Nothing pleases me more than a Sunday's drive up Alba Road in Ben Lomond on a warm sunny day.
The route takes me to the Quail & Thistle Tearoom and farm owned by Danny and Cindy Fairhurst-Thorpe, who are members of the Santa Cruz Mountain Gourmet Dinner Club.
On a recent visit, I was appalled to learn that their chicken coop had been raided by an unknown night marauder who left half of their flock dead and no visible signs of how the dastardly deed was performed. I was upset by this happening, as those chickens, as well as the couple’s goats and other animals, were part of the farm's ambiance.
On our way home, hubby Norm and I reminisced about our chickens and Rooster Henery, named after the child's cartoon, Henery the chicken hawk.
The year was 2002. I announced to Norm that I had ordered a carton of baby chicks; they were to arrive in a few days, and they were nonreturnable. That was the only way I could be assured those 24 babies would remain mine. My plan was to have fresh, plump, fried chicken once a week.
Just as I figured, Norm was furious.
"Not to worry — we'll put them in the garage on a card table in a big open box, hang a light overhead, and watch them grow," I said. “You'll learn to love them.”
Sure enough, the chicks arrived, and, according to plan, we stood back and watched all 24 of them in their box, warmed by the light above. Norm had a smile on his face.
That night, I had a heart attack, and in that instant, Norm became the primary caregiver to twenty-four baby chicks.
While I was recovering from surgery, he was attempting to recover those chicks from our car tops, as well as from every corner of our garage. Those chicks grew as fast as Norm's anger. Within days, a chicken house was assembled and a chicken yard was enclosed, with only one hitch. An opening the size of a 3-week-old chicken was left unsecured, and, alas, more than half of our precious flock disappeared during the night. A pile of feathers left by the coyote told the story.
As the chicks grew, it became apparent that of the 12 chickens left behind, only five were hens. In a hen house, there is no room for seven roosters. Six had to go.
"Kill my chickens?" I screamed. Absolutely not. It seemed I had fallen into the old trap that you cannot eat a chicken you have named.
We found homes for the roosters, and only Henery remained.
Henery ruled the roost. He attacked everyone who went near his hens; he crowed whenever we had company on our deck; he was a loud, majestic, beautiful rooster. I loved Henery.
Norm did not.
In 2004, we made that decision so many make — we moved to be near our children. And Henery? He moved with his girls to a neighbor's chicken yard, where he is living still.
The following fried chicken recipe is what I call Perfectly Fried Chicken.
The buttermilk marinade is a must-do. It is here that the acidic buttermilk-salt combo tenderizes the meat without turning it mushy.
The "pat on" method results in a crisp and crusty outer coating with a perfectly moist interior.
- Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PERFECTLY FRIED CHICKEN
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
¾ teaspoon paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
¼ cup buttermilk
1¾ cup vegetable oil
Eight hours in advance, prepare Buttermilk Marinade and marinate chicken according to recipe.
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
In large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Add buttermilk, tossing with fingers until small clumps form.
Add chicken one piece at a time, pressing the batter onto each piece until well-covered.
In an 11-inch skillet, heat oil to 375 degrees.
Add chicken, skin side down. Fry 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
When golden brown, transfer chicken to a wire rack inside a rimmed pan.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until thighs register 175 degrees.
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 dash Tabasco sauce
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne
3½ pounds chicken pieces, bone-in, breast cut into quarters
In a bowl or Ziploc bag, mix all ingredients except chicken. Add chicken pieces and marinate 8 hours.
Remove chicken; discard marinade.