This past Sunday, the wife and I went on our very first two nighter camping trip at Tuckahoe State Park. We enjoyed a hike Sunday afternoon and broke out our inner kid with a hotdog and roasted marshmallow dinner. Monday we rented a canoe and after a brief, refreshing rain shower hit us in the middle of Tuckahoe Lake, we paddled down a scenic side creek for a couple of hours. We saw dozens of turtles and gorgeous native plant life and now I’m hooked on experiencing nature via boat. We had an amazing time! Tuesday morning, with the high temperatures kicking back in, we packed up and made our way back home. Not even halfway back, when asked what I should do with the chicken thighs in the fridge, a resounding “fried chicken!” was the answer. I don’t fry chicken very often and so this dinner was a wicked good treat! I had local candy onions in my fridge and for whatever reason “caramelized onion gravy” sprang into my head and oh my Cheeszus the onion gravy was to DIE for. Usually when you take the time and brave the mess of frying up a batch of chicken, the chicken is unsurprisingly the star of the meal. Not with this recipe, however. The caramelized onion gravy stole the show and I’m already trying to think of any excuse to make it again.
Southern Fried Chicken Thighs
4 to 6 good quality Chicken Thighs, bone-in, skin-on
1 cup Brine, recipe follows
about 1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Paprika
1/4 tsp TexJoy Steak Seasoning, optional
1/4 tsp Tony Chachere’s Bold Creole Seasoning, optional
1 farm fresh Egg
1 cup of Water, reserved
about 1 1/2 cups of Peanut Oil, vary the oil quantity by size of your skillet
Salt and Pepper to taste
For the brine: bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Once boiling, stir in equal parts salt and sugar, I use about a 1/4 cup or less of each. As long as the ratio is 1:1, you can use any salt/sugar combo you prefer. Turn off the heat and stir in any additional flavor boosters you like. For this recipe I used 2 sprigs each of fresh Sage and Thyme and added in a clove of garlic and about 5 peppercorns. Add about a cup or so of cold water to the same pan to help bring down the temperature of the brine. In a large container with a lid, pour the brine in and add several cups of ice cubes until the brine is completely cooled. Add in the chicken thighs, cover and refrigerate at least one hour to overnight. Since chicken thighs are fairly succulent on their own, I brined the chicken for about 3 hours before cooking for this recipe. You can also substitute buttermilk for the brine for the same effect.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a sheet pan by placing a roasting rack on top of it, set aside. Preheat a cast iron skillet over med high flame. Add in the oil, about 2 inches, and heat until the oil is hot and shimmering. Test the oil by adding a small pinch of flour to the pan to check that the oil sizzles up around the flour. In a shallow casserole dish carefully whisk together the egg and 1 cup of water. (I like to add a few dashes of Tabasco to my egg wash but this is completely optional.) In a second shallow casserole dish, add the flour and remaining seasonings and mix together until well combined. Taste a bit of the flour and adjust seasonings as needed. Carefully remove the chicken thighs from the brine, discard the brine, and add the chicken to the egg wash. Coat the chicken thighs on all sides and allow excess egg wash to drip off before adding the chicken to the flour mixture. Coat the chicken on all sides with the flour and then very carefully add the chicken to the hot oil. Fry the chicken until golden and crispy. Carefully remove the chicken thighs from the skillet and place on the sheet pan. Finish the fried thighs in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees. Serve immediately with your favorite side dishes.
Caramelized Onion Gravy
1 Candy or Vidalia Onion, petite diced
1 tab of Butter
1 tbsp of All Purpose Flour
about 1 cup of Milk
Salt and a generous amount of Black Pepper
In a med skillet, heat a tab of butter over a low flame. If you have simmer burners, use them for this recipe. Once the butter has melted add in the diced sweet onion and slowly cook the onion for 45 minutes to an hour until the onion is completely caramelized, stirring the onions on occasion. Once the onions are caramelized, add the tbsp of flour and stir until well combined. Slowly whisk in the milk and continue simmering until the milk has reduced into a thick gravy. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately over anything you like.
Maple Hickory Roasted Brussels
about 2 cups Brussels Sprouts, trimmed, outer leaves removed, and sliced in half lengthwise
about 1/4 cup Maple Syrup
about 3 tbsp of EVOO, or oil of choice
about 1/2 tsp of Smoked Hickory Salt, or smoked salt of choice
about 2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 tsp Red Pepper flakes, optional or to taste
Black Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large roasting pan or sheet tray add the sliced Brussels and toss with remaining ingredients until well coated. Add the Brussels to the oven and roast for about 45 minutes or until desired doneness is reached. Serve immediately.