The following is an excerpt from "Eat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever Need," Chronicle Books, edited by Ryan D’Agostino.
John Currence, City Grocery, Oxford, Mississippi:
After Katrina, I helped rebuild the fifty-year-old Willie Mae’s Scotch House, one of the city’s culinary landmarks. This is my attempt at re-creating Willie Mae’s secret-recipe chicken, the best I’ve ever eaten. The Coca-Cola gives it a sweetness that plays nicely against the cayenne. I added pickle-garlic relish as a nod to the late, great Austin Leslie, another New Orleans cook and a high priest of the deep-fat chicken fryer. He died after evacuating his home after the storm. This dish is a tip of the hat to two of the best I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.
Difficulty: Worth the Extra Effort
12 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
4 cups Coca-Cola
1tsp liquid smoke (optional)
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp Tabasco sauce
3 tbsp coarse salt
3 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
3/4 cup peanut oil
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp coarse salt
4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
peanut oil and lard
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup dill-pickle chips, plus a little pickle juice if desired
3 tbsp minced garlic
• TO BRINE THE CHICKEN: Rinse the chicken, drain, and set aside.
Combine all the remaining brining ingredients in a large bowl,
stirring until the salt dissolves. Put the chicken in the brine,
cover, and marinate, refrigerated, for 4 hours.
• TO MAKE THE BATTER: Whisk the egg well in a stainless steel bowl
and add the peanut oil and 2 1/2 cups water. In a separate bowl, com-
bine all the remaining batter ingredients, then add the dry mixture
to the egg mixture, whisking slowly so the batter doesn’t clump.
• TO FRY THE CHICKEN: Fill a large cast-iron skillet halfway with
equal amounts of peanut oil and lard. Slowly bring the temper-
ature to 375°F. (Use a deep-fat thermometer.)
• While the oil is heating, remove the chicken from the brine and
place in a colander in the sink. Once the chicken has drained, pat
it dry with paper towels (a critical step) and season with salt and
pepper. Dip the chicken in the batter and place it (carefully) in
the hot oil. Adjust the heat, as the chicken will bring the oil tem-
perature down dramatically—you want it back up to just above
350°F. Turn the chicken regularly using tongs to prevent burn-
ing. After 8 or 9 minutes, remove a piece, prick it to the bone with
a fork, and mash it. If the juices run clear, it’s done. Continue
cooking if necessary.
• TO MAKE THE PICKLE-GARLIC RELISH: Finely chop and com-
bine all the relish ingredients.
• Serve with the chicken. Cover any leftovers with a dish towel and
leave out at room temperature (or in the fridge, if you must, al-
though my grandmother never did). This keeps it crisp.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Ryan D’Agostino, editor, Eat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever Need, Chronicle Books (2011). Reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books, LLC.