Candlelit restaurant with linen napkins and fried chicken
Have you ever gone to a candlelit restaurant with linen napkins and ordered fried chicken? I have. And it was good. Real good.
The restaurant was Maverick, a posh little haunt in San Francisco’s Mission district where 12 friends and I gathered last week to celebrate a birthday. The menu is upscale American cuisine, with a focus on Southern fare, a concept that’s not commonly used in finer dining restaurants. In fact, the restaurant is named for Samuel Maverick, a renegade cattle rancher who refused to brand his herd. Hence, it’s easy to make the correlation between the unique cuisine and the restaurant’s namesake.
I was definitely in the minority at my table, where everyone but myself ordered the pan-fried snapper. Albeit, it was served with tempting little hushpuppies, but I wanted to keep it real with the Southern theme. When I saw the appetizers that were coming to our table: fried green tomatoes and barbecued baby back ribs, the fried chicken sung out to me as the entrée of choice.
Although fried chicken is considered a comfort food, it’s not as simple to make as you may think. Like anything cooked up in the kitchen, there are bad, good and exceptional ways to make fried chicken. I didn’t quite realized the nuances of frying chicken until a friend of mine was creating the menu for her new restaurant and fried copious amounts of chicken to develop her signature version.
There are many things to consider when frying chicken. Crunchy skin or crispy? Thick or thin? Spicy or mild? Cornflakes, cornmeal or flour? Buttermilk marinade or plain? Egg dip or plain flour dredge? Shortening or oil? Paper towel or rack drain? To the connoisseurs, it’s a very serious undertaking.
The fried chicken at Maverick turned out to be some of the best I’ve had. Not only was it cooked to its full juicy potential, the deep golden skin had a shatter so crisp it compelled me to pluck off pieces of the skin and munch them down before I even cut into the meat. In fact, even after I was full and couldn’t eat another piece of chicken, I managed to polish off the seasoned skin before my plate was taken from the table.
Never let the décor of a restaurant dictate your entrée choice. Even when you’re being treated by top-rate service and presented with a cork before enjoying the vintage of the evening, don’t second-guess what you’re palate is craving. Especially if it’s fried chicken.
This blog from the contributors, producers and culinary correspondents at TasteTV at TasteTV.com