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Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Annals of Fried Chicken

I can’t say this for sure – and indeed, no one can say anything for sure – but it is likely that the first fried chicken I ever tasted came from Kentucky Fried Chicken.  I have a feeling this is the case for many people (I am not counting chicken nuggets, chicken tenders, etc., which may consist of chicken that has been fried, yet are not Fried Chicken, whole parts of the bird, fried in the appropriate fashion).

Although I believe it came from KFC, I cannot recall my first fried chicken experience.  Experts (myself) would likely place the event in the late 80s.  As a young man, I enjoyed fried chicken as much as the next guy, but it certainly wasn’t the obsession it’s become.  I do remember a special KFC “family meal,” which included a bucket of the Colonel’s chicken, biscuits, sides, some sort of dessert item, and a 2-liter of soda for an extremely reasonable price.  This excited me, and I begged my parents to provide this amazing meal as often as possible. Given that I was a rather portly young man, perhaps they obliged a few dozen times too many.

Fast forward many years.  Now a strapping adult, I eat fried chicken constantly, and I can recite every detail of every fried chicken experience, with a geo-time tag.  As chronicled, I am often disappointed with fried chicken, but have been fortunate to taste a few fried birds that were delicious (The Cardinal, The Dutch, Bobwhite Counter).  How this love of fried chicken developed, I cannot say.  But developed it has. 

That being the case, there was no way I was not going to attend Josh Ozersky’s fried chicken event, co-sponsored by UndergroundEats.  Mister Ozersky has written a book on Colonel Sanders and Kentucky Fried Chicken and claims to have tracked down the original spice mixture used by the Colonel. The aforementioned fried chicken event would include a night of the “original” Colonel’s fried chicken, along with a host of sides and desserts and an autographed copy of Ozerksy's book.

Thursday, March 29, 2012.  I arrive at the Little Owl Venue in the West Village, ready for a night of delight, yet unsure of what to expect.  What I found was a cozy and sheik affair, perhaps 40 or so people standing around munching on pork meatball sliders and lobster salad on crackers. Pepper Smash cocktails were in abundance, a delightfully fresh and citrusy drink with a yellow bell pepper floating atop (and indeed, the flavor of bell pepper was infused throughout, which, after the shock wore off, ended up as a pleasant flavor to be had in a cocktail).

The fried chicken came.

The fried chicken was quite enjoyable.  I will say I've probably had better, but it was satisfying.  The skin was very dark, often a deep, grainy brown.  Some of the breast pieces were slightly on the dry side, but the thighs were moist.  Truth be told, Colonel Sander's spice mixture or not, I had a spicier and more flavorful fried chicken at The Dutch the previous weekend.  Yet the Colonel's chicken was no laughing matter.

The sides: excellent.  Sour cream mashed potatoes were slightly tangy and creamy.  Collard greens with pork were savory and slightly pungent, the green accepting a bit of the bacon-y hue.  And the biscuits, when smothered in a homemade chicken gravy with chunks of meat laden throughout, were amazing.

Fried chicken at a weird angle, not a mound of excrement

My plate was a heaping mess of the Southern excellence, and the flavors and textures melded together into a Symphony of the Confederacy.*  Indeed, for just a moment, I felt like I was eating a meal with Robert E. Lee. But alas I wasn't.  To soothe my disappointment, I enjoyed a most moist coconut layer cake.  I then headed home, thankful to have taken part in a night of reverence for Sanders and his chicken.

*I would like to point out I believe the Confederacy and what it stood for is against my own personal values of equality.