By Austin Leslie, fry cook, Jacques-Imo's, New Orleans, GQ
Frying chicken is the culinary equivalent of shaving with a straight razor: Anybody can take a whack at it, but with an unsteady hand it's a messy, dangerous affair.
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Austin Leslie, a New Orleans food-world fixture for more than forty years, says most people are scared of the fryer. Scared of the skillet. So they stand wa-a-a-y back here, he says, illustrating with an invisible chicken leg. That way the grease won't pop 'em.
Chicken falling from a height of even an inch or two loses its coating of egg wash and flour in the splashdown. Then you're working with inferior chicken. I never drop the chicken, Leslie says. Even when I'm angry, I never drop the chicken.
Serves two to four
• 1 1/2 cups peanut oil, for frying
• 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
• 1 cup water
• 1 large egg, lightly beaten
• Salt and freshly ground white pepper
• 1 chicken (3 1/2 pounds), rinsed, patted dry and cut into 8 pieces
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
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In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil (it should be about an inch deep) over a medium flame to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, water and egg. Season generously with salt and white pepper. Season the chicken with salt and white pepper, then dip each piece into the milk mixture and coat it with the flour.
Place the chicken in the skillet (don't crowd the pieces) and cook over moderate heat, turning often, until golden and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a rack to drain.
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