Category Archives: Chicken

Fried Chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House, New Orleans

Willie Mae's Scotch House

Willie Mae’s Scotch House

It’s no secret that I love fried chicken. Some may consider it junk, or not blog worthy. However, I believe fried chicken is a genuine foodie indulgence, when done right, with the right produce. I have yet to write my own fried chicken recipe in fact, I’ve never made it at home. But I’d like to reminisce and share with you a time when I found the best fried chicken I had ever eaten.

I’ve been fortunate enough to sample proper game changing, sit up and take notice cuisine from around the world. However, none of those experiences quite compare to the excitement, tension and anticipation I felt when I found myself in New Orleans last summer on the cusp of sampling not only (supposedly) some of the best fried chicken in Louisiana, but in all of America.

Fried Chicken in New Orleans

Fried Chicken in New Orleans

As massively controversial as it may sound, the best fried chicken I had prior to that moment was sourced from a Beijing branch of a well known international fried chicken brand and subsequently eaten in Tiananmen Square. You may be wondering why would someone who bangs on about culinary tourism eat fried chicken from an American chain in Beijing? That is a very good question. I won’t go into detail but what I will say is that after three weeks in Asia I was craving some Western familiarity, and it was over six years ago. Either way that experience set the benchmark prior to my visit to Louisiana.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House, situated in the Treme district of New Orleans, originally started as a bar in the 1940’s until Willie Mae Seaton started cooking fried chicken. Eventually, the food took over. After the building was destroyed by Katrina in 2005, $200,000 was privately raised and subsequently donated to get the house up and running again and it reopened in 2007, now sitting proud amongst an array of post-Katrina abandoned buildings. Locals say that this place was one of the first buildings to be renovated after the storm, which says something about how important Willie Mae’s is to New Orleaneans.

Like "tempura"

Like “tempura”

It took about 20 minutes from sit down and order to be served a fresh platter of fried chicken. My first thought turned to the size of the actual chicken pieces. The batter looked as though it was double layered, through some sort of double or triple dipping process. My friend Kathryn, a Louisiana gal through and through, described it best: The batter tastes, crunches and crumbles like tempura. In terms of seasoning, I’m convinced that there was just salt and pepper, yet surprisingly not over-salted. So it wasn’t the full-on spice explosion I’d perhaps naively imagined but that’s not to put it down: the chicken itself was substantial, incredibly moist, fall of the bone tender.

Red Beans and Ham Hock

Red Beans and Ham Hock

The platter came with two sides, one of which was a green salad. The other was a red bean dish which was a true revelation. You’re given a choice of red or white beans and I opted for red. A bowl of red bean stew cooked with ham hock was served with the chicken: vastly superior to the usual French fry accompaniment.  Something so simple I’ve been meaning to replicate but haven’t quite got round to doing yet. When I do I will share, because the beans stick in my mind as much as the fried chicken itself.

Green Salad

Green Salad (with cheese…)

The food reaffirmed my love of fried chicken. I may have been wrapped up in the delight of the mere experience of finally eating fried chicken in the Deep South, but more than anything it brought a poignant end to a trip with hundreds of memories. Despite that, I know exactly where I’ll be going on day one of my next trip to New Orleans.

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Tray Baked ‘Jerk’ Chicken, Bacon, Rice and Pea

I’ve only tried making Jerk Chicken once before, having followed Jamie’s 30 minute meals I was foolishly led to believe you could ‘jerk’ a chicken in 30 minutes and it tastes just as good, but it of course epically failed; it turned out to be more of a timid green, sweet honey parsley dipped chicken- and as a result my confidence was shattered.

However yesterday, my day off, having defrosted 5 chicken thighs the previous night and going through the usual notions in my head of what could be the best possible thing I could do with the thighs, I summoned up the courage to make another go of jerking chicken. Having done some research, I found that I didn’t have most of the core ingredients to make it in the ‘traditional’ way. So the following recipe is loosely based on jerk (hence the use of ‘jerk’ in inverted commas) but dominantly based on what ingredients I had available at the time.  It turned out surprisingly well, albeit it was borderline heat intolerable, but still worth it. For the marinade I used one scotch bonnet and one habanero and I was thinking if I made it one more time would I go for both again? I probably would. But if you don’t like heat as much as I do then it’s probably best to go for one or the other. Habanero is probably my favourite chilli right now, and was genuinely delighted recently to read that they are packed with a wide range of health benefits.

As for the boneless chicken thighs, that’s how I like them. I do bone or off the bone. Some dishes lend themselves to not having to faff with the bone, such as this one. I had some fresh chicken stock that needed to be used hence I cooked the rice in the stock which obviously makes the rice taste really good.

I gave this about five hours marinating time, which seemed ample. But next time I’d try it overnight. The chicken releases lots of juices and marinade back in to the dish and this is absorbed by the sweet potato so this is by no means dry, turned out to be quite a saucy dish, and the smoked bacon acts as an overarching smoky, salty flavour enhancer. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos because I ate it all before I remembered to take the photo so you’ll have to take my word for the fact that it looked and tasted great. A thought just occurred that the chicken could also work really well on its own, barbecued.  Now that will be something to look forward to.

Ingredients (feeds 2-3)

5 boneless chicken thighs, preferably free range
3 rashers smoked bacon
1 sweet potato
White rice (preferably Thai jasmine or basmati)
500mls fresh chicken stock (to cook the rice in)
1 can chick peas (to go in rice)

For the marinade:

1 habanero (rehydrated if dried) and 1 scotch bonnet (or one or the other for less heat)
Glug white wine vinegar
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp five spice
1 tbsp soy sauce
Juice 1 lime
2 spring onions, chopped
1 tsp epazote
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt
Pepper

1.      Combine the marinade ingredients in a food processor until they form a smooth paste

2.      Mix the chicken well in the marinade and leave to marinade in the fridge for as long as possible

3.      Once chicken is marinated, chop the sweet potato into small chunks and par boil for 10 minutes

4.      Pre heat the oven to 190’C

5.      Lay the marinade chicken in a ceramic oven dish, add the par boiled sweet potato to the dish and lay out smoked bacon on top. Put in the oven for 45 minutes  to an hour

6.     Meanwhile cook the rice in chicken stock. When the rice is near completion add the chick peas and let them warm up in the rice

Serve the chicken,  sweet potato juices and bacon over the rice and pea.