Nikki Giovanni’s Butter-Fried Chicken

Great food, a bottle of wine and great literature go hand in hand…….

New York Time journalist Elizabeth Harris interviewed the poet Nikki Giovanni for an article that appeared in the newspaper during the week of December 14,2020. Giovanni, 77, whose 19th collection of poems, “Make Me Rain,” came out this Fall. In the course of their discussion, Giovanni told  Harris about the butter-fried chicken she makes for dinner sometimes. That recipe didn’t make it into the final copy of the interview, but Harris did share Giovanni’s recipe with the rest of us in a .a brief excerpt found in the NYT Cooking column on-line.

It’s not so much a recipe as it is a no-recipe recipe, like the one’s our Grandmothers would hand down by word of mouth, and it results in an excellent chicken dish. The texture of the outer layer is crispy and the inner part is juicy and tender.  And in Giovanni’s own words:

“I’m a Southern cook so I use whatever is around. Cut the chicken up or if you are lucky and working purchase wings. There is no such thing as too much butter. A half stick is usually good, though. Put a couple of cloves of garlic in the skillet to let them simmer. I like to rub the wings with ginger but I forgot to tell you a shake or two of nutmeg really helps. If summer, get your rosemary from the garden or your tarragon or whatever is green growing. Do not roll a lot of flour on them. Just enough to cover then shake off. Do not batter them. You are not, after all, a chef trying to stretch your money.”
“Cook that floured chicken slowly,” Giovanni emphasized. “If you don’t have time to slowly fry,” she wrote, “then remember the old blues song: ‘Come back tomorrow and try it again.’   

It really takes the hand of an experienced cook to fry chicken in butter as it is a slow and tedious process. Scientifically, it is possible to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts in butter, provided the temperature is kept below the 350° F frying point without danger of burning the chicken and the milk proteins found in the butter, as you find in Italian cuisine. As for bone-in chicken with the skin on, butter helps the skin to go brown because the milk solids in the butter brown, but it doesn’t make the chicken crispier by any means. Butter is used for colour and flavor. For that very reason, we adapted Nikki Giovanni’s recipe and we recommend frying the chicken in a combination of vegetable oil and butter, after thoroughly drying your bird, and reducing the temperature while frying the chicken to a slow simmer. This slow simmering of the chicken in butter is reminiscent of the term, à la meunière, which can be roughly translated as, in the manner of miller’s wifein reference to a French cooking technique in which a whole fish or  fish fillets are lightly dusted in flour and then sautéed in butter. The technique is easily adapted by replacing the main ingredients or incorporating additional elements.

Try it for dinner and see if it doesn’t suit your taste. We think it’s delicious, warm and fragrant, and is most  excellent when paired with  a nice Chardonnay! 

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
One 3-4 lb chicken cut up, or 3 pounds of thighs, drumsticks and wings
1 cup all purpose flour
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 garlic cloves
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 stalk of celery
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 stick of unsalted butter
 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 175 º F.

To prepare a draining station, set a wire rack in a rimmed baking pan. lined with paper towels; set aside.

Using clean paper towels, pat the chicken dry. Season with salt and pepper and set aside on a clean plate.

In a large bowl, add flour, salt, pepper, paprika, nutmeg, allspice and oregano. Mix them well until it is all incorporated.

Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour mixture. Shake off the excess flour and set aside on a rack to dry. Repeat the same dredging process for the remainder of the chicken pieces.

Add the  vegetable oil to a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven to a depth of 2 inches. Heat the  oil  to 350 ºF. Add the butter, garlic cloves, rosemary and celery stalk. Add the chicken, and shallow fry for 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to fry the chicken for 15 to 20 minutes. Using tongs, turn and rotate the chicken pieces every few minutes to ensure even cooking and prevent the skin from burning, until the chicken is golden brown in color and the internal temperature of the chicken is 165° F (See Cook’s Notes Below).  

Transfer chicken to the prepared paper towel lined tray, and drain the chicken. Transfer the chicken to the oven to keep warm and repeat frying the rest of the chicken.

Serve immediately with your choice of tabasco sauce and side dishes, like potato salad, coleslaw, collard greens, or green beans.

