continue to cook. As it bubbles and thickens add a little milk at a time to achieve that perfect gravy consistency. Mash those potatoes with some butter and milk and just enough salt and pepper. Serve it up with some green beans that have been tossed with some cooked chopped onion and bacon pieces. Don’t forget to drag the green beans through some of the potatoes and gravy as you’re scooping them up. I always grab for the thighs…love that dark meat. Are you a white meat or dark meat kinda person?
Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, It’s What’s For a Country “Dinner”.
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