You simply can’t have too many chicken recipes.
In the far-away days of my childhood, I don’t recall any of the grownup ladies concerning themselves with chicken recipes. After all, fried chicken was the absolute ultimate in company dinner fare, and fried chicken was, simply, fried chicken.
It involved considerable fuss and muss, since producing a chicken dinner was a do-it-yourself project. We didn’t have a fast-food emporium on every other corner back then, and even if we had, the convenience dinner was a luxury our parents couldn’t afford.
For those of us who had our own chickens, the day of a company dinner began with treachery, because first you had to catch your chicken. You did so by scattering a handful of corn on the ground, calling the chickens, and then, while they were preoccupied with getting a fair share of the goodies, you simply reached down and grabbed one.
The freshly killed chicken was dipped into a large pot of very hot water and turned over to one of the little kids for plucking. Back in those days, we didn’t have the word “yucky” to describe the feeling of a handful of warm, wet chicken feathers, so we kept quiet and comforted ourselves with thinking about how much we would enjoy the delights of dinner later on.
If the family didn’t have its own flock of chickens, or if there was no suitable candidate for dinner available, the process began the day before. The lady of the house would telephone her favorite grocery store and ask to have a couple of good-sized fryers cut up and delivered to the house.
Every good butcher knew that chicken should be dismembered so that the part known as the wish bone remained whole and undamaged. You might earn the wish bone by being the one who plucked all those yucky wet feathers or win it by yelling “Me!” the loudest when an unwary adult asked, “Who wants the wish bone?”
Next best to getting the magical bone yourself was being invited to help pull it after the meat had all been nibbled away. Once wishes were chosen, the two pullers each grasped an end of the stirrup-shaped bone, and, on the count of three, pulled. According to tradition, the shortest piece of bone won.
I can’t recall ever recognizing an event in my life as the fulfillment of a bone wish, but my mother had a sneaky way of smoothing over disappointment.
“Sometimes,” she would say, “it takes a little longer.”
But I sometimes think that whenever a grownup lady participated in the ceremony of the wish bone, she must have wished that fried chicken dinners were less labor intensive. And if so, over the years, those ladies have seen their wishes come true.
Nowadays a quick trip to “the chicken place” takes care of the chicken, already fried, with a choice of white meat, dark meat or mixed. Or a stop at the supermarket lets you choose a packet of the exact pieces your family prefers.
Unfortunately, there are two disadvantages. One is that chicken is now so easy that we have it frequently and need a variety of recipes to keep it from becoming boring. The second is that neither our supermarkets nor our chicken places offer wish bone pieces.
I can’t do anything about the unavailability of wish bones, but here’s a recipe to help keep those chicken dinners interesting.
CINNAMON “FRIED” CHICKEN
1/2 cup regular flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
2 to 3 pound chicken, cut up
1/3 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons cooking oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine flour, salt, cinnamon, turmeric and black pepper. In separate bowl, beat together egg and milk.
Coat chicken pieces with flour mixture. Add bread crumbs to leftover flour mixture. Dip chicken into egg mixture, then coat with bread crumbs.
Arrange chicken pieces in roasting pan. Sprinkle with cooking oil and bake in preheated oven until crisp and brown, about 40 minutes.
Mary Ryder is a food columnist for the Daily Commercial. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.