Thursday, April 1, 2010

Veggie Might: UNCLE! You Win, Fried Chicken.

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

Y’all, it’s been a crazy week. Kris and I had our names in proverbial lights, and I had a crisis of faith like none I could have ever expected. After reading all your amazing comments from last week’s VM column, I realized something that I thought I’d long suppressed.

I miss fried chicken.

As long-time readers have gleaned, I come from a Midwestern mom and a Southern dad and lived equally in both places before moving to the Big City. Family lore goes, the first thing my dad taught my mom to cook after they married was Great-Grandma Fisher’s Southern fried chicken. Sunday after church, Mom would fry up a batch of flour-dredged goodness with sides of rice and gravy, green beans, and corn—in the summer, the veggies were fresh from a neighbor’s garden.

Fried chicken holds all those memories of golden childhood that, as of this weekend, I just couldn’t resist any longer. But I said to myself, Leigh, if you’re going to jump, you gotta go off the high dive.

Let me reassure you that I didn’t abandon all my values over the weekend. My move to the move to meat was going to be the right way. Sonny, my local butcher, was sure surprised to see me darken his door on Saturday. I pass his shop every day while walking my dog, and we always wave and exchange pleasantries, but in 14 years, I’ve never been in his shop.

I took a deep breath and asked Sonny for a locally and humanely raised chicken. The smell of freshly cut steaks and chops filled my nostrils. I was transported back to my youth, shopping at Farmer Brown’s with my mother and siblings. Sonny was thrilled to oblige my request and asked about my dog, who he calls Pee-Wee, though that’s not his name.

There, on the spot, emboldened by adventure, I asked Sonny if he had any pork skin he could sell me. I remembered my dad talking about a Paula Deen episode in which she made her own pork rinds, and I figured I’d make my own too. He wrapped up a couple of pounds along with my two-pound fryer.

Back home with my quarry, I set to making my nostalgic dreams come true. This quest called for a spirit guide, so I called my dad. He was so happy to hear I was coming back to the omni fold I thought he might cry, even if I wasn’t planning to make Grandma Fisher’s recipe exactly.

Years ago, during the height of the Atkins diet craze, I read about Pork-Rind-Coated Fried Chicken. The recipe made the rounds on the Weight Watchers’ vegetarian messageboards, and we all had a good laugh about the “healthiness” of dredging chicken in egg and fried pig skins before a dunk in boiling oil.

Well, healthy or not, it’s unbelievably delicious and the perfect recipe to bring myself out of vegetarianism—or meat retirement as I’ve started calling it.

My Charming Dinner Guest was surprised to smell fried chicken coming from my apartment when he arrived for dinner, but happily joined me for heaping plates of pork-rind fried chicken with all the Angel family sides.

My apartment smelled just like I the Sundays I remember. Biting into the crunchy skin (still the best part!), I let the juice run down my chin—just once—before I grabbed a napkin. The deep-fried experience was everything I dreamed it would be, and, I dare say, it was worth giving up 19 years of vegetarianism for the pleasure.

You win, fried chicken.

Pork Rind Crusted Fried Chicken
Serves 4
Note: My picture wasn't the greatest, so this is provided by Ms. Paula Deen herself.

2 lb fryer chicken, cut into pieces
2 cups pork rinds
2–3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 cups vegetable oil

1) Rinse and pat dry chicken pieces.

2) Beat eggs in a wide, shallow bowl. Crush pork rinds and spread on a baking sheet or large platter.

3) Dip each chicken piece in egg and dredge through pork rinds until completely coated. Set aside until all pieces are coated.

4) Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet.

5) Carefully lower a few chicken pieces into hot oil. On each side, cover and cook over medium high heat for 5–7 minutes, then remove the lid and cook for 10 minutes. When both sides are cooked, give each side another 2–3 minutes to brown the crust. Repeat until all the chicken is cooked.

6) Drain excess oil on paper towels.

