The Best Fried Chicken of Your Life

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Give me credit. It’s been a while since I’ve declared something “the best ___ of your life.” There is, of course, the broccoli, which brought all of you to my blog in the first place. Then there’s the chili which, as far as I’m concerned, has never been topped. The brownies remain unrivaled and the curry is definitely the best I’ve ever made.

Now, into the pantheon, comes this fried chicken which–as you’ll soon discover–has nothing to do with a specific recipe and everything to do with a piece of equipment that costs a minimal amount of money ($33.31 on Amazon) but makes all the difference in the world.

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Chicken Milanese

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A strange thing has happened to me recently. I’ve been working on a play (don’t ask any questions! it’s too soon) and also going to the gym five days a week so that, at the end of the day, I wander into Trader Joe’s (underneath my gym) in a sort of daze, eager to just grab some things to throw a tasty dinner together. In other words: by shifting my professional focus, I’ve actually gotten better at my profession because most people who read my blog wander into Trader Joe’s in a similar state at the end of the day and want to know how to put something tasty on the table. So it may come as a shock to you that I was able to make this, what seems like a highly involved dish, after arriving home at 6:30 in no mood to make a highly involved dish. It’s Chicken Milanese and it’s a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kind of a weeknight dinner.

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How To Fry Chicken For A Crowd

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When scheming of ways to dazzle your guests at a dinner party, fried chicken is often tossed aside as too difficult to pull off. And for good reason: if you fry chicken the traditional way, where you start it and finish it in a thick layer of hot oil, you can only fry a few pieces at a time and there’s a no way you can time it so that all of your guests get hot chicken at the same time. So you stick to more traditional dinner party fare–roast beef, leg of lamb–things you can throw in the oven and carve easily for your guests. But what if you COULD make fried chicken for a dinner party and have all the pieces–20 pieces in all–finish at the same time? Prepare yourself, then, gentle reader. I’m about to rock your world.

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Pies n’ Thighs

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It took two trains to meet my friend Cole for lunch in Williamsburg–a D to Grand Street and then a J to Marcy Ave.–and for some, that might be a long way to go for a lunch time meal. Not me: especially when that lunch time meal is comprised of fried chicken and pie.

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How To Make Fried Chicken

The undisputed master of fried chicken here in New York City is Chef Charles Gabriel of Rack n’ Soul and now Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken (there’s a big article about it in today’s New York Times.) Chef Gabriel is such a master, it was an absolute privilege this summer to stand at his side in his Harlem kitchen watching him pan fry chicken the way it’s been done in his family for generations. What follows is our latest Food2 video, which not only gives you the recipe for Chef Gabriel’s legendary chicken, but also shows you my efforts to recreate it at home (with some comedy thrown in):

The only note I’ll add here is that, in the video, it doesn’t mention that Chef Gabriel also puts the spice mixture on the raw chicken too, so it gets seasoned on three levels: the chicken, the batter and the flour. I’ve now made this chicken several times and it really cant be beat.

Two Summery Meals

Here are two meals you can make this weekend: one, a meal of farmer’s market goodies that are seasonal and good for you and good for the planet and the farmers, and the second a crowd-pleaser from your local grocery store that isn’t good for you or the planet but boy is it good and easy to make. Let’s start with the angel on your shoulder meal:

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There on the plate you’ll see vegetables–sugar snap peas, beets and radishes. You’ll also see a Parker House roll (from the post below this). What I liked about this meal was that, even though it was a meal of just vegetables, it wasn’t punishing in any way. After washing and peeling the snap peas, I took butter–a few tablespoons–and cooked it in a skillet until it turned a toasty brown (make sure it doesn’t burn!) and then I added the peas and tossed them around until they were coated. I sprinkled them with salt and pepper and after a few minutes (and tasting one to see that it was just cooked enough) I put it on the plate. The beets were prepared with the knowledge that raw beets are better for you than cooked beets, so I peeled them and cut them thinly into strips and tossed with a simple vinaigrette of mustard, red wine vinegar and olive oil. And they were fantastic–I think I like beets better raw, now, than cooked!

So that was a relatively healthy dinner, rounded out by the rolls which helped fill us up. On the flip side was this:

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This is a meal I hope all of you make at some point this summer. It’s like an instant picnic, and even if you eat it at home after a long day of work (as Craig did having come home from a full day of teaching high schoolers how to make movies) it transports you instantly to a sunny bench in the park.

The components are simple: fried chicken, biscuits, and watermelon feta salad. All of these are recipes I’ve posted on the blog before. For the fried chicken recipe click here; for the biscuits click here; for the watermelon/feta click here. It’s guaranteed to please a crowd or just a grateful significant other. And you’ll really impress if you serve the biscuits with your homemade red currant jam, as I did:

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We’re eating well this summer, aren’t we? Let me know if you give any of this a try….