Chicken: The Soul Of Creole Cooking
Scroll down for a list of chicken specialists.
In the 1960s and before, fried chicken was considered a gourmet dish, featured with total respect in fancy food magazines. Then, just as they did to the hamburger, the mass-production restaurants moved in on fried chicken and ruined its reputation. Fortunately, good fried chicken still exists in a few restaurants.
The most important criterion of fried chicken excellence is the crust. It admits of a lot of variety. Different from most fried foods, a crispy coating on fried chicken is not necessarily a good thing--although it might well be. The best fried chicken I've had in my life had a rather thin, non-crisp coating. What it did have, though, was an interesting flavor dominated by herbs, with pepper as a background flavor. Much of that flavor comes from marinating with buttermilk, mustard, beer, and a million other ideas.
Great fried chicken comes to the table hot and greaseless. Achieving that requires cooking chicken to order. Problem: that takes about twenty minutes, impossibly long for people who want fast food. But when fried chicken is held under a heat lamp--as it is in most restaurants--it gets soggy and greasy. Even Colonel Sanders knew that. As late as the Sixties (before it was bought by Pepsi) Kentucky Fried Chicken was fried to order. They did it in a pressure cooker to speed things up, but they did make it specially for you. Just as most of the places listed below do. The list also includes restaurants that cook chicken other ways--notably stewed and rotisserie roasted.
Click on any of the restaurants listed below for a detailed, updated review.