Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Chicken-fried chicken

chicken-fried chicken

Spring semester of my senior year in high school, when my friends and I were feeling daring we’d occasionally leave school for lunch. We only had 45 minutes so it had to be quick, and my school was in a remote area so there weren’t many dining options nearby. Though there was one restaurant that appealed to everyone—the local Grandy’s, which was only a short ride away.

If you’re not familiar with Grandy’s, it’s a fast-food joint that specializes in Southern cuisine classics. So if you’re looking for a quick chicken-fried steak along with biscuits and fried okra, Grandy’s is your place. Indeed, that’s what most of us ordered. But one friend, a gal who said she was watching her weight, always insisted on getting the chicken-fried chicken instead.

I hadn’t thought about those carefree days or chicken-fried chicken in years. But when someone asked me how I made mine, I realized it was a topic that needed visiting. Before we go any further, however, let me clarify one thing: chicken-fried chicken is not the same as fried chicken. Instead, it has more in common with chicken-fried steak. This is confusing, I know. Let me explain.

chicken-fried chicken

Two things differentiate fried chicken from chicken-fried chicken. First, fried chicken is bone-in chicken pieces from all parts of the bird that are coated in flour. Chicken-fried chicken, however, is a flattened chicken breast that is dredged in flour, then dunked into an egg and buttermilk wash, and then back into the flour again. The latter process being the same that is used to make chicken-fried steak, hence the name.

Of course, at this point, you could be wondering why chicken-fried steak has its particular name when you don’t fry it as you would fried chicken, with chicken-fried chicken's egg and buttermilk wash and all. Well, this is indeed something to ponder but I’ll let it sit for another day.

In any case, chicken-fried chicken is a large, thin slab of chicken breast that has a crisp coating on it, along with a healthy smothering of cream gravy. It is a glorious thing! Admittedly, I prefer dark meat. But a chicken breast is transformed when you salt it, batter it, fry it, and then drench it in gravy. What is often dry and chalky is now tender and palatable. Much like chicken-fried steak is a dish meant to rescue tough pieces of beef, I feel that chicken-fried chicken is there to make better the breast.

You see chicken-fried chicken all across Texas—from El Paso to Dallas. While I’m not sure how long it’s been around, the first printed citations I read were in the early 1970s in the Abilene area. This, of course, doesn’t prove its origins are in West Texas, but I could see that being the case. Clearly some chicken-fried chicken scholarship is in order!

To serve chicken-fried chicken, most folks lay it on a platter with their favorite side dishes and a big bowl of gravy. Though you can also cut the breasts in half and fry smaller pieces, which then tuck quite nicely into warm, buttery biscuits. Any way you slice it, it’s hard to go wrong.

chicken-fried chicken

It's not difficult to make chicken-fried chicken, especially if you’ve already mastered chicken-fried steak. The hardest thing is being tolerant of the mess in your kitchen as I guarantee there will be flour, buttermilk, and grease all over the place. But that’s okay because once the chaos has settled you can sit down and enjoy your slab of warm and crisp chicken-fried chicken. And after one bite you will know that all is right with your world.

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New York readers: On Saturday April 5, I will be signing books from 4 to 5 at Powerhouse on 8th in Park Slope. There will also be food, as Melissa Vaughan will be making recipes from my new book, The Homesick Texan's Family Table. I hope to see you there! For more information, please call 718-801-8375.

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Chicken-fried chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
Oil for frying
Cream gravy, for serving

Pound the breasts until they are 1/4-inch thick.

Mix together the flour with the salt, black pepper, and cayenne and place on a plate. Whisk together the eggs with the buttermilk. Lightly sprinkle the breasts with salt and pepper then dredge each into the flour. Dip the flour-coated breasts into the eggs and then dredge in the flour again. Place the breaded chicken breasts on a sheet pan.

Heat up the oven to 200°F. In a large heavy skillet, such as a cast-iron skillet, on medium-high heat up an inch of oil to 350°F, about 5 minutes. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the temperature by sticking a wooden spoon into the oil. If it bubbles around the spoon, it should be ready for frying.

Working in batches, gently lower each breast into the oil and cook for 2 minutes per side, or until lightly browned, turning once. Drain on a paper towel and place in the oven while you fry the remaining breasts.

Serve with cream gravy.

Yield: 4 servings

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51 comments:

Janus said...

Maybe this should be called steak-fried chicken. ;)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Janus--Ha!

Loree said...

Suddenly, I was run over by the nostalgia train...

I too grew up on Grandy's, and when I went back to visit family in the mid-2000s, they'd changed the recipe of the CFC. It was nowhere near as tasty as I remembered, and I was so bummed! We're definitely trying this one at home, ASAP.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Loree--I haven't been to Grandy's in years--sad to hear they changed their recipe.

