Helena Litke Longhofer’s Midday Chicken

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Frank Reese says: “I’m fourth-generation poultry farmer on my father’s side, a fifth-generation poultry farmer on my mother’s side, and second-generation German and English stock. It’s a common combination in the Midwest prairie. When the railroad was being built, you could get your own land by clearing it, and many immigrants did just that. Most were big on simple, hearty food. My grandmother and great-grandmother fixed chicken this way for large groups, like the harvesters who came to the early spring and the late fall. Previous generations used lard for the first frying, but I use Crisco with a little pat of butter added for flavor. Over time, the homemade poultry spice blend gave way to a commercially made one, but making a fresh blend gives a better flavor. And you can use it in dressings, to season birds for roasting, even in chicken soup. This chicken recipe comes from a friend’s grandmother. The meat can be served sliced and cold in sandwiches, or hot with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable. You can make Midday Chicken out of just about any breed of chicken, and frozen chicken works real well, so it’s a year-round favorite and oh-so-good.”

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Poultry Seasoning (recipe follows)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon sweet paprika
One 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces and
1 cup vegetable oil or vegetable shortening
2 tablespoons (1⁄4 stick) unsalted butter or lard
1⁄2 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 cup milk

1. Place an oven rack in the center position and
preheat the oven to 325°F. Set a wire rack over a
baking sheet and a roasting rack in a roasting pan,
and line a plate with paper towels.

2. In a shallow dish, whisk together the flour,
poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, and paprika. Coat
each piece of chicken in the flour mixture and
transfer to the wire rack.

3. Heat the oil and butter in a large cast-iron
skillet over medium-high heat until a deep-frying
thermometer registers 365°F to 375°F or a pinch
of flour bubbles and sizzles in the oil. Carefully
add half of the chicken to the skillet and cook for
8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown on both sides.
Transfer the chicken to the paper-towel-lined plate
to drain briefly, then transfer to the roasting pan.
Repeat with the remaining chicken.

4. Carefully strain the oil through a fine-mesh
strainer into a heatproof container. (Discard the oil
when cool.) Return the browned bits in the strainer
to the skillet and add the water. Bring the water
to a simmer, scraping and stirring constantly, and
cook for 1 minute. Pour this mixture, along with
the heavy cream and milk, into the bottom of the
roasting pan. Cover the pan with aluminum foil
and bake for 2 to 2 ½ hours, until the chicken is
tender. Serve.

Serves 4 to 6

Poultry Seasoning

3 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons dried marjoram
1 tablespoon dried savory
1 tablespoon dried sage
2 teaspoons celery seeds
1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
1⁄2 teaspoon ground fennel
1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, stir together all of the ingredients.
The spice blend can be stored in an airtight
container for up to three months.

Makes about 2⁄3 cup

From ONE BIG TABLE by Molly O’Neill. Copyright © 2010 by Molly O’Neill. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc, NY