Remembering my Nana

My grandmother was an old-time cook.  Meat, potatoes, a vegetable.  Bacon and eggs for breakfast.  I lived with her and my grandfather for five years.  The only time she didn’t cook was Sunday evening.  That was the evening for Lawrence Welk, popcorn and apples and the Wonderful World of Disney.

Sunday dinners tended to be wonderful, served on her china and ready to be served when we returned from Church.  Pot Roast, chicken, and casseroles.  On occasion my grandmother, my Nana made pan-fried chicken.  It’s tedious, takes a great deal of work and so we often did not have it.

To this day, I love pan-fried chicken.  Nana often made it in the summer for picnics when we would go to the park or the lake and it was accompanied by coleslaw and potato salad.  When we stayed home, it was made with mashed potatoes and cream gravy.  It wasn’t fancy, she didn’t do all the things you often read about, she dredged the chicken in seasoned flour and fried it.  To this day, I can not fry chicken and smell the searing meat without thinking of her.

So tonight, I pan-fried chicken.  I was supposed to have some folks over for dinner, at the last-minute no one could come.  I wasn’t devastated, it’s been a long day, but I had chicken and something needed to happen with the chicken.  Late afternoon I said to Andrew, “I’m hungry, I probably out to do something with that chicken.  How about I fry chicken?”   HIs eyes lit up, “Fried chicken????”  And then I said, “how about fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy?”   He was sold.

It is not gourmet.  It is simple, down home country cooking like my grandmother used to cook.  I fry chicken once, maybe twice a year.  Always pan-fried and ALWAYS with mashed potatoes and cream gravy.

The recipe is not difficult.  My Nana didn’t “double dip.”   She dredged the chicken in seasoned flour and popped it in hot oil or Crisco on the stove.  I put about one and a half cups of flour in a pie plate, added salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.  Mixed it together, salted and peppered the chicken pieces.  Dredged them in the flour mixture then sprinkled a good dose of paprika on the top and put them in the hot oil

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I fried the top, the bottom and then the sides. It takes time and then I cover the chicken for a time to make sure it is cooked through. Forty five minutes to an hour should cook chicken to the place it needs to be done.

I take it out of the oil and drain it on paper towels.

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The potatoes were already cooking. I had opened a can of green beans I had canned last year. As the chicken was draining, I poured off most of the grease, leaving the good brown bits in the pan and added the flour I had used to dredge the chicken. I did that knowing it would be heated to a high enough temperature to deal with the raw chicken issues.

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This needs to be “cooked” for two or three minutes to get the raw flour flavor out of it and then you can add milk. This is the only time I make cream gravy. I always do a butter/flour roux and then add stock. But the cream gravy takes me back to my childhood and my grandmother and somehow makes the fried chicken taste the way it is supposed to taste.

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We mashed the potatoes, and we were ready to eat. My Nana wasn’t the kind of country cook many speak about. She embraced convenience foods early and with gusto. However, on occasion she went back to the farm and made meals I still remember. Fried Chicken is one of those meals that remind me of home, of love, of family and of a woman who took in four kids and a mom at seventy years of age and made of the best of it. She and my grandfather in so many ways are my saints and I am grateful for all their love and faith that believed in me and my siblings.

This is what dinner looked like tonight. I think Nana would have been proud.

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