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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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RV cooking: Frying chicken in our tiny kitchen was challenging

Frying chicken in a tiny RV kitchen was a hot mess, but the final results were pretty tasty. (Leslie Kelly)
Frying chicken in a tiny RV kitchen was a hot mess, but the final results were pretty tasty. (Leslie Kelly)

I'm a huge fried chicken fan even though it's a huge hassle to make it.

The recipe I typically use is a two-day process that involves brining and then marinating the bird in buttermilk before frying it in a combination of oil, lard and rendered country ham. Yes, it sounds decadent and, believe me, it is. I've made this brilliant bird dozens of times for charity fundraisers and dear friends. I've competed with it in a fried chicken throw down, only to place second to a chef who grew up in South Carolina. 

So, when I got a sudden craving for some fried chicken on a recent Sunday, I took a few shortcuts. I brined a bunch of drumsticks for a few hours, dredged them in flour and some Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. I was first introduced to that fiery salt by my dear friend Laurie, who was from Louisiana and who is the best darned cook. We worked together way back in the day at Eastern Washington University and I think of her fondly when reaching for that exceptional ingredient.

Instead of lard, I had some Benton's bacon grease I set aside after frying up that incredible smoky pork belly on Christmas Eve. I added a combo of canola, olive oil and a heaping tablespoon of bacon grease to my trusty cast iron skillet. And... sizzle, spat, in goes the chicken, lid on top to contain the hot mess. 

There's no way around it, frying chicken is messy business and slightly dangerous. With the lid on, the condensation makes the grease sputter even more furiously. Take it off to turn the pieces and sure enough, there goes the smoke detector. Man, that thing is loud. 

I have developed a technique for clearing the haze, frantically waving a tea towel back and forth. Before you squawk at me, yes, I turned on the overhead fan first, and opened the door. Something about the fumes from the cast iron skillet stirs up the sensors on that sensitive detector.

And yet, 30 minutes later, I've got a plate of crispy bronze legs. Yes, I know a couple pieces in the photo look scorched, but they're perfectly fine. It wasn't quite as special as the more traditional recipe, but it was still pretty darned good along some slaw and a potato salad. Bonus! I had leftovers and there's nothing quite like cold fried chicken for breakfast. Really, try it.

Leslie Kelly
Leslie Kelly is a freelance writer.