I have a July 4th tradition, if you can go so far as to call it that. Just the once each year, I make fried chicken, using the great buttermilk-brine formulation from Cooks Illustrated’s The New Best Recipe.
But this year, I wasn’t at home on July 4th, and I wasn’t going to set out on the hair-raising adventure that is fried chicken from an unfamiliar kitchen. I almost decided to forgo it altogether.
But over the long days of summer, I found myself thinking about fried chicken a whole lot. And when it came right down to it, waiting a whole ‘nother year for that crunchy, oily bacchanal just seemed out of the question. So maybe it was 34 days after the holiday, but there was no delaying the matter any longer.
So out came the giant plastic pitcher for marinating the chicken. Out came the 3 heads of garlic and the bay leaves and the salt and the mallet (for crushing the garlic into the salt). Out came the big yellow enameled cast-iron pan and the three trays for breading. Out came a gallon of peanut oil.
In the 90-degree heat, outside on a propane burner, I fried 30 pieces of chicken and hustled them into an oven to finish (the oven part’s not in the recipe, but I’ve learned the hard way you can’t do without it) before throwing my own sweaty, begrimed self in the shower. Good friends brought beer and sides, and the twelve of us set upon those gilded, crusty parts like there was no tomorrow.
But as it turned out, there was a tomorrow. We had a handful of leftovers, which I thought very seriously of hiding (though I didn’t, in the end). I thought about them, with a view to lunch, from the moment I woke up this morning.
Now, needless to say, the leftovers too are gone, and I am walking off their aftereffects at the treadmill desk even as we speak. I think I can last another year before I get fried chicken again. ‘Cause after all, it’s not even a whole year. It’s only 330 days–not that anyone’s counting.