On our Southern Road Trip we had fried chicken for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
And before you exclaim – ‘for breakfast?!’ – I have to ask, why are we in the UK fine with fried bacon and sausage for breakfast, but not chicken? I’m not sure I see a difference.
Unlike in London I haven’t seen that many fried chicken shops in DC – but maybe that’s because I’ve been in the wrong areas (ie – gentrified). But there’s always been plenty of opportunity to get fried chicken in diners, restaurants, and one place I really want to try that specializes in only chicken and donuts (not together, but maybe they fry them in the same oil?). One place that R had been for a fried chicken breakfast is actually not available in DC, and that’s Chick fil A (yes, that’s really how they spell it). This small chain can be found all over Virginia but for political reasons (so I’m told) can only be sourced in the DC metro area from a food truck at lunchtime.
We were now in the South though – where Chick fil A started out (Georgia) – and the chicken options were plentiful. So this is a run down of our chicken experiences on our road trip through Tennessee and Georgia. (South Carolina was a whole different culinary experience – more about this another time.)
- Chicken and gravy on biscuits
Biscuits are like fluffy, soft scones, which makes a nice contrast to the crunchy fried chicken. Gravy is also not what you think, but more a savory (maybe onion flavored?) white sauce – really good. Here’s a recipe for it that I’m thinking of trying: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/homemade-gravy-recipe.html
- Chick fil A breakfast sandwich
I finally experienced it! I know this chain has some pretty right-wing religious views, but I can’t help liking the food and the advertising concept.
Chick fil A’s chicken is always juicy and high quality. And their biscuits were beautiful: warm, buttery, light and crumbly. I added barbecue sauce, but really needn’t have.
- Nashville Hot Chicken
We had heard about this Nashville dish from a friend who was born in the South. I think they marinade the chicken in spices, add a hot paste (made mainly of cayenne pepper) either before or after frying it, and then serve it on white bread. (Here’s one recipe, but I imagine there are many versions.) We went to Hattie B’s hot chicken in midtown and while we had to queue for about 45 minutes it was absolutely worth it. Used to Americans being a bit soft when it comes to spice level, I went for the hot option, and R went for ‘damn hot’. They certainly lived up to their names, and we were glad we’d avoided the even hotter option (‘Shut the cluck up!!!’) which I imagine really does require its ‘burn notice’ warning. We were really glad of the refreshing and creamy sides of vinegar coleslaw and pimento mac and cheese. We also got a pitcher of beer, which helped. Overall we really enjoyed our meal, especially as we got to eat outside on a deck, which weirdly reminded me of the lobster shack we’d eaten in in Maine. I guess there was a similar rough and ready, casual vibe about them both, which I love.
- Southern picnic
My Atlanta friend thoughtfully put this together for us. She served fried chicken alongside pimento cheese, potato salad, deviled eggs and watermelon – perfect. She also introduced us to the concepts of putting salt on watermelon (not sure I saw a difference) and peanuts in coca-cola (you really have to try it – add about 4 in a small cup).
To try at home:
For those looking to create some of these dishes at home, you could probably also make a few of them with the healthier baked ‘fried’ chicken: this one looks good to me.
One thing we still haven’t tried is that wonderfully American dish of chicken fried steak. They obviously thought, well, fried chicken is so well-loved that they thought why not treat steak that way too? If, like me, you’re curious, here’s the recipe I’m going to try to make if ever I get off my post road trip diet!