 

Cook’s Notes:

As an alternative to using a mix of vegetable oil and butter, you can also use Crisco Butter Flavor Shortening. For the record, Crisco shortening has 50 percent less saturated fat than butter and 0g trans fat per serving. It is excellent for frying, and great for baking – giving you higher, lighter-textured baked goods, in addition to adding  a rich buttery flavor to foods.

While frying the chicken, cook slowly of medium-low heat, just about to a simmer, to prevent the flour from burning.

Use thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken, being careful not to touch the bones. Don’t be afraid to break the chicken’s crust to take the meat’s internal temperature; it should read 165 ° F.  Drumsticks/thighs are also done at 175 ° F.  Being on the safe side, a broken crust is vastly preferable to undercooked chicken. Plan on the whole process of  frying chicken to taking around 15–25 minutes, keeping in mind that white meat will cook faster than dark.

 

Recommended Products:

We are starting a new feature with this blog.  We get so many questions in our emails about the products we used in our recipes as well as the styling featuring our plates and props in the photographs. And running a free blog is not cheap endeavor, with  researching our favorite dishes, purchasing food props, and eventually cooking the dish and writing it up for your enjoyment.

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Make Me Rain: Poems & Prose by Nikki Giovanni 

Butter Flavor Crisco All Vegetable Shortening, 48 oz.

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Combo Cooker, 2-Piece Set 

Saferell Instant Read Digital Food Thermometer

 

 

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Honey Lemon Roasted Chicken

IMG_0165 2

Cranking up the oven toward the end helps to glaze the roast chicken in this 5-ingredient recipe that feeds a crowd, especially for family dinners.

Serve 6 to 8

Ingredients:

2 lemons
⅓ cup orange blossom honey
Two 4 -5 pounds whole chickens
One ¾  ounce package of fresh rosemary
¼ cup olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
Assortment of sliced citrus for garnishes

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Place a wire rack on a large, foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Into a small bowl, zest both the lemons. Halve lemons and squeeze 2 tablespoons of juice into bowl (do not discard lemons). Stir in the honey and set aside.

With kitchen shears, trim any excess fat from the chickens. Season insides of chickens with salt and pepper. Divide lemon halves and rosemary between each chicken cavity. For each bird, tie legs together and tuck wings behind. Rub the oil all over outside of chickens. Generously season outsides of chickens with salt.

Roast 1 hour, brushing with honey mixture every 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 450°F. Roast chickens another 15 minutes, until a thermometer inserted between the thigh and drumstick reaches 165°F and skin is golden brown.

Remove chickens from oven and let rest at least 15 minutes. before carving.

To serve, place on  serving platters and garnish with assorted slices of citrus fruit and rosemary sprigs.

 

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Stir Fried Chicken with Asian Vegetables

IMG_0132 stiry fry chicken with vegetables and ginger and honey
This Asian inspired chicken  stir-fry dish has the taste of  syrupy honey and spicy ginger  paired with savory-sweet oyster sauce and aromatic Chinese five-spice.The addition of snow peas brightens the color of the dish and adds a little snap and makes this a one-skillet meal.  Just note that in preparation, the chicken marinates for 15 minutes before cooking, making it is a good time to prep the snow peas. For a complete meal, serve this dish with steamed rice.
Serves 4
INGREDIENTS:
For the Chicken:
¼ cup oyster sauce
3 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey, plus more to serve
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into thin slices
5 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
4 ounces snow peas, trimmed
2 ounces baby corn
2 ounces julienned carrots
For Serving:
Steamed Rice
DIRECTIONS:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the oyster sauce, sherry, soy sauce, honey, five-spice and ½ teaspoon pepper. Stir in the chicken and ginger. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
snow-pea-honey-stir-fried-chicken-step-1
In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. Using a slotted spoon, add the chicken and ginger to the skillet in an even layer; reserve the marinade. Cook without stirring until lightly browned and the drippings at the edges of the pan are deeply caramelized, about 3 minutes.
Add the snow peas, corn, carrots and reserved marinade, then cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, until the peas are crisp-tender and the chicken is opaque throughout, another 3 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Serve drizzled with additional honey, if desired.

COOK’S NOTES:
Do not add the chicken to the skillet until the oil begins to smoke. A very hot pan achieves quick browning and liquid reduction without overcooking the lean chicken breast.

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