Recipe: The Artist’s Palette in the Kitchen

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Good Evening:

I have worked for years–no, decades–trying to figure how to make a decent batch of fried chicken. For whatever reason, this classic American dish has defeated me for a long time. The past few years of trying have finally produced a bit of success; not quite enough to qualify for this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece, but with another year’s practice I should have something good enough for guests.

This post is for the cooks out there who favor using buttermilk in their fried chicken. The first key discovery consisted of choosing only chicken thighs and marinating them for 24 hours in buttermilk and spices. The hard part has consisted of finding an ideal spice blend–but I think I have found a really, really, really good combination. I took this photo before I blended everything together.

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I used about a tablespoon and a half of each spice. In the middle you will see freshly ground black pepper. Clockwise from left you can see pimenton (smoked paprika), garlic, oregano, onion, and my latest discovery, a spice very hard to find, at least in San Francisco.

Smoked Cinnamon–that’s not a misprint–seems to be some kind of secret ingredient in Spanish cuisine. Obviously unsuitable for desserts, it excels with poultry, meat and shrimp, and yields a stunning aroma in fried chicken. And it has proven hard to find in this city; I get a lot of strange looks when I ask grocers if they have it, and so far I have only found it via mail order at some New York City company called La Boite.

Anyway, if you belong to the clan of fried chicken cooks who favor buttermilk, whisk the above combination into your next marinade and let it go for a day. I honestly believe that Smoked Cinnamon makes an amazing contribution to the American classic. I do offer this suggestion with the proper respect and humility: I do realize that millions of recipes for fried chicken exist and the world’s finest is the recipe your parents taught you.

Vonn Scott Bair

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