We’re in the final and most exciting stretch of the 2015 Carnival Season. Mardi Gras is a week from today. That means everyone’s busy making plans for the extended final weekend that begins this Friday and lasts through Tuesday. Between now and then, folks will be closely monitoring the weather to determine what to wear when, mapping out various neutral ground or sidewalk side parade-watching locations, plotting courses to the nearest public bathrooms, dusting off family parade ladders, packing vehicles with parade route necessities (like folding chairs, throw bags, rolling ice chests, go-cups, koozies and extra toilet paper) and finalizing their food and beverage lists. It can be a daunting task for the uninitiated. For locals, however, it’s second nature.
What’s also second nature is what goes on that food and beverage list. While the small “fillers” certainly vary from family to family, you can bet money that almost every list is anchored with some variation of King Cake, poor boys, fried chicken and cold beer. No New Orleans street party would be complete without those items. On the fried chicken end, it’s also safe to say that most people will make a beeline to Popeye’s for family-size boxes of their favorite fast-food fried chicken. Popeye’s makes the best around and during the Carnival Season the New Orleans area stores extend their hours to accommodate the masses that don’t have the time or interest in frying their own. Ever since I was young, I have associated Popeye’s fried chicken with Mardi Gras and it’s those fond childhood memories coupled with the flavor of Popeye’s spicy blend that have inspired my Fat Tuesday Fried Chicken. I make it whenever I’m longing for the taste and the spirit of the season.
Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!
Fat Tuesday Fried Chicken Recipe
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
2 3-pound whole chickens, cut into serving pieces
4 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons Louisiana Hot Sauce
2 tablespoons Crystal Hot Sauce
4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
Peanut oil, for frying
In a small bowl, thoroughly combine seasoning mix. Season chicken with 6 tablespoons seasoning mix. Reserve remaining mix. Place chicken is a large resealable plastic bag. In a medium bowl, combine buttermilk and hot sauces; pour over chicken. Seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 48 hours (the longer it soaks the better), turning occasionally. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch and reserved seasoning mix. Set a rack on a large baking sheet. Working with one piece at a time, remove chicken from buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bag. Dredge in flour mixture and shake off excess. Place on prepared rack. Pour oil halfway up the side of a large, deep skillet (preferably cast iron) and heat to 350 degrees F. Fry chicken in batches, starting skin side down. Do not overcrowd skillet. Once chicken is added to oil, the temperature will drop. Maintain cooking temperature of 315 degrees F for ideal frying. Fry, turning once, until golden brown and cooked through, about 12-18 minutes per batch (the cracking and popping will stop when the chicken is done). Drain on a clean wire rack. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Makes 6-8 servings.