A versatile old favorite with a new sweet finish

Entertaining

Fried chicken still pleases, now with sesame and a glaze

Entertaining

October 06, 2002|By Betty Rosbottom | By Betty Rosbottom,Special to the Sun

Growing up in the South, I remember fried chicken as a staple at my mother's table. Although she never claimed to be a serious cook, my mom (like her mother before her) was an expert at turning out crisp, golden morsels of chicken.

There were two things to remember, she repeatedly asserted: The floured pieces had to be placed into piping-hot oil, preferably sizzling in a cast-iron skillet, so that the skin would brown immediately and form a crust. Once browned, the chicken had to be covered with a lid, set slightly ajar, and cooked for several minutes more to ensure that the meat would be moist and tender.

My mother served fried chicken not only at family meals but when entertaining company as well. Sometimes, it was piled high while still warm on a platter and offered with mounds of rice and seasonal vegetables for a Sunday company lunch. On other occasions it was cooled to room temperature and accompanied by coleslaw or potato salad and a casserole of baked beans for an informal supper. It was good hot or cold, it could be the centerpiece of a fancy or a casual meal, and it was a dish for all seasons. Her fried chicken was always a winner with guests.

In the early days of my marriage, I carried on the tradition of serving this classic dish to friends, but then for years I explored sauteed chicken dishes from many other cuisines. Several months ago, though, I was reminded of my culinary heritage when I came across a recipe for sesame fried chicken created for a cooking class in the 1980s. Although this sesame version was different from those of my childhood, I noticed that I had carefully followed my mother's technique when preparing it. Served drizzled with a delectable honey glaze, the sesame fried chicken proved irresistible at a recent dinner.

Grilled corn-on-the-cob and sliced tomatoes made fine partners for the chicken this summer, but for a fall dinner I am thinking of whipped sweet potatoes and green beans. Of course, for winter, mashed potatoes and roasted carrots will work nicely, and asparagus and scallion-scented rice would be tempting spring side dishes.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services.

Sesame Fried Chicken with Honey Glaze

Makes 4 to 6 servings

CHICKEN:

A 3-pound frying chicken cut into 2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 thighs and 2 legs (save backbone for another use)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

canola oil for frying chicken

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon hot red-pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

1/2 cup flour

2 / 3 cup dry unflavored bread crumbs

1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds (see note)

HONEY GLAZE AND GARNISH:

1/4 cup honey

1/4 teaspoon hot red-pepper sauce

4 teaspoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1 bunch watercress, cleaned and dried, optional

Season chicken pieces on all sides very generously with salt and pepper. Set aside. Add enough oil to large, heavy skillet, which will hold chicken pieces in single layer, to come an inch up sides of pan. Place skillet over high heat and watch carefully while you prepare chicken.

In shallow bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, sesame oil and pepper sauce. Spread flour on a dinner plate. Mix together bread crumbs and sesame seeds and spread on another dinner plate. Dredge each piece of chicken in flour, then dip in egg mixture, then coat with sesame-bread crumb mixture.

When oil is very hot, but not smoking, add all the chicken to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until chicken is golden-brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side until golden, 6 to 7 minutes more.

Reduce heat to low and place lid slightly ajar on skillet. Cook 12 minutes more, turning several times. (This additional cooking will make chicken more tender.) Remove and drain on paper towels.

For glaze, whisk together honey, pepper sauce, vinegar and sesame oil.

Arrange chicken on a serving platter and drizzle with some honey glaze. Serve extra sauce in a small bowl. Garnish platter with two clusters of watercress, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: To toast sesame seeds, place in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Stir constantly until seeds are golden- brown, about 5 minutes. Remove and cool.

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