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Get Stuffed - Seeking comfort from the cupboard

Comfort foods appealing during rainy weather, long days, when feeling pressure…



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Fried chicken

Of all the comfort foods, fried chicken tops the list in my books, especially when its dance partner is mashed potatoes. Heaven. There are as many ways to do up fried chicken as there are grandmothers but all of them speak, in greater or lesser degrees, to that high-fat contentment level described earlier. Pan-fried, deep-fried, dredged in flour or cornmeal, or dipped in batter with secret spices – the Colonel knew he was onto something when he franchised all those chicken outlets.

Unfortunately for our arteries, nothing beats the colour, taste and texture of frying chicken, or anything friable for that matter, in lard. But for health’s sake, go for a healthier fat (if that isn’t an oxymoron) such as canola oil. You can also sidestep the fat trap by using organic chicken, which usually has one-zillionth the fat content of most commercial rapid-raised chickens, plus it delivers that "old-time" chicken flavour necessary in times of distress. I also always skin the sucker, something you wouldn’t dream of if you’re from the southern states and serving fried chicken.

My first and last tried-and-true fried chicken recipe was shared by a friend from Louisiana while we were literally serving up a huge communal-type dinner in her farmhouse in California’s high sierra. Her perfect fried chicken was simple: wash the chicken pieces; dredge them in white flour; sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and fry it all up in an iron skillet, low-medium heat, in mixture of oil with a dab of butter. You don’t need a lot of oil, only enough to keep the pan wet and the chicken frying, not sticking.

For chicken crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside, the secret is time and patience, a sort of a meditation on chicken, which in itself is a comfort. Monitor the chicken constantly, adjusting the heat and frequently turning the pieces. About 20 minutes per side and it’s done to finger-licking goodness. Pair with Kraft dinner or mashed potatoes, or both if you need them!

Mashed potatoes

Never mind the Colonel and his fries, the perfect pairing for fried chicken is good old mashed potatoes, full of good old potassium (that’s why they comfort us so much, as do bananas). And good mashed potatoes start with good firm potatoes like Yukon golds with their sweet flesh, which is also just the right density.

I know we’re supposed to cut back on salt, but mashed potatoes need a decent pinch of it added to the boiling water. If you mash them in the pot on the same burner you boiled them on, the milk will warm nicely. Better yet, try buttermilk, Avalon if you can, and adding a good dollop of fresh horseradish and maybe a clove or two of minced garlic.