In the 16th century, Henry IV wanted every peasant in his kingdom, however poor, to have a chicken in their pot every Sunday. Centuries later, in 1928, presidential candidate Herbert Hoover was wrongly credited with promising voters a chicken in every pot. The term was actually coined in an ad by a political party rather than the candidate. The promise doubled when John Kennedy credited Hoover with referring to two chickens in every pot.
Growing up, I remember Sunday dinner was often chicken. Fried chicken. It was usually a chicken that my grandmother had rudely shipped the night before and soaked overnight. There was always a good crust on the chicken thanks to several dips and inches of melted Crisco or lard. A waiting period was always observed before testing for doneness by pricking the chicken with a fork, keeping the juices inside. I don’t recall ever serving boneless skinless chicken pieces. These fried chicken meals have always felt special to me, perhaps because I had to wait for them to be ready, while anticipating the taste of the smell and even the noises in the kitchen.
I can’t remember the last time I fried a chicken. I made chicken nuggets for my grandson, but these are quick and don’t take much time. It’s easier to let someone else do the frying in terms of time and cleanup.
While flour is the traditional coating for fried chicken, today’s options include crushed potato chips, pretzels, cornflakes, breadcrumbs, cornmeal, puppy mix, and even Shake. ‘N Bake.
Now an everyday dish, it is important to choose the right chicken to prepare. Broilers and fryers are virtually interchangeable as they are processed between 6 and 10 weeks. Broilers are usually the youngest and easily overcooked. While a grill or deep fryer is versatile for many cooking methods, a stewing chicken, cured for 10 months to 1 1/2 years, is only good for stewing – slow cooking in liquid. You’ll never get juicy, tender fried chicken from a stewing chicken, because it deserves its nickname “tough old bird.”
Chicken, whole or in pieces, is convenient to store in the freezer. It thaws easily in the fridge overnight. Chicken does well in the slow cooker, which is welcome when cooking outside or turning on the oven doesn’t look appealing.
For grillers who brave the heat and fire up the grill, Marinated Chicken, from Taste of Home, can be baked or broiled. I think you’ll like the dressing/soy sauce combo. While the fried chicken reminds me of my grandmother, the chicken cacciatore reminds me of New Year’s Eve dinners with the Saferites at Mamma Mia when our daughters were young. This recipe is taken from “The Great American Chicken Cookbook”. Good week and good meal.
Marinated baked chicken
1/2 cup each Italian dressing and soy sauce
4 bone-in chicken breast halves
1/8 teaspoon onion and garlic salt
Combine dressing and soy sauce; pour 3/4 cup into a large resealable plastic bag. Add the chicken and turn over the coat. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, turning occasionally. Refrigerate remaining marinade for basting. Drain chicken; discard marinade.
Place the chicken, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with onion and garlic salts. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes or until meat thermometer registers 170 degrees. Brush occasionally with reserved marinade. Makes six servings.
1 deep fryer (3 to 4 pounds), cut into chunks
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
1/2 cup thinly sliced green bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 can (3 ounces) tomato paste
1 cup of water
1 can of plum tomatoes
1 cup mushroom stems and pieces
1/2 teaspoon each of oregano and salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon of sugar
Heat oil in large skillet; sauté chicken until golden brown. Remove the chicken and sauté the onion, bell pepper and garlic in the remaining oil until the onion is translucent. Drain and add remaining ingredients except chicken; bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the chicken, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with boiled spaghetti or noodles and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired. Makes 4 servings.
Cheryle Finley is a food columnist for The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, PO Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.