I have come to the conclusion that the definition of comfort food is fried food. Think about it, nothing can make a bad day better than finding a big plate of fried chicken waiting for you, right? I guess it’s a good thing that not everyday is a bad day, because fried chicken everyday would make for some jiggly bits, and I am not talking about the chicken. “Yu” know what I mean? UGH, but I loved fried chicken, who doesn’t love fried chicken? If you say you don’t you lie!
On Sunday afternoons my family would go for long drives through the country and along the coast. One hour we would be up in the cold brisk mountains and the next we were driving along the coast with the smell of the sea in the air. We would have whatever local radio station we could pick up playing and 9 times out of 10 my sister was passed out in the back seat. When lunch time would come around we would wake my sister up, who would usually be grumpy and crabby with a side of drool, and pull over to the first local food stand that we stumbled upon. These stands would always be nestled in the trees up in the mountains or between the palms along the shore. The smell of deep fried goodness would strike you as soon as you walked up. Behind the counter you wouldn’t see the traditional restaurant deep fryer that you would see here in The States. They would do it old school with a large kettle filled with oil sitting over an open fire.
One of the dishes that I loved to order was “chicharrones de pollo con mofongo”, fried chicken with mashed plantains. This chicken is crispy on the outside, juice and tender on the inside. Everything you could ask for in a fried chicken. Everything you could ever want from a comfort food.
Gather together the ingredients for seasoning, white vinegar, olive oil, peppercorns, orange juice, salt, oregano and 3 cloves of garlic.
Combine all the ingredients in a mortar and pestle or a pilon, which is what we call it in Puerto Rico.
Take out your frustrations and mash it all together, set aside. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle you can do this in a food processor.
Take 3 lbs of chicken trim off any excess skin, but do not remove the skin. Cut the chicken into chunks leaving the bone in.
Using your biggest knife and cut into the flesh until you reach the bone, lay a towel over the back of the knife and pound it until it cuts through the bone. Do not saw into the bone because it can cause it to splinter.
Lay the chicken in a glass dish (do not use metal as it could react with the vinegar) and pour seasoning over the chicken, massage the seasoning evenly into the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or over night.
When ready to prepare chicken, heat enough oil to just cover chicken in a large pot or dutch oven to 400 degrees.
While the oil heats combine flour, sazon and pepper in a large zip loc bag, shake to combine ingredients.
In batches, place chicken in flour bag and shake until well coated.
Shake off excess flour and place on baking grid until all chicken pieces are coated.
When oil reaches 400 degrees, fry chicken pieces in batches for 3 minutes.
Remove from oil and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
Lower the heat of the oil to 300 degrees and place all chicken back in the pot, cover and fry for 10 minutes.
Remove chicken from oil and drain in paper towel lined plate.
Raise the heat again to 400 degrees, fry the chicken in batches until dark golden brown, without burning.
Remove chicken from oil for the last time and drain on paper towel lined plate. Ready…..set…..EAT!
A few things about this fried chicken. Could you fry it without chopping it into chunks, yes but it does take longer to cook. The goal with this chicken is when you fry it you get a crisp close to crispy pork rinds. I do not recommend using boneless chicken because the bone is what make the meat juicy and tender. Removing the bone can cause your chicken to dry out. Finally don’t skimp on the 3 time fry, it is essential to getting that perfect crisp to the skin. Mmmmm….
Is this dish a little bit of work, yes. Is is worth it, absolutely!
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