One of my fondest childhood memories is going to the chicken fries we used to have up at the Pine Tree Place. A chicken fry meant lots of cousins to play with and good food, especially the fried chicken. Uncle Rulon and Uncle Mel would man the big, oil laden half-barrels, heated up until the oil roiled, cooking piece after piece of chicken, to a golden, crispy brown.
My favorite part was of course getting to eat chicken drumsticks. I loved the sound it made when I bit into the crispy skin, and the flavor of the juicy meat underneath. Dutch oven potatoes, hot and cheesy, were served with the chicken. I always had a difficult time deciding what I liked best, the chicken or the potatoes. The aunts all brought salads — potato salad, macaroni salad, and tossed green salad. And of course there was always the melons: cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon which were chilled in the spring house in the icy-cold mountain spring water. I loved that we could have all the watermelon we could eat. (And several times I bested my cousins and brothers in the watermelon-seed-spitting contest, I could get mine all the way across the creek.)
After dinner, we would play in the meadow, picking flowers to take Grandma a bouquet, or hike to the beaver ponds, getting hot, dusty and dirty, and returning frequently to get tin cups full of cold spring water, and having a good time, until the shadows lengthened and it was time for the fire.
We would have a supper of leftovers, or roast hot dogs which were followed by roasting marshmallows. Then Grandma and Uncle Bill would get out their guitars for some singing around the fire. Eventually we kids would be shooed off to bed, and watching the brilliant stars in the inky sky, I’d fall asleep, lulled by the sound of the grownups still chatting around the fire.
Oh what wonderful memories! We always tried to take our kids to the Pine Tree Place at least once every summer, and now they are taking their children. This last summer we had a big family reunion, we had four generations attend. Of course the menu included fried chicken, Dutch oven potatoes, salads, and melon. I love how this family tradition has come full circle.
Years ago, I learned to make fried chicken from my mom. Sometimes she would make it for Sunday dinner and serve it with a big bowl of mashed potatoes, green beans, and of course a jello salad. It’s surprisingly simple to make, and so much better than chicken nuggets from the grocery freezer section. Enjoy!
1 broiler/fryer chicken (3 pounds), cut up (or if you prefer, use boneless chicken breasts cut in half)
3/4 to 1 c buttermilk
1-1/2 to 2 c all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp McCormick Montreal Chicken Seasoning
1/8 tsp baking powder
Oil for frying
Pat chicken pieces with paper towels; place in large flat dish. Pour buttermilk over chicken; cover, and allow to soak at least 1 hour or overnight in refrigerator.
When you are ready to cook, combine the coating ingredients and place in a gallon size resealable plastic bag, or use a paper bag from the grocery store. Add chicken pieces, a couple at a time, and shake to coat. Place the coated pieces on waxed paper, and let them rest for about 15 minutes to allow coating to dry (this will help it cling better during the frying process).
In a dutch oven skillet, electric skillet, or deep fryer, heat 2″ inch oil to 350°-360°. (Melted Crisco can also be used.) Fry chicken, several pieces at a time, for about 3 minutes on each side, browning evenly. Reduce heat to 325°; cook chicken, turning occasionally with tongs, for 25-35 minutes or until juices run clear and chicken is tender. Remove to paper towels and keep warm. Yield: 4 servings. Can be refrigerated and eaten cold.