Since we're in full-blown Oscars mode right now, I thought it would be fun to highlight a few different movies, both nominees and past winners, and see what dishes I could come up with for TV Dinners. Today I decided to start things off with something from one of my favorite movies of last year, Little Miss Sunshine.
Remember the scene near the beginning where the entire family gets together for a lovely dinner? You know the one where mom Sheryl brings home an enormous bucket of takeout chicken, which causes Grandpa to burst, "Every night it's the f**king chicken!" (if you don't remember, then checkout the clip after the jump). Well, if you're a keen viewer, you might have noted that the "f'ing chicken" came from a place called "Dinah's." Now for the interesting part, although the scene takes place in Albuquerque, Dinah's is actually a small chain with locations in Southern California only. Now I've never been there, but from what I understand they have some fantastic fried chicken. Unfortunately, their secret recipe (which according to their box is "traditionally southern and so free from cooking oil) is kept under lock and key, so we won't be able to have the real thing, but I do have a really tasty one you could make instead.
For a great fried-chicken recipe and a video clip of Grandpa's colorful feelings toward the chicken,
3 cups flour
3 tbsp fine ground cornmeal (optional)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 cups milk or buttermilk
1 tbsp tabasco sauce (optional)
1 (or 2) 3 to 3 1/2 pound chickens - each cut into 8 or 10 pieces with skin
vegetable oil, lard, solid shortening -- about 1-1/2 cups
1/4 cup bacon fat (optional)
Blend flour, salt and pepper in a paper bag, tasting for balance. Have milk in a shallow bowl. Use an electric fry pan or a large, heavy skillet, cast iron is best. Fat should come no more than halfway up the side of the chicken pieces. This isn't deep frying. Start with about 3/4 inch. Heat to 375 degrees.
Figure how many chicken pieces will fit without crowding in the pan. If possible fry white and dark meat separately for best cooking. Dip chicken pieces in milk, then shake in flour bag, shaking off excess. Arrange in the hot fat. Turn several times in cooking for even coloring. Fry about 15 to 20 minutes to golden and crisp, turn with tongs (don't pierce chicken as juices spatter in the fat). Lower heat slightly to 350 degrees and cook another 15 to 20 minutes. Test for doneness with instant reading thermometer -- should be 175 to 180 degrees. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot or cold.
Note: I dug up this recipe when hunting for Dinah's Fried Chicken (as featured in Little Miss Sunshine), if anyone has the recipe for Dinah's, please drop me a line!