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

Whatever it is, it sure looks good...

Jay Francis said...

I've found that two very good ways to pound a piece of chicken thin, Lisa, are: my wife's 3 lb dumbbell with a little plastic wrap around it. Or, the blunt end of one of those dowel style rolling pins.

Kate @Almond Butter Binge said...

Oh my goodness, thank you for this! I am always looking for chicken recipes that will make my Texan fiance happy — this is going to make him even happier he's marrying me :)

Liz said...

I just added boneless, skinless chicken breasts to my shopping list!

Not being from TX, I never heard of this, but am ready to give it a go!

Congrats on the book release!!!

Anonymous said...

Finally!! I'm so excited!

Alanna Kellogg said...

Grandy’s! When I first moved to Texas, I did the drive-through every morning for coffee and a biscuit.

But chicken fried chicken? Help me Hannah because I adore this stuff. I was a vegetarian in those years but once was invited to dinner by a vendor who knew I was a foodie (but had missed the whole vegetarian thing …) and took me to some dive bar in the Hill Country that has the best chicken fried chicken. There was no way I wasn’t eating it … hooked ever since, went back to meat a few years later.

I am so making yours!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Rocky Mountain Woman--Indeed it is!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Jay--That's a hoot! I've never heard of someone using a plastic-wrapped dumbbell before, but I love that idea! I have a proper meat mallet but anything heavy will work, as you've observed.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Kate--It should definitely make him happy!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Liz--Thank you!

Anon--Enjoy!

Alanna--What a terrific story! And yes, dive bars are particularly fine places to get a good chicken-fried chicken.

lljljljljj said...

Yummy, I had forgotten about Grandys. I used to go through the drive thru nearly every morning in high school to get a chocolate milk and one of their gooey buttery cinnamon rolls for breakfast (oh to have my 18 year old metabolism again). Nice Abilene shoutout too - that's where I'm from :)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

lljljljljj--I'd forgotten about those cinnamon rolls. So good!

Frank Smith said...

Lisa, I'd rather have the dark meat too. Luckily, the boneless, skinless chicken thighs are as readily available and CHEAPER than the breasts. So, I'm as happy as a pig in poop as I can make my chicken-fried chicken out of dark meat and save some money too.

Cara said...

I wonder if chicken fried chicken somehow originates from schnitzel? Texas does have some deep German roots/connections... here in Munich, schnitzel comes in all forms, and although veal and pork are most common, turkey schnitzel is an everyday food (turkey seems to be more common than chicken here). So I'm guessing this is just a Texas version of schnitzel - the gravy certainly gives it that Texas edge!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Frank--I've never tried it with a boneless thigh, but I bet it will be good. Let us know what you think!

Cara--Chicken-fried steak is said to come from schnitzel so I believe your theory is correct! And I've never heard of turkey schnitzel but I'm very intrigued.

Celeste said...

I think it descended from wienerschnitzel--a pounded and batter fried piece of veal. I think it's more of an Austrian dish, but it's home cooking for sure. In Indiana we pound a piece of pork tenderloin thin, batter,bread and fry it, and serve it on a bun as a tenderloin sandwich. All are delicious,and now I want some chicken fried chicken!

Traci Miller said...

They had the best baked beans too!

Blake said...

My birthday is March 19. I'm just saying.

Kristine said...

this brings back such wonderful memories of my childhood in Richardson, where Grandy's was the yummier alternative to KFC. thanks for all of your posts Lisa and your trips down memory/Belt Line Road lane

Brenda in Texas said...

Well I really do make chicken fried chicken. Every piece is dredged in batter and fried. I get a wholechicken, cut it up.. Even the pully bone. That's how my mom fried chicken and mercy me, it was a mess

Anonymous said...

I loved Grandy's when I lived in San Angelo. I sure wish more places across the county had them or something like. Fast food country food is hard to beat!

Anonymous said...

Our version has always been to dip in egg wash, dredge in flour mixture, dip again in egg wash & dredge one more time. I remember eating this as a child in the 50's. I grew up in North Central Texas, Iowa Park. Everyone I knew did cfc as well as chicken fried steak using this method. The double dip, double dredge puts an incredible coating on the meats. I remember Grandy's from living in Midland, Tx. Would love to have their dinner roll & "sinnamin" rolls.

Julie @ Texan New Yorker said...

Oh, Grandy's... I haven't thought about that place in years, but this brought back such a wave of nostalgia! This looks and sounds delicious, I'm pinning to try sometime. Thanks! And P.S. I can't wait for your new book!

Farmer Jen said...

Excellent! and Yum.

Thoughts of a Rambling Man said...

Do you ever make it to Chicago? I am a fellow transplanted Texan, just in Chicago.

Claire said...

