When I was a kid, I always thought I hated potato salad. Generally it includes mayo, it never stays cold enough at picnics in Florida to make me feel safe, often there are bits of raw onion hiding in there… all of which were super off-putting to a wee Blair growing up.
Since then, I’ve expanded my palate (quite a bit, in fact), and I’ve learned to appreciate it when it’s homemade or a particularly good restaurant-style. But I never would have called myself a ‘fan,’ per se, until one night last November.
As previously discussed, Judson surprised me with the absolute best 30th birthday I could ever have dreamed of, in the company of three of my best friends in Paris and Berlin. The night we arrived in Berlin, we took naps after our late afternoon arrival and then took off to wander around the city. It was cold and dark, and Berlin is a city that does cosy well. So we wandered past restaurant after restaurant that had blazing fires, dark wood furniture, and hearty plates of food being served to rosy-cheeked diners. But everywhere we stopped was full to capacity even though it was just a random Wednesday night. We wandered farther and farther from our rented flat until we stumbled upon a place called Henne, which, we found out later, is literally just German for ‘chicken.’
We walked in and sipped (giant) steins of beer next to a woodstove while we waited for our table to open up, and when we sat down, we found out that their entire menu was: fried chicken, either a half or a whole, served with sauerkraut or potato salad. Naturally we ordered a few chickens and some of each side, then chowed down like there was no tomorrow. I don’t think in the entirety of my 30 years on this planet I have ever smelled anything that smelled as delicious as that restaurant. I don’t know that I will ever be as contented or as cosy as I was that night, and I don’t know if I will ever taste better fried chicken or potato salad. So recently when I realised that I have recipes for both fried chicken and ‘german’ potato salad in the box, I got excited. It’s my time to re-create the perfection of that night!
That said, having only made fried chicken once in my life, in the company of a seasoned expert in—I kid you not—Kentucky, I wasn’t super excited about attempting it on my own. I’ve never deep-fried anything on my own, and I’ve definitely never bought a 2 litre bottle of oil before. But, here we are, in a kitchen with no exhaust fan and a wall of ceramic plates above the stove that are now a little more coated in grease. Luckily, the weather has finally turned around here in Edinburgh, so when we made this chicken on Sunday night, we shut ourselves in the kitchen and threw the kitchen window open to air it out. I’d be lying if I said the kitchen didn’t smell like fried food for the rest of the night, but by the morning it was fresh and clean-smelling, and the house was none the worse for wear.
But I’m getting ahead of myself: making fried chicken wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I thought it would be, despite the very vague directives provided in the recipe. I did some additional research just to be sure I wasn’t going to start a grease fire, and despite checking with Alton Brown (king of all things) and Paula Deen (queen of all fried things), the best guidance I got was from a Jamie Oliver recipe, which replicated more or less what was included in the recipe but in further detail and with enough safety precautions to make me feel certain I wasn’t going to burn down my flat. It definitely took longer than I thought (I guess I’m used to ‘things I make on the stove’ being quicker than ‘things I make in the oven), but the result was so thoroughly satisfying that I regret nothing, I won’t be buying myself a deep-fryer anytime soon, but it’s nice to know that I at least have the capability to fry things. (Full disclosure: Judson was the one deciding when things were ‘done’ enough to remove from the oil, as well as the one who chopped up the chicken. But it was ALL ME who figured out the best way to finish the chicken in the oven without having a grease fire to contend with).
Honestly, though: the main memory I have of the first time I made fried chicken is getting burned like crazy from the popping oil, because we made it in a skillet. This time around, with the aid of my trusty Staub cocotte, neither of us got splattered even once (though we both had on aprons, just in case). It may not be the healthiest meal that we’ve ever eaten, but I can’t tell you the last time I had fried chicken (I KNOW it was before I moved to Scotland), so I’m not holding onto a lot of guilt about this one. Pair this with this impeccable (and mayonnaise-free!) German potato salad for the ultimate in picnic fare. Bonus points for eating it outside in the sunshine!
5 spoons out of five. This is a relatively simple way to celebrate spring (ok, ok, the start of summer if you live anywhere outside the UK), and it’s seriously just so tasty—plus, unlike chicken nuggets or fried chicken from restaurants, you know exactly what goes into this batch so at least it’s a little less unhealthy than the store-bought alternatives!
German Potato Salad:
4 spoons out of five. It's delicious, super easy, and perfect for this time of year. Enjoy!
one year ago: Oatmeal Toffee Lace Cookies (still an all-time fave in the Cowan kitchen!)
Blend flour, salt, and pepper in a zippy bag.
Place a few pieces of chicken into the bag at a time and shake it up, pressing the flour into any non-coated parts.
Gently tap the chicken pieces as you remove them and set them aside while you heat the oil.
Pour oil into a skillet to the depth of 1-inch and heat over medium heat until shimmering.
(If you have a piece of bread handy, you can toss a bread cube into the oil to test the heat-- if it starts sizzling immediately, you're good to go!)
Once oil is hot, begin by putting the meaty pieces of chicken into the oil, a few at a time, making sure to not crowd the pan..
They'll sizzle and pop a lot, so it's worth wearing an apron or at least a t-shirt you don't care about.
While the chicken sizzles, preheat the oven to 160C/325F and place an oven-safe cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet.
Once chicken is golden-brown on the bottom, turn it over and continue to cook until cooked through-- this will take 8-10 minutes.
Remove chicken from oil using tongs, and place chicken on cooling rack positioned over cookie sheet.
Place the cookie sheet/cooling rack combo in the oven (DO NOT omit the cookie sheet or the chicken will drip oil into the oven and catch fire) and allow to cook while you finish the remaining chicken pieces in the oil, adding each piece to the tray in the oven as you finish it.
By the time you finish frying all of the pieces, the chicken should only need another 2-5 minutes in the oven. Check for doneness by pricking the thickest part of the leg with a sharp knife-- if juices run clear, you're good to go!
½ c flour
4 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 chicken, cut into pieces
Vegetable or Peanut oil (a fresh bottle, as you're going to need a lot)
German Potato Salad
Combine flour, sugar, 2 tbsp of the bacon drippings, salt, pepper, water, and vinegar.
Stir and cook until thickened.
Add mustard and onions and mix well.
Pour mixture over potatoes, and stir gently just until potatoes are coated.
Sprinkle with pancetta or lardons and garnish with the hard-boiled egg slices.
1 ½ tbsp flour
1 tbsp sugar
6 oz pancetta or lardons, pan-fried until crisp, drippings reserved
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ c water
1/3 c cider vinegar
4 tsp mustard
3 tbsp onions, minced
3 c potatoes, sliced, boiled, and drained
2 eggs, hard-boiled and sliced