Bo inspired me...he so often does...this time he inspired me to buy a cast iron skillet. Bo, over at Bo's Bowl had this fantastic recipe for an Orange Skillet Pancake that had to be made in a cast iron skillet. All summer I dreamt of making that delicious pancake, but alas, I didn't own a cast iron skillet. But...here came my birthday, and I received some money (thank you Sister). So I hightailed it over to Sur La Table - I actually like saying the name even more than I like visiting the store! I found a sturdy 10 inch skillet. I was very anxious to put it to use. My Fine Cooking magazine had just arrived, so even before I had a chance to try Bo's pancake I was lured in by the fried chicken recipe in Fine Cooking.
Now, here I have to tell you about my family. My grandfather (maternal) was Filipino. He was one fabulous cook. He made traditional lumpia and pansit, but the best dish he made was fried chicken. My grandmother (paternal) was straight from Missouri. Her speciality was of course, fried chicken and biscuits. I also had a babysitter, who took care of my sister and me from the time I was born, till I was in 6th grade. She was from Arkansas - and, yes, she could make delicious fried chicken. Knowing that friend chicken was practically in my blood, I figured, how hard can it be. I had my family history, and a recipe from a magazine! I even went back to Sur La Table and bought a deep fry thermometer. How could anything go wrong? (Do you hear the ominous music playing in the background?)
I soaked my chicken pieces in buttermilk - overnight. Rolled them in spicy flour and waited for my oil to heat to 400 degrees.
The recipe said that the oil must heat to 400 degrees or you might have soggy, oily chicken. Not wanting that, I waited, and waited... It actually never reached 400 degrees, but the oil smoked and after 20 - 30 minutes, and the smoke alarm going off, I figured I may as well add my chicken to the oil. In addition to my deep fry thermometer, I had an instant read thermometer to test the temperature of my chicken. The recipe also said that as soon as you add the chicken to the skillet, the temperature of the oil will drop, so keep an eye on the stove. Well, as soon as I added my chicken, 2 things happened: 1) the oil temperature instantly rose to more than 450 degrees - I say "more than" because the deep fry thermometer only registered up to 450 degrees and that needle was straining at the end of the the thermometer, 2) my chicken, which I had lovingly soaked overnight in buttermilk turned black...not just black, coal black, the black of the inside of a volcano, the black that you see when you are in a cave...BLACK!
Not wanting to give up and abandon the chicken altogether, I figured I would keep frying till the inside of the chicken reached 140 degrees - according to the recipe. I kept checking the chicken with my instant read thermometer and it only registered 38 - 40 degrees! I'm standing there thinking..."How can my chicken be black on the outside, and the still be cold on the inside?"
Did I mention that my instant read thermometer registers Celsius and Fahrenheit with the push of a button? And, would you believe that somehow the Celsius button was on - not the Fahrenheit button? Would you also believe that once I figured that out my chicken was actually 160 degrees inside - Fahrenheit that is - not 40 degrees? That answered my question about cold on the inside!
Now, don't think all was lost - I only put half my chicken into this bubbling cauldron of oil. After I retrieved my "Coal Chicken" from the skillet, I put in my 2nd batch - you have to know that I'm an "eternal optimist" - and to my delight - it didn't turn black!
It actually turned, dare I say it, golden!
So, here are my thoughts and confusions.
1) my ancestors were able to make fried chicken without a recipe, without a digital thermometer, and make it delicious!
2) why did my chicken instantly turn black?
3) why did my oil heat up so fast when I added my chicken?
4) why did Baby Boy ask me if I was going to try this again, and then smile when I said, "Probably not"?
I need some help here, because I actually want to be a "fried chicken master"! I want to casually throw some chicken in a cast iron skillet and not have to keep looking at a recipe or have to keep checking my array of thermometers! I'm calling out for help to 2 of my favorite food/cooking bloggers - Bo and Linda over at My Kind of Cooking! I'm also open to any comments - please - anyone - tell me what I can do!
And thanks for stopping by today! Here's to fried chicken - old style!