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Family Cookbook Project, Week 2: Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken is my kryptonite. (Did I mention I am from Alabama?)

Seriously. It is the one food I have almost no willpower over. After living as a vegetarian for over 10 years, it was fried chicken that welcomed me back to the land of the carnivores with open arms. Also, I almost never tire of this delight, in any or all of its forms...individual pieces, schnitzel, wings, tenders, even Impossible Nuggets...although I draw the line at soggy or greasy. (Even with comfort food I remain a snob).

You may have noticed Fried Chicken has been having a moment, so it's relatively easy to find many interpretations. Whether traditional, doused in honey, or the ubiquitous Nashville Hot chicken; and whether its roots are from the US, Japan, or Korea; it seems that everyone is offering a version (deep-fried or pan-fried or oven-fried, with or without buttermilk, with or without egg, with or without crushed chips, with or without panko...and the list goes on). Remember the battle of the fast food sandwiches? Lines around the block! Selling out! Even great chefs like Marcus Samuelsson and Thomas Keller have their takes on this humble, yet favored, dish.

When considering a choice for my last meal (heaven forfend)...I have always thought mine would have to be Rachel's Fried Chicken. The problem is that while my fried chicken is good, I have never been able to replicate hers...and Lord, how many times have I tried? I'm always looking and experimenting.

While perusing the pages of our family cookbook I stumbled upon this very simple fried chicken recipe. One of the things I am noticing as I go through this cookbook is that many of the recipes from our branch of the family are rarely identified as such. Is there a story there? Probably. (It most likely has to do with the fact that 2 of the 3 sisters-in-law cooked and 1 did not and cared nothing about participating.) I'm just happy to have these treasures codified, even if I have to do some detective work to ID them.

From "Cooking Our Way"

On top of the recipe's simplicity, it looked relatively mess-free and the steps seemed vaguely familiar...I definitely remember the use of a sack, but Rachel always fried in cast iron, not an electric skillet... hmm...I had to give it a try.

From the moment I began the process it seemed to hum along. And as the chicken began to cook I caught a whiff so familiar to the inner recesses of my memory it brought a tear to my eye. All that was left was the taste test. I took my first bite and the chicken was just as I remembered...crispy skin, beautifully seasoned, and juicy was perfect. That moment gave so much to me. Not just the delicious food, but also the feeling of my, joy, freedom, and dare I say innocence? All in one yummy bite.

This experience encapsulates why feeding people has always been such a blessing for me. Food is powerful. In combination with the memories it evokes, it can heal.

During and after frying Finished Product Look how juicy!

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