It is a rare opportunity when one of your favorite restaurants offers to let you behind the curtain and peek inside the deep fryer. So brought our friend Robyn and we jumped at the chance to spend the evening with Casey Wall watching how the chicken is cut, brined, marinated in buttermilk, dredged and fried. The whole cooking class was arranged by our new friend The Hospitality Widow (check out her blog: http://www.thehospitalitywidow.com/)
The Chick made the mistake of coming hungry, and the buttermilk biscuits were already in the oven and the smell wafted around the restaurant, making it hard to concentrate on the lesson at hand. But Casey was compelling in the way that experts in their environment are. He deftly took a 1Kg chicken and turned it into 8 pieces destined for the fryer. He spoke of using the extra bits for stock (“never buy stock!”) and to be sure to cut the medallion of meat between the breast and the thigh (“don’t trust a butcher who doesn’t take the time to cut the medallion, if he can’t be bothered with that, how clean can his shop be?”).
We learned how to make a spicy brine: use the lemon peel, but not the juice.
We learned that buttermilk should come from the Butter Factory, not the supermarket.
We learned to add a bit of flour into the marinade for the second round: giving it that double-coated effect.
We learned that the dredging flour mix is best when it is a little “dirty” but not too much. So the first pieces will need a second dunk in the buttermilk to get the right kind of coating.
We learned that the best Fried Chicken he knows of is pan fried by an old woman in North Carolina, and you have to get there by 10:30 if you want to get some lunch. She takes her time, and that’s the idea. You can’t rush perfection.
Finally, we learned that Fried Chicken is a sometimes food, even in the South. Which is why he only prepares them on Wednesdays; to keep them special, just the way he learned growing up in North Carolina.
Hollywood and The Chick enjoyed discovering the hot sauce bottle (oddly absent from normal Wednesday servings) and devoured the biscuit, chicken and coleslaw. We even went back for seconds and The Chick was thrilled to take home the leftovers in aluminum foil. Yes, the flavors get better with a bit of time in the fridge, and while they aren’t crispy anymore, the spice comes through for a tasty lunch.
Hollywood’s Rating: 8.5/10
The Chick’s Rating: 9/10