by Kara Kimbrough
Online comments about Mississippians’ “bucket list” of things they’re dreaming of resuming as soon as Pandemic 2020 is over invariably include a mention or two about fried chicken. “I can’t wait to sit down to a meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and hot biscuits!” posted a hungry friend. A sports-loving male friend daydreamed about the day when settling down in front of the television with a platter of fried chicken wings and dipping sauce to watch sports would become a reality.
Here’s some good news applicable for today: most supermarket delis and, in some areas, restaurants are currently offering pick-up service of Mississippi’s favorite fried delicacy. After all, we’re not called the “chicken capital” for nothing. We’re not about starve or be deprived of our state’s signature dish just because of a little ol’ shelter in place order. One of my go-to places for fried chicken is, believe it or not, my local supermarket. Picking up a box to cheer up a grieving family (after all, fried chicken is one of the best funeral foods), to liven up a family reunion (when they start up again post-pandemic), or to simply create a satisfying family meal is as close as your nearest supermarket deli.
If you’re able to find it at your local supermarket or have a bag in your freezer, making your own fried chicken is the next best way to satisfy your craving. Two of my favorite recipes are from the movie, “The Help,” and a low-fat, no-fry recipe that utilizes items found in most pantries. With a side of mashed potatoes and gravy, it’s a meal that’ll help ride out the remaining days of “shelter in place” well fed.
Fried Chicken from “The Help” One 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces 2 large eggs 1/2 cup whole milk 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon seasoned salt, such as Lawry’s 1 teaspoon seasoned pepper, such as Lawry’s 24 ounces solid vegetable shortening, such as Crisco Pat the chicken pieces dry and line a baking sheet with wax paper. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk. Add the chicken. In another bowl, whisk the flour with the seasoned salt and seasoned pepper. Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour and transfer to the baking sheet. In a 12-inch, cast-iron skillet, heat the vegetable shortening to 365 degrees F. Add all of the chicken and fry over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until deeply golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted nearest the bone registers 170 degrees F, 20 to 24 minutes. Drain the chicken on paper towels and serve right away. Cracker Chicken 1/2 cup butter or substitute like Smart Balance 2 sleeves saltine crackers (can use Ritz or other savory cracker) 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder Salt and pepper, to taste 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Melt butter in a small bowl and set aside. Crush crackers in a food processor or a Ziploc bag with a rolling pin, until they become fine crumbs. Combine crushed crackers, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a separate mixing bowl. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Dip each chicken breast in melted butter, coat completely in crumb mixture, and place in prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through.