Grandmother’s (updated) Sunday Supper
Back in the day, a fried chicken supper was a special occasion usually reserved for Sundays. Most weekends, grandmother went to the neighborhood market and picked out two plump hens at the butcher counter. She had them cut it into pieces that always included three portions of breast meat — one being the coveted wishbone.
At home, the chicken was placed in the refrigerator along with some fresh string beans (from the green grocer) and bacon. After church, grandma would tie on her apron and begin to cook. First she cleaned and snipped the beans and put them in a pan of water. Then she diced some salt pork and added it to the beans; this combination cooked all afternoon. Today’s cooks say this was cooking the beans to death but we didn’t know any better. We ate ‘em anyway.
After a short nap, she and mother began preparing the birds. First they set the cleaned giblets to boiling in a pan on the stove and then they used tweezers to pull pinfeathers from the skin. Then the pieces were washed, patted dry and set aside to begin frying about an hour before supper. In the meantime, they peeled and cubed potatoes for mashing and checked the Jell-O salad to make sure it was jelled.
A large cast iron skillet was used to fry the chicken (always in Crisco) and another skillet was used to bake either corn bread or biscuits. After each piece of chicken cooked, it was set aside on a pan in the warming oven while the gravy was prepared. The gravy was made using the chicken drippings — flour and whole milk with an added dash of salt and pepper. Delicious!
I still make fried chicken suppers but in deference to healthier eating habits, I have tweaked grandma’s recipes just a little. First, I skin the chicken pieces, wash and pat them dry before cooking. I’ve done this for so long that skinless chicken is the new normal. Second, I no longer use solid shortening. I use vegetable or canola oil instead. And instead of salt pork, I dice and brown a little bacon and onion to flavor my green beans. Three or four slices are plenty.
All potatoes are not created equal. Yukon Golds are my favorites for fluffy mashed potatoes served with gravy but they are hard to find. Russets are the next best choice but they easily turn to mush so be sure to not overcook. A good rule of thumb for deciding how many to cook is to use one medium potato per person and “one for the pot.”
Now, I often hear people say, “I can’t make gravy.” I say, “Oh, yes, you can.” Just use low-fat milk in place of cream. Try these recipes and see what you think. Enjoy!
2 chickens, cut in 6-8 pieces each, skin removed
2 cups buttermilk (more if needed)
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon seasoned salt (I use Lawry’s)
1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper
Vegetable oil (enough for 1/2” deep in frypan)
Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour the buttermilk over them. Allow to sit overnight in the refrigerator (if short of time, an hour or so or until ready to cook will be okay).
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Combine the flour and seasonings in a large bowl. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk, allow excess to drip into bowl and coat each piece with the flour mixture. Set aside.
Heat oil in a large, deep frypan. Working in batches, place several pieces of chicken in hot oil and fry about 3 min. on each side until the coating is light golden brown. Remove the chicken from oil and place each piece on a sheet pan covered with foil. Before frying the next batch be sure the oil is hot, adding oil if needed. When all the chicken is fried, bake 30-45 min. or until no longer pink inside.
1-2 pounds fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
2-4 slices bacon strips, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Place beans in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon and onion over medium heat until bacon is lightly browned and onion translucent. Add to beans and simmer to desired crispness. Or cook them to death like we used to do! Drain well, season and serve hot. Serves 4-8
2 pounds Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered.
1/2 cup low fat milk, warmed
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
Place potatoes in saucepan, adding enough water to cover. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer until soft, about 20 min. Drain well and return to saucepan. Add butter and coarsely mash the potatoes, a few lumps are okay. Gradually add the warm milk to desired consistency. Stir in salt and serve hot with gravy. Serves 4-6.
See note below before proceeding
1/4 cup pan drippings
1/4 cup flour (use leftover from chicken flouring)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups milk
Add flour to hot pan drippings; blend and cook until light brown, scrapping browned bits from bottom of skillet. Using a whisk, gradually stir in milk. Stir until smooth and thickened; add seasonings. Serve immediately.
Note: This is not an exact recipe. If you don’t have enough pan drippings, add some butter. You may have to adjust the oil to flour and milk ratio. For each cup of MEDIUM gravy use 2 tablespoons fat, 2 tablespoons flour and 1 cup liquid. Good luck!
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