We Love Southern Fried Chicken

 

Here in the Great Smoky Mountains, we appreciate the legacy of the simplest and most powerful southern recipe – fried chicken. In our Old Mill Restaurant we fry up more than 100 pounds of chicken each day, and it, by far, is the most requested menu item.

Why? Our chicken is crisp on the outside, and it’s moist inside. Which for the home cooks can be a bit of a struggle. One of the earliest recipes for fried chicken was in the 1828 cookbook called the Virginia House-Wife, written by Mary Randolph. Her instructions were clear – find fresh chicken, cut it up, soak in salted water, toss with flour and seasonings, and pan-fry.

For the past seven years, Randy Tucker has been in the kitchen at the Old Mill Restaurant, in charge of frying the 100 pounds or more of chicken that is served during lunch and dinner.
What makes the chicken so special is how it is cooked, says Randy. The Old Mill has two large pressure cookers, in which the chicken is both fried and pressure cooked to doneness. This keeps the crust crisp and the inside moist – two hallmarks of great fried chicken.
“Chicken has to be crispy, but it can’t be overcooked,” according to Randy, who has been cooking all his life in the East Tennessee area. “I like chicken that’s really moist and tender. So we just use fresh chicken, bread it with the Mill breader, add some garlic and seasoning of our own, and fry it.”

But without a pressure cooker/fryer at home, Randy realizes the home cook cannot duplicate exactly the famous Old Mill chicken. You just have to come here to enjoy it, he says. The closest you can get to it is to pan-fry it to golden and then finish cooking it in the oven. When he is at home in his kitchen, Randy fries boneless chicken pieces, and after browning them in hot oil, he covers them lightly with foil and places in a 300-degree oven for about 30 minutes to cook through.

“Cooking is a lot of fun,” he says. “I learn something new every day.”

Sounds simple enough. Fried chicken has simple ingredients – just chicken, seasoning, flour, and oil for frying. But therein lies the dilemma – how to do it best. Because the simplest recipes are often the most difficult.

First, the chicken. The best is whole and you cut it up yourself. Buy as small a chicken as possible, under three pounds if you can find it at your supermarket. And to cut up the chicken, it goes something like this: With a sharp boning knife and a pair of poultry or kitchen shears, remove the legs, thighs, and wings. To separate the breasts, press down on the chicken, and cut through the cartilage that connects the two chicken breasts. You will have eight pieces of chicken for frying. Or, you can purchase chicken pieces – thighs, legs, wings, breasts – separately and fry what you like.

Some people soak chicken first in buttermilk, but purists like Mary Randolph recommended just salted cold water. Then toss in seasoned flour. The easiest way to do this is to place 2 cups of flour in a brown paper sack, add 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then shake and fry. Or, use the Old Mill’s Chicken Breading, which makes frying even easier!

Easy Oven Fried Chicken

Old-time tradition meets modern convenience in this fried chicken recipe. First, fry chicken in peanut oil. Add about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of it to a deep cast iron skillet and heat to about 350 degrees F. You brown the chicken in the skillet, but you remove the pieces after browning and bake them to doneness in the oven.

Easy Oven Fried Chicken 

1 whole chicken, cut up

2 cups Old Mill Chicken Breader or 2 cups Old Mill Plain Flour seasoned with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Vegetable oil for frying

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Let the chicken pieces air dry on a rack while you prepare the breading and heat the oil.

Place the Breader or flour mixed with seasoning in a large brown sack or a large bowl. Toss the chicken with the breading to coat each piece well. Set aside.

Place enough oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet to measure 1/4-inch deep – about 1 1/2 to 2 cups. Place the skillet over medium-high heat, and when hot, about 350 degrees, place 4 pieces of chicken in the oil at a time to cook. Place the thighs and breasts, skin-side down. Let cook, undisturbed, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the skin is deeply browned and crisp. Turn with tongs to cook on the other side until browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate to rest. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken pieces.

When all the chicken has cooked, drain the oil from the pan. Place the chicken back in the pan and place the pan in the oven. Bake until the chicken has cooked through (165 degrees), about 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Who doesn’t love Fudge Pie!

