Trying to go somewhere with my family can be pretty crazy. I love them, but we are all pretty impatient with each other, we all talk over one another, and making plans is always an ordeal. Which is why the best kinds of trips with my family are the relaxing kind, without much of a plan.
When we took our little mini trip to Cloudland Canyon and Chattanooga the other weekend, my mom asked us all what the one thing we wanted to do was, which is generally a pretty good way to go. Usually we can accomplish everyone’s one thing, and for me, in this instance, that one thing was going to eat at Tupelo Honey Cafe, which probably ranks as my absolute favorite restaurant ever since Gerrit and I went to eat at the original in Asheville on our honeymoon.
And while travelling with my family can sometime feel like herding kittens (which really, there are only five of us so I’m not sure how that is possible), perhaps the best thing is when we go out to eat together on a trip. Because we all get excited about food, and we all want to make sure we are eating really well. And when you go out to eat with the five people in my family, there is always plate passing and reaching over the table with our forks and so much food sharing. We all want to taste everything. I’m not sure if other families do this, but we do and I love it.
Since I’ve always ordered the same thing when I’ve been to Tupelo Honey Cafe (Charleston Chicken Sandwich (no cranberry sauce) with fried okra and macaroni and cheese) because it is SO good, the perk of bite sharing means I got to try the nutty fried chicken my brother ordered which, oh my goodness that is SO good, too.
When I came home and pulled out my Tupelo Honey Cafe cookbook from my cookbook shelf, which has sat neglected for far too long (and they have a new one out too!), I was so happy to see that the fried chicken recipe was there, in its simple one page glory. Soak the chicken in buttermilk, bread it in ground mixed nuts and bread crumbs, and fry it. It comes out perfectly golden brown, the color fried chicken should always be, and nutty in such a subtly sweet and salty way.
This is a recipe from the Tupelo Honey Cafe Cookbook. I changed very little about the basic concept, except the amounts so that this is a dish that can be made for two instead of six, but tried to make a few notes in the instructions to make cooking easier. And if you'd like to make the chicken without the gravy (which is really just a bechemel seasoned with some cayenne), it is still perfectly delicious. I'm willing to bet this would make a pretty good coating for baked chicken as well. Just be sure to add a bit of butter or oil over the top to keep it from drying out in the oven too much.
- For the chicken:
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 2/3 cup buttermilk
- 2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2/3 cup roasted salted mixed nuts
- 2 cups canola or vegetable oil
- For the "milk gravy"
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- Kosher salt
- Start with prepping the chicken. Make sure that each piece of chicken is a uniform thickness. As is often the case with chicken breasts, you may need to cover the pieces in plastic wrap and pound some of the thicker parts of the chicken out. You don't need a thin cutlet here; you just need to even it out a bit.
- Combine the chicken and the buttermilk in a medium-sized bowl or zip top plastic bag. Make sure the chicken is well coated and then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- In a small food processor, combine the panko and nuts. Process until well ground. Dump the panko mixture into a shallow bowl.
- In a medium-sized skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- While the oil is heating, dredge the chicken in the nut mixture, making sure each side of each piece is well coated.
- Fry the chicken in the oil until golden brown and cooked though, about 4-5 minutes per side. Then drain the chicken on a plate or sheet pan lined with paper towels, and place in a warm oven while you make the milk gravy.
- To make the milk gravy, heat the butter over medium high heat until melted. Then add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to let it brown. Slowly add the milk, a tablespoon or two at a time, whisking all the time. Once all the milk is added, add a pinch of salt and pepper and a tiny pinch of cayenne (be sure to taste to make sure it is well seasoned). Continue to cook, stirring gently, until the sauce has thickened and can coat the back of a spoon.
- Serve the chicken warm with the sauce spooned over it.
from Tupelo Honey Cafe