Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pan-fried chicken with lemon

I love fried chicken but I really can't even think about attempting it in my own home. Although it is flavorful and delicious, it's also a very intimidating and work-intensive process, and that is simply not how I roll. But I was craving it and thought it would be the right sort of thing to accompany a bounty of summer vegetable dishes (brought on by an overly indulgent trip to the farmer's market, perhaps?), so I made a version of a crispy chicken dish that gets enlivened by a bunch of fresh lemon to fill in for the punchy flavor of real, southern fried chicken.

You'll need one whole chicken, cut up. Mine was a big one, about 9 pounds. Even though I was at Whole Foods instead of my usual beloved DeKalb market, I just asked the guy behind the counter to cut it up for me--butchers will usually do that for you. Take your chicken pieces and toss them until well-coated in a bag or big bowl in a mixture of the following ingredients: 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1 teaspoon paprika, salt and lots of fresh ground pepper. Heat up 1/3 cup oil in a heavy large pot. I used olive oil and my big cast iron dutch oven, but any oil and any pot will do. Peanut oil would be good too, if you have it. When your oil is good and sizzly hot, place about half your chicken pieces in it, skin side down. I say "half" because that's how many fit in my dutch oven at a time--yours may be bigger or smaller. Don't be crowding your chicken though. When the chicken pieces have a great looking golden brown crust going, flip them over and let the other side get the same--it's probably about 7 minutes per side, over high heat. But keep a good eye on them. When both sides are done, remove to an oven safe baking dish and do it again with the second batch. Slice one lemon into thin slices and cover the golden brown chicken pieces with the slices along with another sprinkle of paprika, salt and a grind of pepper. I also added a large clove of garlic, sliced thinly, over the top. Stick the chicken in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes. You want them cooked through but not dried out so cut open a big piece of thigh and check them out at about 25 minutes to see how it looks. When they're done through, haul them out and squeeze more lemon juice over all. Oh, it's pretty damn good, I don't mind telling you.

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