Multi-published mystery author Anne Louise Bannon is also the co-author of Howdunit: Book of Poisons http://amzn.to/2adDfl7. She also writes the romantic fiction serial WhiteHouseRhapsody.com. Anne has been a journalist, a TV critic and the founder of several blogs, including, with her husband Michael Holland, the wine education blog OddBallGrape.com. Learn more about Anne and her books at her website.
Fried Chicken and Me
In my new novel Bring Into Bondage, my characters Freddie and Kathy arrive at her parents’ farm in Kansas in the summer of 1925. Yes, there are nefarious goings-on – this is a mystery, after all. But before that, it’s suppertime and Katie Marie Briscow insists on doing up a full meal for her daughter and the supposed friend who brought her out.
It was a fun scene to write, as there’s a lot going on. Katie Marie is busily directing supper preparations, who’s sleeping where, and finding out how her ailing husband is doing, all the while frying chicken.
Here’s the thing. I can’t fry chicken to save my life. I’ve used thermometers, adjusted the temperature, egg-washed, you name it. It either comes out blackened and still raw inside or cooked through and mushy crusted. Blech. I’ve even accosted older women in supermarkets looking for the secret.
Please keep in mind, as a cook, I’m pretty competent, even inspired some days. You want a nice fish meuniere? I’ve got it. Real Bolognese sauce? I’m there with bells on. Need me to whip up a quick dinner with only five ingredients? I won’t even break a sweat.
But to fry chicken, like my mom did, like my grandma did (and probably her mother before her), so not happening.
Okay. I actually have to amend that. Not too long ago, The Beloved Spouse and I were planning our weekly menu and there was a package of boneless chicken thighs in the freezer. So he suggests using it, and I realized I need some photos for this post, so I suggest frying it.
I thawed the thighs in buttermilk, then pulled them out of the fridge almost two hours before dinner. Yeah, that’s right, about two hours before I cooked them. See, the one thing I’d been most worried about trying was starting with the chicken at room temperature. We all know that letting chicken get anywhere within the Danger Zone between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit means you will be doing the bathroom tango with that lovely couple Sam and Ella. Or Salmonella.
Actually, it doesn’t. Truth be told, you generally (though not always) have two hours before the germies get going, and even then, that’s not a guarantee that you’ll get sick. I’m not advocating carelessness here. There are good reasons we take those precautions. But it’s not a death sentence if you let your chicken get to room temp before frying it.
Which is why I tried it.
And have discovered the secret to frying chicken. Seriously. Start with everything room temperature. I floured my chicken thighs, let them rest for a couple minutes, then got out my cast iron pan. I poured in enough oil for it to get about half an inch deep, put the chicken in and started the flame.
Wow. Golden crispy on the outside, moist and done on the inside. How the heck did that happen? This was supposed to be a document of my failure.
Sadly, I’m in worse shape now than ever. Now that I’ve done it once, The Beloved Spouse wants me to try again. And again. And I do need to try the experiment with bone-in pieces from the whole bird. I’m not holding out hope, but it would be nice to be able to make fried chicken (you should pardon the expression) on the fly, just like Grandma did. Just like I described in my novel.
Bring Into Bondage
It's back to the Roaring Twenties with Kathy Briscow and her socialite author boyfriend Freddie Little. Freddie arrives for what he hopes will be a very special date with Kathy only to find her in a tizzy and packing. There's been trouble brewing on the family farm in Hays, Kansas, and now Ma Briscow has summoned Kathy home because her father is deathly ill. It's about the only thing that could get Kathy in Freddie's plane. The two fly to Kansas and are greeted by a shotgun blast.
It's all sorted out very quickly, and Pa is still very sick but has survived the worst. Vandals, however, have been attacking the farm repeatedly. Kathy and Freddie decide to stay and find out what's going on before someone gets hurt even worse than when Pa got dunked in the creek.
Not that Kathy's family doesn't have their own secrets. Her brother Joshua has returned home with a new bride that he forgot to tell his family about. And Kathy's youngest brother, Gamaliel, has an even darker secret. In town, there's nastiness afoot, as Freddie meets a frightened young boy with telltale bruises, and then the boy turns up dead on the Briscow farm.
Kathy and Freddie get caught spooning behind the barn, and Pa Briscow gets his shotgun out. Even the threat of being goosed down the aisle isn't half the trouble Freddie and Kathy face, when there's another body found and Freddie gets arrested for murder.