Friday, May 12, 2017

Fast Chicken

I have stumbled across a new method for cooking boneless chicken thighs. It's so fast and delicious that the savory meat has become a staple ingredient to add to more complex dishes, like a casual gumbo or chicken sandwich. The better the meat, the better the result.

Set up a chicken fryer. For five or so thighs, I use a heavy two-quart enamelled cast iron pot. Let it heat slowly on low while you prep the meat. Open a bottle of olive oil so it's ready to pour. Have the meat at room temperature, so it cooks quickly.

I like to wear disposable vinyl gloves when I'm handling raw meat. Before opening the package, mix powdered garlic, cayenne pepper, and black pepper in a small bowl. Open a cylinder of granulated flour to the shaking screen.

Spread the raw meat on a baking dish. Sprinkle the seasonings on the meat and massage them to distribute the spices more or less evenly. A little irregularity adds interest to the result. (Thanks to Paul Prudhomme for this tip.) Let the meat stand for a few minutes as you bustle around with the rest of the meal. Pre-heat an oven to around 400 degrees. I like to use a small cast-iron skillet to finish the meat. 

When it's time to fry, sprinkle the meat with granulated flour and heat the pan on high. When a drop of water dances and sizzles on the surface, add a generous layer of oil and let it heat until the surface ripples. The rule is hot pan, cold oil. I fry on the back porch so I don't have to wash the kitchen every time I cook.

Brown the meat as hot and fast as possible. Prudhomme advises sending the children out of the kitchen while cooking like this. Browned flour will accumulate in the pan. It is in effect the roux beloved of Cajun cooks. 

As the meat browns, transfer it to the hot baking dish and let it finish in the oven. Turn the oven off and let things coast if you want some slack in the timing.

You can saute' chopped vegetables in the roux that's left in the pan and thicken the rough topping with broth or crushed canned tomato -30-


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