Fried chicken: Hot, crispy, comforting and local
I am quick to correct people who kindly refer to me as a “chef.” I am no chef. I write about food, I talk about food, and of course I eat food. All of these on a regular basis. I’m not a bad cook, however, and like many “not bad” cooks, there are a few dishes I actually do well. And one of those is fried chicken. My Texas-born mother perfected it, and (too) many years have been dedicated to re-creating and perhaps even improving (I hope I don’t get struck by lightning) her recipe.
I’m honored to report that a number of local restaurant chefs/owners quietly escape to my kitchen when they feel the need for savory crunch and spice. I even won a good-natured Chicken Throwdown against three professional chefs at Fork + Flask last year. OK, my chicken happened to be on-point that night, but those guys not only cook several thousand things that I wouldn’t dare tackle, but they also keep professional kitchens running day in and day out. Now THAT’s talent.
My chicken is a production! Brining. Marinating. Spicing in [wording redacted]. Dredging. Frying. So when I need a chicken fix and don’t have 3 days, I take advantage of local pullet prowess.
Catch Gus & Gus’ Place on the Rehoboth Boardwalk. There’s no matching the delicious crust. Whatever they do, they do it right. Fish On in Lewes and JAM Bistro in Rehoboth both offer chicken and both do a nice job. If you find yourself in the southern hinterlands in the off-season, take the short drive to Cottage Café in Bethany Beach where they serve particularly good fried chicken – but ONLY on Tuesdays. The fried chicken at Fork + Flask in Rehoboth is exceptional, along with Cooter Brown’s. Bluecoast Rehoboth, the Blue Hen, the Matt’s Fish Camps, and Patsy’s in Bethany (as a special). By the way, don’t turn up your nose at our local Popeye’s. They put out a hot, crunchy and flavorful product. Be sure to get there when they are busy and the fryers are running full-tilt. You won’t be disappointed. Add extra biscuits. Just sayin’.
For years I drove by Kick n’ Chicken thinking it was a so-so carryout for always-in-a-hurry tourists. Not so! Multiple emails and texts insisted that I get my tail feathers over there, and gadzooks! Their fried chicken is nicely spiced and properly cooked, i.e., not the slightest bit greasy. A few months ago I had the pleasure of interviewing founder and boss Charlie Pollard on my weekly radio show, and his story was fascinating. Savor the podcast at RehobothFoodie.com.
Ernest Matthew Mickler’s “White Trash Cooking” (Ten Speed Press, 1986) includes a no-nonsense recipe for Southern Fried Chicken. The instructions are simple: “You take a chicken and ya kill it. And you put it in a skillet. And you fry to a golden brown. That’s Southern cookin’, and it’s mighty fine.” Short on rhyme, but long on humor.