Warm Days + Cold Chicken

A saying we have in the restaurant business is “Hot food, hot. Cold food, cold. “ It’s a common-sense restaurant rule: hot food tastes better hot, cold food tastes better cold. It’s more than a industry standard and more of a universal law, right? But as with everything, there is an exception: cold fried chicken!

At Hagy’s Catfish Hotel we always served delicious hot, steamy, crisp right out of the fryer fried chicken. It was what I grew up on, and the standard by which I measure all other chickens.

It wasn’t until I had the pleasure to go to one of my wife’s family reunions on a hot July day that I experienced cold picnic fried chicken. We gathered at an old family farmhouse in Mississippi. We had driven miles down a dusty gravel country road to get to the massive one level farmhouse with a big wrap around front porch. The Southern home was surrounded by lush yard, heavily shaded from huge old trees. The front parlor greeted us with a ceiling so tall it made the entire space seem massive and a linoleum floor that at one time would have been a stylish. There was no air conditioning, but rather a large attic fan drawing in air from all the open windows. The breeze was the only air we needed though as no one stayed inside anyway. We all spread out outside on the porch and at card tables with folding chairs in the yard.   

The centerpiece of the entire scene was a 30-foot table filled with food under a large oak tree. There was potato salad, cole slaw, carrot and raisin salad, turnip greens, pole beans, snap peas, casseroles of every variety, cornbread, yeast rolls, and fresh churned butter. You needed a different plate for dessert as the variety of pies and cakes perhaps surpassed the bounty of idyllic Southern sides. The hero of that memorable table was the large platter of cold golden fried chicken! This was decades ago, but the taste of that amazing chicken is still on the tip of my tongue. It wasn’t your steamy, too hot to eat chicken. The temperature somehow allowed the chicken to remain crispy on the outside while locking in the moisture of the bird to be enjoyed with every bite. The most noticeable thing was you tasted the chicken in all its glory, and, guess what – it was easier to eat too.  

Our brand new Spring Fling Picnic package at Chef’s Market was inspired by this very experience. The package comes with enough food for six: fried chicken – served cold, homemade rolls, three cold accompaniments of your choice, your choice of chocolate or strawberry whoopie pies, iced tea and our delicious Tango fruit tea are all packed in a seagrass woven basket that is yours to keep. 

There’s nothing like eating “al fresco” cold fried chicken on a warm day to create your own memories delicious enough to last a lifetime!

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