I hate cooking with my mom, but she can’t make fried chicken to save her life, so that’s what I make


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If your mom is an awful cooking partner (like mine), find a recipe she can’t participate in and hand her a cocktail

By: Bex Brian/Salon
For years whenever my mother left her Manhattan apartment and came to visit me in Brooklyn (which she called the country) she’d arrive disheveled and completely rattled, as if the number 2 train was a Wild West stagecoach wresting her from the safe confines of the city and plunking her down amongst the savages. Falling through the door, she’d whisper, “Get me a drink, darling.” Revived somewhat by a potent gin and tonic, she’d stare out across the low expanse longingly to the sun-blazed city so recently abandoned, and ask me what I intended to make her for dinner. It was at this point that I’d reach for my own bottle.

As children we merely bored her. As teenagers we bored her and frightened her. The problem now was, as adults, she had grown to like us, well, at least to need us, and that had totally thrown her for a loop. Which isn’t to say she was ready to let her guard down. One of us, at any moment, could suddenly marry a banker and start talking nonstop about derivatives. So far my sisters and I had resisted that urge, which didn’t leave her much to be bored by or critical of, except when we cooked. Her barrage of suggestions, her horror at technique, her scold would have me doubting my very existence, which was ridiculous because, empirically, I am a far better cook than she ever was. Every once in a while I would try to get her to back off, but she’d merely sniff and say she was only trying to help.

When she moved out to L.A. I can’t tell you the freedom I felt cutting my onions into slices instead of dicing them, using butter for sautéing instead of oil, and peeling my garlic like it was a fragrant pearl rather than smashing it as if it were a cockroach scurrying across my cutting board.

Being a good daughter, I do drag myself out to the coast to visit my mother once a year. And, as we’re not willing to just sit and stare at each other, I cook while she comments.

But this year I had a spark of inspiration. I would make something so far from my mother’s own experience that there would be no toehold for her muttered asides. “Really? Is that the best way to knead that dough?” Or, “If you leave that a moment longer you’re going to scorch it.” Or, “You sure you know what you’re doing? That much salt? You’ll ruin it. But go ahead, see for yourself.”

I told her that I was going to make fried chicken. Now I know fried chicken does not sound earth-shatteringly original, but my mother is a Cockney woman who migrated to Canada, where I was born. Fish and chips maybe. But fried chicken?

Never.

The chicken was great but the method was far too involved for the sort of cook I am and, since I do 99.9 percent of the cooking in our house, and since I’m just competitive enough to want to see if I could best his first attempt, I had to figure out how to do it with a lot less fuss.

At first I went the buttermilk marinade route, but didn’t like the texture it gave the chicken. I also tried cooking in high-heat oils, but then I would be in a panic turning the heat up or down trying to get an even boil. But eventually I hit on a version that suits my cooking temperament, which I would describe as a slapdash maniac with a decent palate.

With mother sitting in a chair in the middle of my sister’s kitchen, I began to assemble all that I needed. She watched with a gimlet eye as I dumped copious amounts of spice into my flour. I could see her craning her neck, but without any first-hand knowledge, she was rendered mute. When I pulled out my two-day dry-brined chicken cut into what I guess you could call hacked in the Chinese style pieces, she was too confused to offer a critique.

An hour or so later I placed a platter piled high with perfectly cooked fried chicken on the table, along with a cabbage salad laced with French Feta cheese and bowls of honey in which slices of Serrano peppers had marinated through the afternoon.

My whole family dove in. And soon I heard what every cook wants to hear, the groan of pure pleasure. My mother, though, had yet to pick up a piece. I didn’t blame her. After all, she had had no hand in its creation. Eventually, her hunger won out, and she begrudgingly grabbed a thigh. I can’t swear I saw a slight smile, but I am willing myself to believe that I did.

Recipe for Fried Chicken

Ingredients

Chicken: cut into 10 pieces, pat dry and heavily salt under the skin using Kosher or good sea salt (I like Maldon); leave uncovered in the fridge overnight or up to two days.

  • 3 cups white flour
  • 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 3 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon adobo
  • 6  Egg whites, more if need,
  • Olive oil, not extra virgin.

Method

Stir in cayenne and paprika; the flour should definitely have a reddish hue. Then the garlic powder and adobo. Adjust for taste. Many people sneer at flavor enhancers, but this is fried chicken; no point in getting snobby.

Dip chicken in flour, then egg whites (I like just the whites; the chicken has a lighter feel and more of a crackle without the yolk) then flour again. Heat the oil. It’s ready when you throw in a tiny edge of chicken skin and it quickly sizzles to the top. Cook in small batches until done, about 10 to 15 minutes per batch.

Keep warm on a wire rack in oven (200 degrees) until ready to serve.

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Published by CityFella

Big city fella, Born and Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lived in New York (a part time New Yorker) for three years . I have lived in the Sacramento area since 1993. When I first moved here, I hated it. Initially found the city too conservative for my tastes. A great place to raise children however too few options for adults . The city has grown up, there is much to do here. The city suffers from low self esteem in my opinion, locals have few positive words to say about their hometown. visitors and transplants are amazed at what they find here. From, the grand old homes in Alkali Flats, and the huge trees in midtown, there are many surprises in Sacramento. Theater is alive is this area . And finally ,there is a nightlife... In.downtown midtown, for the young and not so young. My Criticism is with local government. There is a shortage of visionaries in city hall. Sacramento has long relied on the state, feds and real estate for revenue. Like many cities in America,Downtown Sacramento was the hub of activity in the area. as the population moved to the suburbs and retail followed. The city has spent millions to revive downtown. Today less than ten thousand people live downtown. No one at city hall could connect the dots. Population-Retail. Business says Sacramento is challenging and many corporations have chosen to set up operations outside the cities limits. There is vision in the burbs. Sacramento has bones, there are many good pieces here, leaders seem unable or unwilling to put those pieces together into. Rant aside, I love it here. From the trees to the rivers. But its the people here that move me. Sacramento is one of the most integrated cities in America. I find I'm welcome everywhere. The spices work in this city of nearly 500,000 and for the most part these spices blend well together. From Ukrainians to Hispanics and a sizable gay community, all the spices seem to work well here. I frequently travel and occasionally I will venture into a city with huge racial borders, where its unsafe to visit after certain hours. I haven't found it here. I cant imagine living in a community where there is one hue or one spice. I love the big trees, Temple Coffee House, the Alhambra Safeway, Zelda's Pizza, Bicyclist in Midtown, The Mother Lode Saloon, Crest Theater, and the Rivers. I could go on and I might. Sacramento is home.

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