I had completely forgotten about Grandy's. I used to pick up a take-out supper there now and then when I was in college. I don't even remember whether I ordered chicken fried steak or what, I just remember they had the holy trifecta of sides, baked beans, fried okra, and macaroni and cheese, which was what I really went there for. Thanks for the memories!

Melissa said...

I loved Grandys, but more than the CFC, I absolutely LOVED the Sinamon rolls. If you got a single roll rather than a pack of them, they would heat it up and serve it with butter melting on top.

Brenda in Texas, you're describing fried chicken, not chicken fried chicken. There's a difference. There are no bones in CFC, and it's made with the breast - not the whole chicken.

barmyFP said...

The Grandy's on 50th in Lubbock was my regular haunt: my weakness was for those giant, soft, slightly sweet yeast rolls you'd get next to your CFS or CFC. They're still my Platonic ideal of a dinner roll!

Anonymous said...

At Falls Creek, Oklahoma church camp, we always had Grandy's cinnamon rolls for Saturday morning breakfast. Grandpa Jack loved them.
Grandma Jean Texas.

Melissa D. in TX said...

Hi Lisa, I just recently found your blog (I know, I'm late to the party) but I wanted to let you know that I love it! Your name sounded familiar and after looking at your picture, I realized that we went to high school together (CFHS '87 grad too - BFND!). Glad to find a fellow Bobcat (and congrats on a great website!).

Thanks for the memories of Grandy's (loved those sinammon rolls w/the dollop of butter on top); wish they were still in the Houston area.

Tamara Lewis said...

This recipe is going on my Comfort Food board on Pinterest. I love CFC. So yummy!! And I agree about Grandy's Cinnamon Rolls. We used to drive through late at night to get one. Yummy!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Celeste--That's a good theory. I think you're correct.

Traci--They were good!

Blake--Happy early birthday! If I were in NOLA, I'd make you a plate!

Kristine--You're welcome! I used to have a dentist on Belt Line Road.

Brenda--It is a mess but a delicious one!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anonymous--It is hard to beat!

Anonymous--I'll have to try it that way next time.

Julie--Thank you!

Farmer Jen--Indeed it is!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Rambling Man--I haven't been to Chicago in years though I'm eager to return.

Claire--Yep, it doesn't get much better than that! Fried okra is especially a treat.

Melissa--Their cinnamon rolls are legendary!

barmyFP--Perfect for sopping up gravy!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Grandma--I didn't know they did that at your camp. I'll have to make some rolls in Grandpa's honor!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Melissa D.--Welcome! What was your last name when you were at Cy-Fair? In my next cookbook I have a photo of the old Bobcat Stadium behind the school. BFND!

Tamara--Nothing beats the late night drive-thru run!

Melissa D. in TX said...

It was Murphy (most knew me as "Missy"). I still live in the area (it's definitely not remote anymore, more like a small town!). My son graduated from CyWoods last year (it killed me to go to football games against CyFair and sit on the Woods side!). Looking forward to checking out your new cookbook!

Anonymous said...

Grandys! Flash back time. Loved it in high school. This Arlington native loves your recipes, too. Thanks Lisa!

Ellie said...

I just made this. I have the world's worst luck with fried chicken; either the batter is soggy or it just slips off or one thing or another goes wrong-- but this came out perfectly. Crisp, delicious, tasting just exactly like a good chicken-fried chicken from any place in Texas that knows what it's doing (we're in Austin). It was so good. We ate them as chicken biscuits with plenty of honey, but we ate a piece without a biscuit too and it was spectacular. Thank you for this recipe!

Kezz1812 said...

Oh my goodness this sounds sooooo good...have never seen anything like this here in Australia but wow I'm gonna start a chicken fried chicken trend over here for sure....cooking this for tonight's dinner, thanks for the great recipe

Rick said...

Whenever I visit your site I get hungry and today is no exception. Congratulations on your nomination for the James Beard Award. You certainly deserve it.


Christian Simple said...

I love chicken and I like your recipe, so simple and so tasty. Thanks for sharing this to us. God Bless! private chef in austin

Mark said...

I tried this last night and nailed it. I had not thought of Grandy's in many years, even when I was still living and working in Dallas. Keep up this good work because expat Texans freeezing up in the North Shore of Chicago love your work.

gutterfayrie said...

wow. I was just telling my husband that I had a craving for Grandy's the other day. Counting the days till I'm on the plane back home from Switzerland.......

Anonymous said...

Do you whip up the gravy in the same pan, while the meat is resting?

readingmedievalbooks said...

This looks so good! My mum makes this sort of thing with turkey, but wouldn't think to put cayenne in (I think she uses paprika).

butter loves company said...

I always thought I would love chicken fried chicken more than chicken fried steak. Looks great!

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