Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Southern Fried Chicken

I am not quite sure why I feel compelled to write about southern fried chicken but I have to.  I think my subconscious brain has a craving for fried chicken and I just need to tell the world.  Since this is my blog, let's see where this goes and what the impact southern fried chicken may just have on me.

I rarely have fried chicken.  It is a dish that I do not make that often.  I will make fried chicken strips about once every two weeks which the boys absolutely devour (except for Ashton - he just isn't a fan) but I just don't typically jump right into the oil with fried chicken.  Making southern fried chicken is a long and steady process that requires careful preparation.  Only if you have ever had it before you would understand that good southern fried chicken needs to have a crisp exterior but still be mysteriously juicy and delicious on the inside.

I can't share all my secrets here but I will try to give enough hints for some folks to understand.  Here are the four steps to making southern fried chicken.

Chicken - head to the nearest Costo or Sam's Club and buy a huge pack of legs and thighs with the skin on.  Forget the healthy breasts - while they be tempting there is nothing better than the thighs and legs.  I guess you can just call me a leg and butt man but don't get me wrong - I love breasts too.

Batter - Most chefs keep their fried chicken batters a secret and won't tell anyone for fear of losing control of the best thing they have.  You would need a sledge hammer to crack the nut they bury this secret in and a compass like Captain Jack Sparrow's just to find the nut.  Impossible.  All that said - I will give you a hint to my batter.  I like to make a tempora batter using beer instead of water (maybe I should switch to water - see Goodbye My Friend).  This batter is light yet sufficiently crispy and can be flavored any way you want it. There are other tips that help make the perfect fried chicken such as dredging your chicken in flour before coating it in batter.

Oil - To make southern fried chicken correctly you will need to have a huge vat of peanut oil with a way to heat it to 325 degrees.  Actually I like to heat it to 350 degrees because when you put the cold chicken in the temperature of the oil will drop.  I use my turkey fryer for this step.

Frying the chicken - Be extremely careful here - I am sure you all have seen the videos of people burning down their houses while attempting to fry a turkey for Thanksgiving (see video below).  You should time your frying by feel.  This is the only way to get it right.  There are recipes out there that call for a specific frying time but this does not always work.  What if your chicken legs and thighs are smaller or larger than the recipe calls for?  I will tell you that you will be serving raw chicken to your guests which leaves everyone bitter.  Take your time and watch your chicken until it is a golden brown.  Once golden brown remove your chicken from the fryer and put it on a cooling rack to let all the oil drain off.  Do not pile the chicken pieces on top of each other.  Each one needs its own space to cool and develop that crispy nut colored outside with the perfectly cooked meat on the inside.

So why would I spend all this time talking about how to make southern fried chicken?  Well this is my blog and I just went with it. However, I think the real reason is I feel the process of making great fried chicken is a great analogy to building a good relationship.  It takes the right people (legs and thighs), the right personal investments (the secret batter), the right environment (the oil), and time (don't follow the recipe).  

Why relationship building?  I guess am in the midst of a mid-life realization that I need more friends. Historically throughout my life, I have hung out on the periphery of groups and while I had a lot of friends, I had very few, if any, friends that I truly confided in.  I have kept my emotions bottled up without any real outlets.  As I am learning more about the needs of a healthy mind (old age and the reason for this blog), the one conclusion that I am absolutely sure of is that the human mind needs many different outlets of all different sorts - in other words: friends.  Well this is certainly a hard nut to crack at the ripe old age of 39 but it is possible.

So how does a 39 year old male find friends without being viewed as creepy? This can be a very delicate matter especially in today's digital age.  As I wrote previously, I am reaching out online for help with maintaining momentum with my fitness goals (see MyFitnessPal) which is a start.  My online friends are just that though - motivational and inspirational people that help hold me accountable to my fitness goals.  I really cannot count them as true friends.

There are all sorts of meet-ups for all sorts of reasons.  I am currently looking into a running group right here in Louisville. Maybe that will work.  The part that I am going to need the most work with is to not use my head but to let my feelings guide me.  In the past my head has come up with all sorts of excuses to not make friends.  Let's use running as an example since that is a potential avenue currently.  I haven't gone to this running group because my head says I am too slow.  Bingo - my head blocks any chance of ever making a friend.  I MUST learn to use my feelings to get outside of my head's comfort zone. That is how I will be successful.  Wish me luck!

Whatever happens, relationships are like cooking.  You can use all the logic you want, follow the recipe, and still ruin the chicken. Or you can trust fate, follow your instincts, and create perfection.  They are also a lot like hard nuts.  It takes forever to crack them but once you do, all your effort is worth every second, minute, and hour you put into it.  At the same time friendships are like a boomerang - in order to make and keep friends, you have throw your feelings out into the wind and hope they come back to hit you in the head.  This is what true relationships and friendships are all about.  Respect, trust, compassion, companionship, and understanding - if you have those, your friendships will last forever growing tall and green through all the seasons, good and bad, lost and lonely - your friends will be there.

Me, Ryan, and Trevor - my best friends

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