Okay. I admit it. I have a jones for fried chicken. That’s right, good old, regulation, standard-issue, American fried chicken. Some folks have a monkey on their back; I have an obstreperous, clucking fowl that eggs me on to satisfy an appetite for that one heavenly delicacy that knows no bounds. Take thy beak from out my heart, feathered frenemy! I crave it so much, in fact, that I will happily consume the rendition that’s dished up by the oft-reviled, ubiquitous fried chicken chains with gusto. And a side of coleslaw.
Years ago, recognizing this weakness in my character, I realized that I had better develop the Ultimate Fried Chicken Recipe so that I could whip up a mess o’ spicy, crispy, juicy goodness whenever the urgent need arose. This was back in the day when KFC went by its maiden name, Kentucky Fried Chicken, a chain that bore as its mascot the visage of a kindly, yet somehow shifty-eyed, hoary-goateed southern gentleman named Colonel Sanders. At the time, Kentucky Fried Chicken was the best game in town. (Or at least the best poultry.) This was before the venerable Colonel saw fit to substitute a salt mine for what used to be flavor. (Nowadays, Popeye’s beats it by a country mile. Or a nautical knot, perhaps.) So I came up with the following, edited and reproduced here from my scrawls on a greasy, yellowing, torn scrap of what had once been a perfectly good paper dinner napkin:
I have perseverated tirelessly but cannot come up with a recipe I like. I’ve searched every cookbook – and the internet – for the elusive eleven secret herbs and spices teased and touted by the Colonel – salt, black pepper, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, allspice, ginger, basil? Yes, I know; that’s thirteen. Tried ’em in different proportions, too. And the very best herb and spice combination I’ve found? The closest to commercial fried chicken? Preblended “Seasoning for Fried Chicken!” Why? Because its secret ingredients are salt, msg, dextrose, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, autolyzed yeast, tortula yeast, artificial flavor and spice extractives. Oh yes, and some black pepper, paprika and onion. Hmmm. That makes just eleven, doesn’t it? And a third of those are just msg in disguise. I think we’ve discovered the Colonel’s dirty little secrets.
The moral of the story? Use store-bought chicken seasoning plus a lot of freshly ground pepper. You just can’t make your own freshly ground tortula yeast.
Look. You don’t try to make brick-oven Neapolitan pizza at home. You don’t try to make Nacho Cheese Doritos at home. So why are you trying to beat the Colonel at his own game? I’ll take the sixteen piece bucket, please.