July 6

It's National Fried Chicken Day

The Dollar. Fried Chicken Day. Chicken Kiev. Fryer. Sebastian Cabot. Hotel Saint

Days Until. . .

Food Calendar

Today is National Fried Chicken Day. In the 1960s and before, fried chicken was considered a gourmet dish, featured with total respect in fancy food magazines like Gourmet. Then, just as they did to the hamburger, the mass-production restaurants moved in on fried chicken and ruined its reputation. Fortunately, good fried chicken still exists, although it requires some diligence to either find it in a restaurant or make it yourself. The main criterion of fried chicken excellence is the crust. Different from most fried foods, a crispy coating on fried chicken is not necessarily a good thing. The best fried chicken I've had in my life had a rather thin, non-crisp coating. What it did have, though, was an interesting flavor dominated by herbs, with pepper as a background flavor. Much of that flavor comes from marinating. I like to use buttermilk as a marinade, because it tenderizes as well as flavors the chicken. It also seems to make the coating stay on better.The next two hallmarks of great fried chicken are that it comes out hot and greaseless. Those are both the result of the same kitchen skill. When chicken is fried and then held under a heat lamp--as it is in most restaurants--it gets soggy and greasy. Cooking it right before serving makes all that difference. This is something the fast-food operators can't abide, because frying a chicken takes fifteen or twenty minutes. Even Colonel Sanders knew that. As late as the Sixties (before it was bought by Pepsi) Kentucky Fried Chicken was fried to order. They did it in a pressure cooker to speed things up, but they did make it specially for you.This is a very big subject, fried chicken.

Deft Dining Rule #866

No restaurant where the surroundings seem to call for eating fried chicken with a knife and fork is a good place to eat fried chicken.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Edible Dictionary

picnic, n.--The lower part of a pork shoulder, below the Boston butt. A picnic has much more bone and fat than the Boston butt does. It is neither as tender nor as useful for barbecuing or roasting. Indeed, it's quite difficult to cook it so that its tender enough to eat as is. The muscles are smaller, with a good deal of fat and connective tissue in between the sections. Its most common use is to flavor a soup, a pot of beans or greens, or to make sausage. It can also be cut up into small cubes for stir-frying, or run through the grinder.

People I Wish I'd Dined With

Today in 1918, the film and television actor Sebastian Cabot was born in London. He was a rotund, bearded fellow who liked New Orleans (he was a good friend of the Brennans) and was a connoisseur of good food. He was best known for the television show Family Affair, although I remember him most fondly as the host of the television version of the long-running radio series Suspense.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Goar of Aquitaine, France. He lived in the sixth century, and is a patron saint of vinegrowers and hoteliers. It's also the feast day of St. Maria Goretti, who is much venerated in New Orleans as a patron saint of children.

Paying For Food

Today is the birthday of the dollar. It was chosen to be the monetary unit of the United States by the Congress of the Confederation on this date in 1785 . We are approaching the day when it will become impossible to find anything on the menu of any restaurant that can be bought for a dollar. (It may surprise you to know that we aren't there yet.) One of these days, I'll make a list of the dates when certain benchmark dishes hit a dollar in price. I have a menu from Antoine's in the 1960s, for example, that shows oysters Rockefeller for a dollar. I sold six-packs of Jax Beer at the Time Saver in 1970 for a dollar. I remember being able to buy two roast beef poor boys at Martin's Poor Boy Restaurant for a dollar.

Food Namesakes

The Cherry Venture--a Scandinavian cargo ship that became a tourist attraction on the Australian beach where it wrecked--ran aground there today in 1973. . . Former Illinois Governor John Lourie Beveridge was born today in 1824.

Words To Eat By

"Chicken may be eaten constantly without becoming nauseating."--Andre Simon, French-born British gourmet and wine merchant.

Words To Drink By

"The chief reason for drinking is the desire to behave in a certain way, and to be able to blame it on alcohol."--Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960