Our family’s favorite meal is from a place called Sweet T’s. Every time we order takeout, we eat the same thing: Fried Chicken Dinner with mashed potatoes and fried vegetables on the side. Today, I wanted to make exactly that, in case I didn’t have to drive all the way there. (They don’t even get cell reception. I mean, what kind of savages live that way? I’m kidding. Sometimes, it’s good to unplug for a couple hours.)
This is the Fried Chicken Dinner, which is what I tried to replicate. I used Paula Deen’s recipe for Southern Fried Chicken, which was easy to follow. Just not easy to eat, which is sort of the most important step of the meal.
Paula Deen, who- or whatever told you that one cup of salt was good enough for the very first layer of this chicken was DEAD WRONG. That is too much salt, even for all those pieces of chicken, and the smallest chicken I could find weighed double what you said to get. Not only that, but when I added the salt, I didn’t even use an entire cup. I used what was left of the kosher salt we had, which took up about 75% of the measuring cup. As a matter of fact, my parents and I opted to take off the crust and just eat the chicken.
One of the biggest reasons why I even chose this particular recipe was because, not only was it simple to make, but it got five stars with 881 reviews. (Well, by the time I’m through with her, 882 reviews.) I didn’t read through all of them, but almost every single review on the first page had five stars. Every one except the one star that complained about the salt. I suppose I should’ve taken that as a hint, so that’s the biggest lesson I learned tonight: if there are reviews available for the recipe you are using, do your research and READ. THEM. ALL. While you are one person, and your taste buds and opinions differ from everyone else’s, chances are you’ll still find someone who has similar tastes. Find them and then cry together about the horrors of the salty fried chicken. (Just not over the chicken. There’s enough salt as it is.)
As far as those five-star reviewers go, my mom says that they probably knew just by looking at the ingredients that one cup didn’t seem right, so they made the appropriate reductions for a more successful outcome. That’s probably what I should’ve done: once I saw how much salt was in the bowl, I thought, Is she sure this is right? It does seem extreme. Oh well. It’s only one layer of salt. Plus, it’s Paula Deen. She’s famous. Yeah, fame doesn’t matter. I’m never trusting you again, Paula Deen. You use your abundance of salt to shield you from the demons who told you that one cup was a safe amount to coat the first layer of your chicken with. (I’ve been binge-watching Supernatural so when I think of salt, I think “demons”.)
Except that’s all part of cooking, isn’t it? Experimentation? See what works and what doesn’t? As I said in this post, it’s hardly ever going to be perfect the first time you try a recipe. For example, I learned that what doesn’t work is putting that much salt (or faith, apparently) into Paula Deen’s Southern Fried Chicken.
I think I can see where she thought we needed that much salt though: because it’s used to coat the chicken. Except salt isn’t the only part of that mixture. There’s also pepper and garlic powder, so why not just have more of one of those ingredients? I’m going to try adding more garlic powder next time because I didn’t taste any of it, and I’m pretty sure I would’ve rather tasted a little more garlic if it meant having a little less salt.
I suppose now is the time for the usual List of Thoughts during this painfully…briny process:
- Mashed potatoes were first because they were easiest, I’d already made them once before, and I could keep them stored in a warm place. I mean…I didn’t…but I could have.
- Holy crap, I have to take apart the entire chicken myself? Here’s the guide I used that wasn’t completely helpful to me: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Cut-a-Chicken/
- Never mind, got Mommy to help. And she taught me how to use a meat cleaver! Sort of. She took over after I couldn’t quite get it. Guess she was too afraid I’d accidentally chop off a finger. I wanted to use it like a hatchet though, you know? Swinging it from above my head, but then I was too afraid that I’d miss. How do people line that up so perfectly? Just by practicing? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Actually, unless you’re heading into a career of culinary arts…I think practice is all you’ve got time for.
- I felt as if setting aside the mixtures of ingredients in separate bowls was easier for some reason. I think it was because it was nice not having to worry about using the entire thing to cook with. Instead, they were set out the way a factory would organize each station: “Quick. 1, 2, 3. Done. 1, 2, 3. Done. Easy.”
- “Add enough hot sauce so the egg mixture is bright orange.” I sort of had a problem with this step. Your bright orange is different from my bright orange, Paula. Plus, there are still many different shades of bright orange. Should it be more yellow or orangy? What if I add too much red? Just add another egg? Am I overthinking this? Perhaps. But am I wrong? I hope not.
- I initially thought I had a good system going when I was dunking the chicken into each bowl: drop, drown, flip, drown. Then, it became: drop, flip, flip. After that, I just said, “Screw it. Drown the entire piece.”
- Stupid question: what is dark meat?
- I also looked up tips on how to fry chicken and I found it pretty resourceful: http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/common-mistakes/article/fried-chicken-common-mistakes
- Actually frying the stuff, I was surprised didn’t burn me as much as it typically takes me to fry vegetables. Although in the middle of it, there was this huge bomb that detonated at the center of the pan and honestly, I had to pause for a minute because I was in shock.
- I was also a little concerned with the skin during the frying process. I know that whenever they are professionally made, they rarely have skin peeling off, and I was wondering how they do that. If they screw it up, do they somehow fix it? You see the one at the top left corner? The skin peeled off just a little a bit from the tongs. Yeah, how would I fix that? Just leave it as is? Use a bandaid? What?
- Toward the last half hour of my cooking time, I ended up handing the green bean duties to my mom since I was still dunking the raw meat at that point. It wasn’t a huge deal since she already has her own recipe for making them anyway. I literally just told her to make it her way, which isn’t that far from the one I use (which is technically Rachael Ray’s recipe).
So what have we learned today, class? Don’t trust the chef as much as you think; if you can, rely on the reviewers, because there’s bound to be someone online who shares similar feelings with you. I read the one-star review, which was the only complaint I read, about the salt and I couldn’t help but think, “Dude, I’m with you 100%. I totally get how you feel. How we’re the only ones on the first page of the review results who feel this way, I don’t know, but good for you!”
In case you wanted to see how everything turned out: Of course, it looks better than it tastes. Trust me. But that was dinner. Although he hated how salty it was, I think my dad ate the most chicken. Then again, it probably seemed that way because he fed it to the dogs too. His, anyway. (That’s why that Chihuahua so fat, but I have more self-control. And like Joey Tribbiani says, “Joey doesn’t share food!” Except it’s my name obviously, not “Joey”.)
I’m going to try this again, but with 1/4 cup of salt. Instead, I’ll use more garlic powder in the house seasoning. See where that gets me.
And as I was making the mashed potatoes, I couldn’t help but think of the “Mother’s Day” episode of Blue Bloods. Obviously, that’s one of my biggest TV obsessions–and you, Jamie Reagan (Will Estes), are not helping–as of October 21st. (Yes, I memorized the date because what attracted me first was Will’s birthday shared with my Broadway husband, Aaron Tveit.)
Anyways, I think of that one dinner scene because the niece, Nicky, got to make “the world-famous Frank Reagan Mother’s Day Mash. I don’t know, I just liked that she got to help out with Mother’s Day dinner, I guess. Oh, how do I remember this episode? I may have bought it on iTunes because of the fight that Jamie gets into with his older brother…