Mom's Fried Chicken


I work out twice a week with a trainer whose name is Robbie and usually as I am grunting and sweating and trying to do pushups and mountain climbers and crunches and generally trying to work off the calories, what do we talk about?


We spend endless amounts of time talking about what we like to eat, what we ate, what we will eat.

We ask about what we’ll be cooking that night. Or on the coming weekend. Or for someone’s birthday or Mother’s Day or what have you.

So the other day we got to talking about Judgement Day. You hear it on some radio stations and there are signs on the highway that Judgement Day is coming on May 21st.

Naturally this seemed like the perfect opportunity to talk about what we would eat if it were our last day on earth.

Wow, getting it down to one thing is too difficult, so we decided it would be a whole meal, plus maybe a cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvre and also dessert. We even talked about what alcoholic beverage we would choose and whether we would close it all out with a cigarette, or something.

The only thing we both picked were franks-in-blankets. Which is good, I have a box of them in my freezer.

But we spent an hour on this topic and I started thinking that if I could have anything, it would be my mother’s fried chicken, made the way she made it. Only she isn’t here to make it, which is maybe why I miss it so much.

What made her fried chicken so special is the simple coating, just seasoned flour, and the cooking fat: vegetable shortening. Yep, that awful stuff that clogs your arteries. But hey, if it’s the last day on earth, what’s the difference? 

One other thing my mother did to make her fried chicken taste so good — after she coated the pieces with flour, she let them air dry for a while. That way the coating sticks and doesn’t fall off in the pan.

The result? Crispy, dark golden brown, juicy, sumptuous chicken.

She made this dish often and I sometimes long for it. I don’t remember when I last cooked it, but it’s time now.

My mother used a whole chicken but I am going to cook only the wings. If it’s Judgement Day why bother with the meat? It’s really the skin and fried outside I like. And there’s that fabulous little bit of meat in that center wing part. My mother always gave that part to me and told me it was the softest, sweetest part of the chicken.

She was right.

Good memories. Good chicken. Here’s the recipe. You can use vegetable oil instead of shortening.

Mom’s Fried Chicken

  • 12 chicken wings, cut into pieces
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • shortening or vegetable oil

Rinse the chicken pieces and set them aside. In a large dish, mix the flour with the paprika, salt, garlic powder and black pepper. Coat the chicken pieces with the seasoned flour. Place them on a cake rack to air dry for 25-30 minutes. Heat the shortening or vegetable oil in a deep saute pan over medium-high heat (should be about 1/2-inch) to 365 degrees (a bread crumb will sizzle quickly when you add it to the pan). Add a few chicken pieces at a time (adding too many will make the cooking oil too cool) and cook, turning the pieces occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Makes 12