My husband comes from a LARGE family. When I say large, we’re talking 11 kids (8 girls and 3 boys). They are all wonderful individuals and I couldn’t be more fortunate to call them family.
Both parents have long since passed away, but they handed down many wonderful memories, traditions and gifts. Lucky for me, my husband received the gift of making a great batch of fried chicken. His mom, Peggy, on the occasional Sunday would spend hours in the kitchen preparing a fried chicken dinner for the family. A tradition which in later years would prove to be one rich in memories.
Michael will tell you he learned to make her fried chicken through osmosis. Peggy never really gave him any instructions. Piece by piece and batch by batch he would simply watch as she cooked. I’m sure she came by it the same way, too, spending time watching her mother (a Kentucky Southerner they fondly called Mimi) as she carefully prepared and simmered the chicken. The tradition (so I am told) always included lima beans, rice and gravy, mashed potatoes and a batch of Mimi’s special biscuits and fresh chocolate pie.
Cooking fried chicken is a true labor of love especially for such a large family. Although it’s a simple process with simple tools (a cast iron skillet, tongs and a brown paper bag) and simple ingredients (chicken, Crisco shortening, flour, salt and pepper) it requires time and patience……..a LOT of patience. The perfect batch of fried chicken hinges on two (2) things: 1) chicken, evenly coated by using the brown paper bag and 2) a perfectly heated cast iron skillet. Batch after batch and for hours on end it has to be cooked at a low heat and very slow pace, only turning each piece once it reaches a golden brown color.
Being the one dish I relinquished to Michael (a story for another day) many years ago, he really has mastered the process. So much so, it’s not unusual for friends to frequently request a “fried chicken night.” And yes, in keeping with Peggy’s tradition, all of the sides are prepared as well!
When family comes into town you can bet they will ask Michael to make a batch of fried chicken. What will start as a small family gathering can easily turn into a major event once the word gets out that fried chicken is on the menu!
As the family begins to gather and Michael begins the process, it doesn’t take long for our kitchen to be filled with laughter and chatter as they each reminisce about family memories and the childhood reminders of Peggy’s fried chicken simmering in the pan.