7) Make gravy with the drippings and serve with rice, green beans, corn, and, for dessert, a big ol’ Southern-fried APRIL FOOL! Mmmwah!

(American Chicken Room photo courtesy of Flickr member Badger 23.)

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carriekali said...

Dear Leigh - you totally fooled me! I was worried about you coming out of "meat retirement" for heavy pork-coated chicken and getting really sick. Good joke!

CT said...

It was salami that did me in one year ago last month. (So sad that I remember that!)

Though fried chicken is also a worthy adversary for the avowed vegetarian.

panaili said...

I love fried chicken too, but I was wondering if you knew a good substitute for the pork rinds. I don't eat pork for religious reasons, but I think your recipe sounds lovely. :)

KB said...

Nicely done. You totally got me. I kept thinking, this just seems impossible after last week's post, but hey, I remember leaving vegetarianism over a morally-compromising burger...

Ellie said...

As I read this, I was like "wasn't she just saying people need to stop asking, 'will you ever eat meat again'?" Then I got all indignant and "they had better replace her with a real vegetarian, I'm not going to read this." Then I was like "holy crap, pork rind coated fried chicken? this must be a joke." Nice touch with the making sure you got a happy chicken to fry though - that's what had me going.

Kat said...

Hilarious! You totally had me!

Ducks said...

Heh. Good one.

Mattheous @ Menu Musings said...

While I was fooled until the very end of the post, that recipe looks delicious!

I'll have to try it when I get my cast off!

Claire said...

Hahaha! That is so funny. You totally had me. At first I was shocked, then grossed out, then completely indignant! I was all, "I can't believe this! This is NOT appropriate!" Then I saw the other comments and the lightbulb went off.

But, um, can we get a real veggie recipe? :) Please?

Rachel said...

Congratulations, you had me going until the very end there. (Although the pork rinds really should have tipped me off.) Excellent job.

MissB said...

Leigh -

Girl, you TOTALLY fooled me! Since I just started reading this blog, and I'm vegetarian, I was so shocked (after reading last week)...

...and honestly a bit disappointed. So much so, I clicked through from Google Reader just to be sure!

Glad to know you haven't fallen off the wagon with something as *ahem* interesting as Pork Rind Fried Chicken ~rolls eyes~.


Anonymous said...

Totally funny! I loved this prank!

Charity said...

I almost started to cry until I realized this was a joke. You'd think I'd catch on quicker, since I've been reading about various April Fool's pranks all day. Sheesh!

The Happy Domestic said...

OMG LOL. That annoying teen-text cliche just about sums up your post.

The title alone had me concerned, so I had to read more. As I continued, I couldn't help thinking "She is SO going to get fired from the Veggie Might feature!" and "Holy crap, is she going to take a beating from veg readers!"

What can I say... I'm an omnivore, and even I found it hugely inappropriate - and ultimately AWESOMELY HILARIOUS.

Lizalopoli said...

I too almost started to cry (as a recent veggie convert) until I got to the comment section. I am surprisingly gullible. And to those who said "the pork rinds should have tipped me off," I say go to and see what people come up with!!

Leigh said...

Wee! That was fun -- and a little gross, I confess, calling up the sense memory of butcher shops and preparing chicken; but it was totally worth it.

Thanks for being such good sports, everyone. You're the best readers ever!

PS - Sonny the butcher really does call my dog Pee Wee.

Polly Zero said...

While people are poo-pooing the recipe, I for one am game for it since I haven't had fried chicken for years. I am not a strict vegetarian because admittedly I tire of beans and similar fare. (Note: I am an economical vegetarian who prefers to eat healthy most of the time and practice moderation.) Could be my splurge meal of next month.

Though pork rinds kinda skeeve me out. I may look for something similar sans pork rinds, haha.

challenges2010 said...

Nice one! I know I don't comment much(2-3 times now) but I've been following you guys off and on for about a year now and Wednesday I gave you a blogger award.