A Fried Chicken Picnic

The worst movie I have ever seen in my God given life was playing last night in the park.  Nobody cared.  We were all happy (as New Yorkers can be), stretched out on a rolling sea of grass under a huge expanse of night sky with a twinkling view of Manhattan and the river beside us, watching a film.  In our neighborhood we are new at this kind of living.  It has been a world of no grocery stores, third world paving and chemical clean ups for a long time over in Long Island City.  We tend to order in, or eat frozen.  Pretty soon though I’ll bet there will be a whole lot of picnic baskets swinging around here–it’s human nature to pack food when you get enough oxygen and clues that an earth exists beneath your feet.  I support nearly all kinds of picnics, low brow, high brow, and even the take away that you might have otherwise eaten in front of your television, but what I really love are the classics.  Cold fried chicken, potato salad, string beans, biscuits, fresh fruit salad, and cookies.

Here is a recipe fro Southern Fried Chicken, adapted from the Great Edna Lewis:

Cut up a 3 pound chicken with a kitchen scissors into individual parts, cutting each breast half into pieces.  Bring 6 cups of water to the boil with a sprig of thyme, three pepper corns, a bay leaf and 3 tablespoons of kosher salt.  Allow to cool.  Place the chicken in a bowl and cover with the brine.   Cover with a plate or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Drain the chicken, rinse well and clean out the bowl.  Get the chicken back in the bowl and pour a quart of buttermilk over the top.  If you drained the chicken in the morning, then it will be ready for you that night to start frying (leave it in the fridge again with the buttermilk for most of the day.)  Using a half cup of country ham or unsmoked bacon, flavor your fat by heating 1 stick of unsalted butter and 1 pound of lard in a cast iron pot, slowly, and then adding the ham, until the ham is beginning to crisp.  Remove from the fat, and bring the fat up to temperature (350 degrees).  Combine 1 cup of flour with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper.  Dredge the pieces of chicken thoroughly with the flour mix and allow to rest for at least fifteen minutes on a cooling rack that you have set over wax paper or sheet pan.  Without crowding the pan, fry the pieces of chicken skin side down for 10 minutes and then flip to the other side.  Drain on paper towels or brown paper bags.

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