Fried Chicken and Watermelon Salad

For months now my youngest brother Joshua has been nagging me to take a crack at fried chicken. Week after week that he attended NFT’z I brushed it off. “Sure, I’ll do fried chicken. Next week for sure.” Of course my fingers were crossed behind my back the whole time. Then I would conveniently have a reason that he couldn’t come to dinner so I wouldn’t have actually make fried chicken.

It wasn’t because I do not like fried chicken, or because I think my fried wouldn’t be good.

I kept avoiding fried chicken night because I have a serious fear of a deep pot of hot, bubbling oil.

Just stop and think for a second about all the things that can go wrong in a scenario where a huge pot of boiling oil is involved. I can think of 5 of the top of my head.

1. Oil bubbles over, catches flame and burns condo complex down.
2. Oil bubbles over, catches flame and burns hair/skin of me or people around me.
3. Oil is too hot and melts important cooking tools.
4. Oil is too hot mixes with water and splashes up and burns my face/skin.
5. Oil is too hot and splatters on face/skin leaving scars that horrify little children

Ok… 4 and 5 are similar, but one involves water and the other just needs super hot oil. But, the bottom line is that all of these result in some sort of destruction.

Regardless of my intense fear of the scalding oil, I decided to go for it this week. I have to admit, even though I would have much preferred to have an actual fryer with a basket with a very very long handle that insured I would be no where near the oil, it was not as bad as I thought it would be.

Of course, I couldn’t just serve fried chicken. So I racked by brain for all the things that I have been served a long with fried chicken. I couldn’t do mashed potatoes because I made those last week. No waffles because I don’t really like waffles. I have no idea where to get okra or what to do with it. I decided to go with corn and watermelon. Two tired and true favorites. But I couldn’t just grill corn and slice up a watermelon. Why on earth would I do something SO EASY. Seriously, heaven forbid I decide to do something easy.

So, I went with heirloom tomato carpaccio (they were calling my name at whole foods)...

a watermelon, arugula, pancetta salad with feta and a citrus vinaigrette…

Grilled summer corn with garlic and thyme butter (which might have been the biggest hit of the night)…

And of course I had to add some garlic bread in there because once again I somehow ended up with 10 people over on a Tuesday night and I had to make sure everyone was full.

Everything ended up being absolutely crispy and delicious. And, I now have some great tips for cooking fried chicken.

1. All the recipes will tell you to shake off the excess breading. DON’T. Pile on that breading!!! It will be way more delicious.
2. When the recipe tells you to use oil, they really mean go buy a freaking humongous vat of oil because 2 bottles will barely be enough to fry 4 pieces at a time.
3. Fill up the that biggest pot you can pretty high with oil or you will end up cooking the chicken for hours since it takes about twenty minutes a batch.
4. Do not make the oil to hot are you will have very very burnt fried chicken.

We live and we learn right? Right.

Love and Beer Floats

P.S. There were too many awesome photos of the chicken. Enjoy!

If that was not enjoyable enough for you... hopefully this is!

Fried Chicken
1 quart buttermilk, plus 2 cups
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons chile de arbol powder, or 2 tablespoons hot sauce, plus 2 teaspoons chile de arbol powder, or cayenne pepper
2 chickens (3 to 4 pounds each), each cut up into 8 pieces
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
4 green onions finely chopped
Peanut oil, for deep-frying (a lot a lot a lot of oil)

In a large bowl or baking dish, whisk together 1 quart of the buttermilk, 2 tablespoons salt, 2 teaspoons of chile de arbol powder, or hot sauce, and a little bit of pepper, if desired. Add the chicken pieces, turn to coat, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. *** bloggers note... I only let it sit for an hour and it was still yummy.

Place the remaining 2 cups of buttermilk in a bowl. In a second bowl, stir together the flour, garlic and onion powders, green onions, paprika, and 2 teaspoons chile de arbol powder (or cayenne) in a large bowl. Divide flour mixture among 2 shallow platters and season generously with salt and pepper. Drain the chicken in a colander and pat it dry. Dredge the pieces a few at a time in the flour mixture and pat off excess, then dip in the buttermilk and allow excess to drain off. Dredge in the second plate of flour and pat off the excess. Put the chicken pieces on a piece of waxed paper or on a clean platter while you heat the oil.

Pour about 3 inches of oil into a deep cast iron skillet; the oil should not come more than halfway up the sides of the pot. Put the pot over medium-high heat and heat the oil to 375 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer. Working in batches, add the chicken pieces to the hot oil, 3 or 4 at a time and fry, turning the pieces occasionally, until evenly golden brown and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer to a rack to drain; repeat to cook the remaining pieces. Serve hot.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Watermelon Salad


For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup minced shallots (1 large)
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 cups baby arugula, washed and spun dry
1/8th seedless watermelon, rind removed, and cut in 1-inch cubes
12 ounces good feta cheese, 1/2-inch diced
1 cup (4 ounces) whole fresh mint leaves, julienned
8 oz pancetta

In a skillet, brown the pancetta with one tablespoon olive oil. Remove and let cool.

Whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, shallots, honey, salt, and pepper. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly, to form an emulsion. If not using within an hour, store the vinaigrette covered in the refrigerator.

Place the arugula, watermelon, feta, pancetta and mint in a large bowl. Drizzle with enough vinaigrette to coat the greens lightly and toss well. Taste for seasonings and serve immediately.