the kitchen was warm and inviting when I strolled casually through. There was soiled plates and flat ware in bus tubs in front of the cavernous dish machine. The dinner rush was over and the kitchen was on the downhill side of the evening. The cooks and chefs were winding down and beginning the clean up of the evening. I had just started the 7pm to 3am shift and was foraging in the kitchen for dinner.
“Hey chef,” I said and waved to Chef Bill behind the line. “What’s on the menu for the working man?”
“Well…” he paused and looked around. “Not much this time of night, I can make you a burger and some fries or….” he looked at the tall hot box that stood next to the buffet door. “You could help yourself.”
I nodded and grabbed a clean plate from the top shelf and a napkin rolled set of silverware. The buffet hot box was loaded with sumptuous trays of delicious food, mashed potatoes, beans, biscuits and all manner of outstanding southern style home cooking. It was an easy choice for me to make…or anyone else for that matter. The buffet hotbox was a Pandora’s box of goodness. I opened the box and was immediately overpowered by the smells. Biscuits mixed with steamed veggies, those combined aromas fought with and mingled with potatoes and sweet cornbread. But one smell overpowered them all. My nose led me to the sumptuous culprit. There on the bottom of the hotbox, hidden under a pan of that sweet corn bread, were three pans. Three pans that hid their delicious contents under a sheet of tin foil, sat there teasing me. I smiled, oh yes, I did smile, and knelt before the box like a warrior kneeling to receive his knight hood. With a grin that felt lascivious I peeled the tin foil back and revealed the object of my belly’s desire.
There, in the pan, was a pile of fried chicken.
I know what you’re thinking…”What’s so special about fried chicken?”
I suppose that is a matter of opinion. But most folks will tell you that the chicken at the Hilltop House had a certain special something. They would come for miles for a plate of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. The hotel would regularly host tour buses that were in Harpers Ferry with one tour group or another. These buses became known as “Chicken Buses” because they would come for the fried chicken lunches we served them. The local civic clubs would hold their meetings there and every single one of them would request a fried chicken dinner. The chicken at the Hilltop was renowned in the county and was a staple on the menu from the inception of the hotel.
It still strikes me when I see folks visiting the old Hilltop, they still talk about the restaurant. And of course they always, always mention that Golden Fried Chicken.
I am presenting here MY recipe for fried chicken. I learned from the masters how to fry it to a prefect crisp golden brown, juicy and tender, this recipe never fails to satisfy.
Big Jim’s Down Home Fried Chicken
- 5-6 cups bread crumbs
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-2 tablespoons of celery salt
- 3 teaspoons of finely ground pepper
- 2 1/2 teaspoons of onion powder
- 2 1/2 teaspoons of poultry seasoning
- 3-4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- and of course….chicken
- in a large bowl (or resealable bag) combine the bread crumbs and spices until mixed and even.
- in a shallow bowl beat eggs
- set up a three stage dredge in one bowl have the flour, in another have the eggs and in a third the seasoned bread crumbs
- dip chicken in flour, coating it lightly
- dip floured chicken in the egg wash quickly
- drop chicken into breadcrumbs and coat completely
- in a deep fat fryer (or large 10′-12′ skillet) heat oil to approximately 375 degrees
- SLOWLY drop chicken into fryer, several pieces at a time.
- if using a skillet, fry 7-9 minutes on each side until golden brown and juices run clear.
- if using a deep fryer, heat for about 12 minutes
- drain on paper towel