Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner:
A story about nicknames, fried chicken and sweet revenge.
My husband has this “thing” about nicknaming people, places or things that he has an opinion about (which, let’s face it, is just about everything). And, it’s quite often a condescending one. For example, he calls Wal-Mart “Small Mart,” T.J. Maxx “J.J. Maxx,” and during our Nashville years, he referred to Mrs.Winner’s Fried Chicken chain as “Mrs. Wiener’s.” I have a nickname from the photographer, too, but it’s sweet and I love it. I’ll just keep that one to myself, though (such mystery!). Anyway, for years and years, every time we’d drive by a Mrs. Winner’s restaurant, he would say,”Oh, look! There’s a Mrs. Wiener’s!” He was baiting me, of course, and I took it (of course) and corrected him saying, “Honey, it’s Mrs. Winners, not Mrs. Wiener’s!”
You see, his nefarious scheme was to subliminally plant that erroneous name in my brain so that one day, I would automatically knee-jerk the bastardization and shout it out whenever we’d pass that restaurant; or God forbid, embarrass myself in front of a drive-through chicken connoisseur. That was his plan all along – and, oh, he was patient. Over and over, he would call out “Mrs. Wiener’s!” whenever he’d see one and I would just roll my eyes and say nothing. Pavlov was right for a reason. After years of conditioning, all of his hard work finally paid off one fateful March afternoon on a trip to the mall. There it was, the chicken shack in all its greasy glory, coming up on the right hand side of the street when I blurted out, “Hey! There’s a Mrs. Wieners!” He triumphantly high-fived himself and said, “Yesssss! I did it!” I thought several things at that moment. One, that he should really get another hobby. And, two, that it was only a matter of time before Mister Wiener Schnitzel would get his comeuppance. I, too, could exercise patience and wait for that momentous occasion.
Adam was entertaining a client a few years back and they were driving around, scouting various locations for their upcoming shoot. This person was of a particularly serious bend of mind. It was getting on lunchtime and they decided on fried chicken.
Adam: “Well, do you want to stop at Mrs. Wiener’s for lunch then?”
Client: “Don’t you mean Mrs. Winner’s?” he said punctuating that last part just enough to make Adam feel a bit like a jerk.
When he came home, Adam owned up to the exchange and told me that he was “hung by my own petard.” I’m still laughing about that. You gotta love karma.
And you gotta love fried chicken! Letting the chicken take a nice, long soak in its buttermilk bath makes it supremely tender. If you’re not a fan of standing over the hot oil the entire fry time, you can follow the alternate instructions in the Planning section of the recipe to get the best of both worlds and finish it off in the oven.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Author: Cheryl Beverage Barnes
Recipe type: Chicken, Entrees
- one recipe buttermilk brine
- 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon red cayenne pepper
- vegetable oil, for frying
- ¼ cup bacon drippings, optional
- Marinate the chicken according to the recipe, covered in the refrigerator at least 12 hours. Place the flour, salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne in a paper bag or plastic zipper bag and shake to combine.
- Drain the chicken in a colander but don’t rinse (discard marinade and solids). Working with one piece at a time, place chicken in the flour mixture – shake to coat well. Shake off any excess flour and place the chicken on a wire rack set in a large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces. Let the chicken air dry for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Pour enough oil in a heavy pot or cast-iron skillet to a depth of ½-inch (along with bacon drippings, if using) and heat to 350 degrees on a thermometer. Fry chicken 4 pieces at a time (each batch should be all-white or all-dark meat) skin side down first and cook until golden brown and cooked through, occasionally turning the pieces with tongs (about 12 minutes for breasts and 10 to 14 minutes for drumsticks and thighs – internal temperature should register 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer). Transfer the cooked chicken to the rack and keep warm in the oven. Allow the oil to return to 350 degrees before frying the next batch.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: You can marinate the chicken in as little as 2 hours, but the longer, the better. To oven fry the chicken, fry each piece of chicken until lightly golden on each side, about 5 to 7 minutes total. Transfer the chicken to a wire rack set inside a large rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until cooked through, about 30 minutes.
Product Purity: I keep a jar of bacon drips by my stove (it’s a Southern thing). My opinion that bacon makes everything better is certainly true in this case and takes fried chicken to a whole new level.
Presentation: The second photo of a chicken wing on top of a pool of mashed potatoes makes for a clever and really fun buffet presentation. A buttermilk biscuit on the side doesn’t hurt, either.