Speaking of fried chicken, Josh Ozersky shares his thoughts on this most American dish in the Wall Street Journal, noting its sheer simplicity and early origins:
The first American cookbook, Mary Randolph’s “The Virginia House-Wife,” published in 1824, dispenses with the recipe in a single sentence: “Cut [the chickens] up as for the fricassee, dredge them well with flour, sprinkle them with salt, put them into a good quantity of boiling lard, and fry them a light brown.” A tweet, basically. But it’s the easygoing nature of the recipe that has given it such staying power, especially in the South, where slaves and their descendants added vivid seasonings that evoked West Africa; where Southern matrons made a buttermilk-battered version for Sunday dinners; and where a certain goateed Colonel found a way to make it fast, in pressure cookers, and serve it in dedicated take-out restaurants to newly mobile postwar Americans.
Ozersky mentions a variation by Atlanta chef Linton Hopkins involving “three cups of peanut oil, a pound of lard, half a pound of bacon and a whole stick of butter,” which the author dubs “lardcore.” Meanwhile, spicy Korean fried chicken is now giving our traditional versions a run for the money. And as L.A. chef Roy Choi reminds us, “It’s been done in Korea at least as long, and in China a long time before that.”
Back in 1996, I expressed a fear that Kentucky Fried Chicken’s decision to go by KFC did not bode well for fried chicken. And though KFC offers grilled chicken, the fried version has survived, and across the country, it’s even thriving.