As a kid growing up in rural Maryland (Ijamsville to be exact), our Fourth of July celebrations meant packing up our green 1972 Ford LTD wagon with blankets, coolers, and “legal” fireworks while enduring protests from mom about the hassle of it all. We’d always leave a little too late to find a parking space along the road or in the farmer’s field next to the high school, so we always parked a little too far from the main event for our field-mates and us to muster convincing ooooo’s and aaahhhh’s for the big ones. We’d bring cold fried chicken, potato salad, Cokes, and my mom (and sometimes dad) would be armed with Eve and Winston cigarettes respectively. I’m not sure if the chicken was supposed to be cold, but it was cold by the time we ate it. My sister and I would sit on the hood or roof of the wagon, usually jumping off to run between the cars to catch lightning bugs or just to get away from the cigarette smoke and complaining. We usually had sparklers, “snakes” and snap-n-pops but nothing harder. Some families had made the trek to Harpers Ferry, WV to buy fireworks legally, then smuggle them back to Frederick County. Eventually, we’d sneak away from our plot to find better fireworks amongst the crowd, trading our grocery store fireworks for whatever we could find that wasn’t legal (enough sparklers will buy you anything).
For me the best part of July 4thwas July 5th. We lived off Mussetter Road where “Fat Freddy” Mussetter still worked his land. We’d rendezvous with other neighbor kids in one of Fat Freddy’s cornfields to consolidate any explosives we had traded for or somehow acquired the night before. Our neighbor Rod, who was a year older, always had a magnificent stash of M-80’s, bottle rockets, tanks, roman candles, black cats, ladyfingers – and he was willing to share, so long as we kept it dangerous. Throwing lit firecrackers or launching bottle rockets at each other was particularly amusing to Rod, so he’d let us plow through his hardware till it was gone so long as no one lost any limbs…but there were some injuries, I won’t lie.
A Fried Chicken Recipe for July 4th
But ever since my childhood, that traditional family meal has stuck with me. I’ve grown fond of trying to perfect Cold Fried Chicken, so here’s my recipe:
- Two whole chickens – quartered or in 6-8 pieces each
Marinade – whisk all ingredients together
- Buttermilk – 1 quart
- Tabasco – Tbsp
- Rice Wine Vinegar – ½ cup
- Kosher Salt – 2 Tbsp
- Cracked Black Pepper – 2 Tbsp
- Garlic Powder – 1 tsp
Egg Wash – whisk all ingredients together
- Eggs – 8 each
- Heavy cream – 1/2 cup
- Fresh Lemon Juice (yes lemon juice) – from one lemon
Flour for Dredging
- Unbleached all-purpose flour – 4 cups
- Garlic Powder – 1 Tbsp
- Kosher Salt – 2 Tbsp
- Black Pepper – 2 Tbsp
- Peanut Oil – as needed (probably 1 qt)
- Marinate chicken for at least 3 hours if not overnight
- Mix breading and set aside
- Mix egg wash set aside just before breading chicken
- Drain chicken from marinade – don’t wash it off, just let it drain for a few minutes in a colander
- Coat chicken pieces in egg wash
- Dredge in flour mixture. Let rest on a rack at room temperature for 15 minutes
- Coat chicken pieces in egg was again
- Dredge in flour mixture again. Let sit on rack for 20 minutes while you get your oil ready (letting the flour rest makes it clump together a little bit… those become the little fried nubbings of goodness that make fried chicken fried chicken)
- In a deep cast iron skillet or dutch oven, heat peanut oil to 350 degrees
- Fry dark meat for about 14 minutes. Then Fry white meat about 10 minutes. Don’t over crowd the oil because it chills when you add the chicken and needs to recover temp.
- Place on rack and let chicken rest for 10 minutes.
You can eat it hot, but it’s really good once you chill it overnight. Make some potato salad or cucumber and tomato salad, add a bottle of Coke and you‘ll have a really good lunch.
Ray Camillo – Founder & CEO, Blue Orbit Restaurant Consulting