crispy fried chicken
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It’s interesting how words can change the taste of food. An astonishingly awful lot of people react negatively not as much to the taste of a dish but to its name. Semolina, even as an ingredient of pizza dough, will never gain popularity and I don’t see it becoming the new quinoa. Cabbage is only interesting when called kimchi or used in the same sentence as fermenting.
‘Boiled’ is a no-no. Eggs are the only acceptably boiled foodstuffs, probably because there’s no way of euphemising the process in the case of eggs. Otherwise you will find ‘blanched’, ‘poached’, ‘lightly cooked’ or just ‘cooked’; all describing things that are plainly plunged in a pot of water over 100C hot and left to bob about there for a while.
Frying is another such word, hence all the semantic weirdoes like pan roasting, searing, browning, cooking in a skillet and so on. But here’s the next bit of word magic: ‘crispy’ works wonders for whatever it will choose to describe. Crispy cabbage - see? A completely different league than boiled cabbage. The word has the power to cancel out negative connotations. Even though unable to do much for ‘boiled’, for obvious reasons, the ‘crispy fried’ is a winning combination.
I suspect that ‘fried chicken’ would stand alone well, ‘chicken’ being one more magic word that seems to always win everyone – God knows why as it’s usually bland as drizzle. But since ‘fried chicken’ sounds like the great southern classic dish which incidentally is deep fried, I’ll settle on ‘crispy fried chicken’.
Now test this soundbite: ‘flattened poultry cutlet breaded and fried in oil’? And then say ‘crispy fried chicken’? There – I rest my case.
- 1 large or 2 small chicken fillets, skinned
- ½ tsp salt flakes
- ½ tsp smoked salt
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp chipotle powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ cup fine cornmeal
- 1 egg, beaten with 2 tbsp. water
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 cup groundnut oil
- 2 tbsp. grated cheddar
Slice the large chicken fillet in two horizontally. Place the two halves (or two smaller fillets) on a board, cover with cling film and flatten with a mallet to about 1cm (½ in) thick. Flip the fillets over halfway through to get an even thickness.
Grind the spices in pestle and mortar or mix them in a bowl – grinding will make them meld together for a better flavour. Rub into both sides of each piece of chicken, cover the pieces with cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Prepare two shallow plates for the cornmeal and panko and a shallow bowl for the egg wash. Dredge a fillet in the cornmeal, coat it thoroughly in egg and then in panko breadcrumbs. Repeat with the other fillet, place them on paper towels and chill until ready to fry – chilling will firm them up but there’s no other reason why you couldn’t fry them straight away.
Heat up oil in a large frying pan; it should be about ½ in deep. When it’s shimmering turn the heat down to medium; test the oil with a breadcrumb (it will swirl and sizzle if the oil is ready) and add the chicken to the pan.
Fry for about 3 minutes on one side until the edge starts to turn translucent. Turn them over and sprinkle the cheddar over the fried side. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until golden brown.Drain on a paper towels and serve.