July 29: Saint Martha Dragon-Hot Chicken

Martha does not look amused, dragon.

Two Things I recently learned about Saint Martha:

1. According to the Golden Legend, Martha and her siblings went to France to spread the Gospel news…and in the woods, she met a man-eating dragon (see legs above). But when she approached the dragon, it was so gentle and meek to her that she was able to lead him on a leash…to where the townspeople were, who killed the beast. I don’t know how much truth is in this legend, but I can believe that Martha was a woman who could take on daily dragons.

2. She is the patron saint of cooks!

Four tips for this recipe:
1. When you batter the chicken, keep one hand wet and the other dry. By this, I mean that when you place the chicken in the buttermilk mixture, use your left hand only. Then, with your left hand, transfer it into the flour mixture. Use your dry right hand to spread the flour around, and then use that hand to either put chicken back into the buttermilk, or onto a plate for frying.

2. My husband, “Fryer John,” cannot recommend a good meat thermometer enough. It can be hard to tell under crispy fried goodness that your meat is cooked all the way through, and it’s better not to get sick. He also places fully fried chicken into the oven (which was hot enough anyway, after baking the potatoes), so that your chicken stays nice and crispy.

3. The hot-chicken sauce is technically classified at a Medium; but, if 6 tablespoons of cayenne seems like a lot (which, for most people, it can be), you can make a sweeter sauce with more brown sugar, paprika, and chili powder. Decrease cayenne to 1-2 tablespoons.

4. You can season the chicken a day ahead.

Ingredients:

Seasoned chicken:
2 3½–4-lb. chickens, each cut into 10 pieces…or, get a big pack of thighs, legs, or breasts if you have a favorite!
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 tablespoons salt

Buttermilk batter:
4 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk or whole milk
2 tablespoons Tabasco

The floury goodness:
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon paprika

Vegetable oil (for frying; about 10 cups)

For the sauce:
6 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika

Preparation (recipe adapted from Bon Appetit)

1. Season chicken with black pepper and 2 tablespoons. salt in a large bowl. Cover and chill at least 3 hours.

2. Whisk eggs, buttermilk, and hot sauce in a large bowl.

3. Sift flour, 4 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon paprika in another bowl.

4. Heat a large pot, like a Dutch over, over medium-high heat.

5. Pat chicken dry.

6. Working with one piece at a time, place chicken in buttermilk mixture, shaking off excess, then dip in flour mixture.

7. Repeat step 6 and then place finished chicken on a baking sheet or plate

8. Working in several batches and returning oil to medium-high between batches, fry chicken, turning occasionally, until skin is deep golden brown and crisp*

9. Transfer to a baking sheet and place finished pieces in oven.

10. To make the sauce: Whisk cayenne, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika in a medium bowl; carefully whisk in 1 cup of frying oil.

11. Brush fried chicken with spicy oil.

An instant-read thermometer can be inserted into thickest part of the chicken pieces. Look for 160° for white meat and 165° for dark, 15–18 minutes.


Saint Martha, pray for us!

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