After four months or so of having whole chickens from the farm taking up a sizable portion of the commissary freezer, I finally managed to work my way down to the last one. I had been saving the final bird to try out one recipe and one recipe only: fried chicken. Earlier readers may recall my first homemade fried chicken experience a few months ago - that time involved a store-bought, already-disassembled chicken and my family's house recipe, cooked using a combo of electric frypan and oven. This time, I was determined to butcher the whole chicken myself into 10 pieces, then use a deep-fry only method as outlined by Tyler Florence in his "Ultimate" cookbook. Since I don't have a deep fryer (and even if I did, it probably wouldn't be large enough to hold 10 pieces of chicken), a large stock pot (8 quart, in my case) would serve as a surrogate. This required me to go out and purchase a clip-on candy/deep fry thermometer from Target (it was only about 10 bucks) so I could regulate the frying temperature, which I'd heard is very important as the oil temp fluctuates during cooking.
First up was cutting the chicken. Lucky for me, my ever-trusty Joy of Cooking had detailed instructions and diagrams for butchering the bird - as a result, this part went pretty smoothly (I had purchased a back-up chicken just in case). Most of my pieces, with the exception of one breast, actually looked like I thought they were supposed to. Next, I added a gallon of peanut oil to the stock pot and began heating it up to 350F (you'd be surprised how difficult it was to find a gallon of peanut oil - Large Corporate Grocery had it for $20, Target was out, my local ethnic grocery only had quart bottles, and Wal-Mart had it for about $12). This step took a lot longer than I had anticipated, about 40 minutes on medium-high in total. While waiting, I had time to prep the herbs/garlic, marinate the chicken in lemon juice, and coat the chicken pieces in flour, egg, olive oil. When the oil was finally ready, into the bubbling cauldron went the chicken, and down went my fry temperature (to about 290F, to be exact). My recipe told me to maintain the oil at 350F, but try as I might, I couldn't get it back up above 320F for the duration of the cooking (I now understand why people use electric fryers for this). Given my track record with undercooked chicken, I left it in there for an extra 5 minutes just to be safe.
All in all, despite my temperature issues, the end result was pretty good. Mrs. Hackknife declared this fried chicken recipe superior to the first one (shhh....don't tell my dad) and even Hackknifette managed to gobble down some chicken pieces (as usual, Hackknife Jr. poignantly declined). After some on-line sleuthing, I determined that the peanut oil could be re-used a few times instead of just dumping it down the drain, so I made good use of my gravy separator to filter the solids out of the oil and put it back in the jug for next time (this ended up being a little messy w/o a funnel - I'll have to look for a cheap one at the giant convent garage sale down the street in a few weeks).