December 31, 2013

Chicken in the Rough and Cook's Country

It's funny how one comes across things in this, the 21st century. This week's episode of Cook's Country on my local PBS featured a recipe for Honey Fried Chicken. And as part of the show they provided a little bit of history about what appears to be one of the first franchise operations. I did some research into Chicken in the Rough and the back story is that in 1936, Beverly (the husband) and his wife Rubye (Osborne) had lost most of their savings in the Great Depression and were heading west to California from Oklahoma. Now, I'm going to quote directly from their website.

"On this particular afternoon it seemed that everyone in the state was attempting to escape the famine of the Oklahoma dust bowl. With not much more than their meager belongings and a basket of fried chicken, Beverly Osborne coaxed his Ford pickup across the barren prairie. Suddenly, a bump in the rutted road scattered the chicken and basket. Picking it up, Rubye complained "this is really Chicken in the Rough®." With that chance remark, a fortune was born. Beverly turned his truck around and headed back home. A man who, on instinct, had made a modest fortune and lost it - Beverly reasoned that "fingers were made before forks" and that chicken could be a cheap source of food at a time when incomes were sparse. Beverly learned from his previous business experience and failures that every business must provide customer satisfaction by identifying customers' needs and how to satisfy those needs better than anyone else. Soon, with the money he had received from the sale of his wife's wedding ring, he had an operation serving fried chicken with shoestring potatoes, hot biscuits and honey"

Now, Cook's Country decided to feature a version of their signature recipe, tweaked as they are prone to do. Those of you who know me know how often I have experienced epic fails in the kitchen based on Cook's Illustrated or Cook's Country recipes.

"What ARE those people on the East Coast doing?", he asks.

So much that a friend successfully pranked me recently by telling me he was following a Cook's Illustrated recipe for mole but was completely out of nutmeg. And then he waited for me to explode. Totally pranked.

Well, this recipe got me really excited because it is based on cornstarch. And it is a double fry recipe. The second frying crisps up the chicken. They had some good science about why frying the chicken for five minutes and then letting it rest awhile before the second frying allows the moisture to escape resulting in a crispier crust. It is also brined which helps keep the chicken moist.

They made a thin batter of water and cornstarch, pepper and salt. And they let the batter rest in the fridge for a while. The brine is 1/2 cup salt, 1/2 cup sugar and water of course.

So. Here we have another recipe that relies on cornstarch. And whereas I'm sure that Gus's gets their chicken brown by adding paprika, cayenne, etc., this one is browned in the second frying.

Excited to find another recipe that uses cornstarch! 

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