Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fried Chicken Sans Flour

It's not often that I get around to frying chicken... or really frying much of anything for that matter.  I thought about it and I can't come up with a particularly good reason why it's a rarity.  Perhaps it's, because the process is something of a mess... or perhaps it's, because I don't always have enough oil laying around.

Whatever the reason is, said reason did not hinder me from setting out to fry up some chicken legs a couple days ago.

I'm a big advocate of dark meat.  Not only does it have more natural flavor, it's a lot easier to cook, because you don't need to worry as much about it drying out.  You can cook the heck out of a chicken leg (or thigh) and it's still going to be juicy, where as, with a breast, you have a window of approximately 45 seconds between underdone and sawdust.  There's also the advantage of cost.  Since Americans demographically are not as fond of dark meat as they are of white meat, you can get a huge sack of chicken legs for half the price you would pay for a handful of breasts.

Your standard fried chicken recipe involves you dredging the chicken in some sort of flour and spice mixture (or shaking it up in a paper bag).  My wife however has recently learned that she is gluten sensitive so for her sake I decided to try a non-flour approach.  Another change I made from my standard frying technique is using shortening instead of peanut oil.  I've never done this before but a lot of websites claimed that it added a punch of flavor ... and I had shortening sitting around from when I made cookies or something a while back so I figured, what the heck.

I did shake up the chicken legs with some salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary to give it a little punch of flavor.  May have used a little too much salt, but the wife enjoys her sodium so it was fine by her.  After a good shake I heated my shortening to 325 degrees in preparation for frying.  I only used somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inch of shortening in my trusty cast-iron pan.  I've seen some recipes calling for legitimate deep frying, actually dunking the whole think in a vat of peanut oil.  Where's the love?  If the literature is to be believed, proper fried chicken is done in shallow oil by turning the chicken every few minutes.

Timing for me worked out to about 20 minutes total.  I would turn in 5 minute increments, treating the chicken as though it had 4 sides, and then doing a quick minute or so on each side at the end just to give it a final crisp.  Unfortunately I ended up sitting by the pan the whole time carefully monitoring the temperature.  It fluctuated a lot as I turned the chicken and such and I had to keep finking with it to keep it right around 325.

Surprisingly (to me at least) it turned out great.  You'll find a picture of the finished product below (served with some wild rice) but that doesn't do it justice.  The dark meat allowed  for some pretty heavy cooking without drying out at all, and a little squeeze of lemon over the top at the end added some nice flavor.  I definitely noticed the absence of flour in the crust but it didn't really take anything away from the dish.  The skin provided enough flavor and texture to stand on it's own.

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