Andy is my first nephew.
I was in the delivery room when he was born, he being six weeks early and his father (my brother Mark) being in Paris for a science conference.
Thirty-one years later, we are still good friends, and he has visited us here at Chata Diviak during the holidays.
One of Andy’s all-time favorite foods is fried chicken.
Namely Scott’s fried chicken. Ever since he first had it in our London flat a few years ago.
Scott gave him a bit of instruction or at least talked about how to make it, then.
Later, news from San Diego was that Andy almost burned the house down, he not being a natural or experienced cook.
So this time we decided to make it twice – first and last nights – and turn the last night into a real hands-on workshop for the boy. (Andy is, btw, the original The Boy – so we sometimes refer to him as T.O.B.)
Scott’s recipe is derived from those fabulous folks at America’s Test Kitchen, creators of Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines. The charter issue of the latter featured a recipe for “Crunchiest-Ever Fried Chicken.” Scott has never used another recipe since, and has added his own flair to spice it up a little, New Orleans-style.
We won’t reveal the entire recipe here – it’s copyrighted by the magazine – but we can give you a few highlights.
An important start is the brining. Rather than just salt water brine, Scott uses a milk-based brine. The cut-up chicken goes in that for a while.
The breading mixture is next. It’s a combination of flour, baking soda and spices.
Also just enough milk to get it the consistency of wet sand.
We helped Andy to remember a few cooking basics, like washing his hands well after handling raw chicken. But the hands-on part, we think, really helped him get the ‘feel’ of it (so to speak).
Breading the chicken is simple – just make sure you bury each piece in the coating mixture and press down on it – to help the breading to adhere to all sides of the chicken.
Scott gives Andy some pointers on how to look for telltale signs that the oil is too hot.
And the frying is done in batches: first the breast meat because it has no bones and it cooks a little hotter than the dark meat.
Several minutes with top on, then turn the pieces and top off for another several minutes.
Andy can smell his favorite food.
Down the back stretch now – with the last batch – checking constantly to make sure the crust isn’t burning.
And here he is, knowing that lip-smacking good chicken is about to be devoured!