Here in the Smoky Mountains, we love a good fudge pie. Popular throughout the South, fudge pie was first baked in the early 1900s and is a testament to America’s love of chocolate and fudge. The pie was once a fudgy pudding poured over a baked pie crust and topped with meringue. And every cookbook, diner, and bakery in America had its own version of the fudge pie in the 1930s and 40s. After World War II, fudge pies turned simple and home-baked. Most often, they were a brownie-like batter poured into a pie pan and baked without a crust. That was the allure. They were easy, loved by all, prize-winning, and could be taken to friends or shipped to family away from home. But it was later, in the 1970s, that fudge pie really came into its own. The brownie batter was poured into a pie crust, often topped with pecans, baked just until crusty around the edges and the consistency was a cross between a brownie and a chocolate souffle. Fudge pie was the hit at church suppers, family reunions, and bridge parties.

When Associated Press food editor Cecily Brownstone wrote about fudge pie in 1971, she said it was the American man’s most favorite pie, more popular than apple pie! Obviously, fudge pie has survived the years because it tastes so good! Up here in East Tennessee, where black walnut trees grow, many good cooks like to add chopped black walnuts to chocolate recipes. In other parts of the South, cooks prefer the sweet taste of pecans. Regardless of how you top it, with the ease of our Old Mill Brownie Mix, you can create this American favorite pie in no time.

Old Mill Fudge Pie

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Serves: 8

1 9-inch frozen pie crust, thawed and unbaked

1 package (15 ounces) Old Mill Fudgy Brownie Mix

2 large eggs

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, if desired

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prick the pie crust a few times on the bottom with a fork. Set aside.

2. Place the brownie mix, eggs, and melted butter in a large bowl, and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth, about 50 strokes. Pour the batter into the pie crust, and scatter the nuts on top, if desired. Place the pan in the oven.

3. Bake the pie until the top puffs up, the nuts have lightly browned, and the edges are firm, about 30 minutes. Remove the pie to a rack to cool at least 30 minutes before slicing. Serve warm with ice cream.

How do you say Thank You to mom?

Mother’s Day is Sunday, and that begs the question: How best to honor your mother? How do you say “Thank You!” to this woman who has done so much for you? At The Old Mill, we suggest creating a memorable breakfast or brunch. You do the cooking, she enjoys the meal. What a wonderful way to start her special day!

Making pancakes, using our pancake mix, couldn’t be easier. Adding buttermilk creates fluffy, moist pancakes, something southerners have known for years. Fry up some bacon or just sprinkle some fresh blueberries or raspberries on top and she’ll smile the whole day through. But why not get creative to really show her that these were made especially for her! Try your hand pouring the batter onto the griddle into the shapes of letters that form your mother’s name. Better yet, just spell out MOM, or make a pancake portrait of her and you! Use a serving spoon to slowly stream the batter onto the preheated griddle or skillet. When you put those letters together on the plate, they spell “MOM.”, but flip them upside down and they spell “WOW.” That pretty much sums up a mother’s awesomeness, and it creates a lot of excitement on the plate. And in the kitchen!

Feeling more creative? Here are 10 easy ways to doctor up plain pancakes:

  1. Berry Special Pancakes: Top with fresh blueberries and raspberries after cooking, or drop some of those berries onto the pancakes before you turn them on the griddle. Dust with powdered sugar or drizzle with maple syrup.

 

  1. Chocolate Lovers: Fold mini chocolate chips into the batter – about 1/4 cup. And drizzle the finished pancakes with chocolate syrup.

 

  1. Banana Mama Pancakes: Add 1/2 cup mashed banana and a pinch of cinnamon to the batter and sprinkle the finished pancakes with light brown sugar.

 

  1. Put the Lime in the Coconut: Add 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract to the pancake batter. Cook as directed. Top the pancakes with lime-flavored yogurt and a sprinkling of toasted coconut. To toast coconut, place shredded, sweetened coconut in a baking pan in a 350-degree oven about 4 to 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.

 

  1. Queen for the Day Pancakes: Top her pancakes with sliced, sweetened strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream.

 

  1. For She Who Loves Lemon: Cook the pancakes as directed, and top them with a big dollop of lemon curd and sweetened fresh blackberries. If you want to make the pancakes even more lemony, add 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest to the batter. Toss the blackberries with the lemon juice and sugar to taste.

 

  1. What a Peach of a Mom: Drain canned sliced peaches and toss them with cinnamon and sugar to taste. Stack the pancakes – alternating a pancake, a spoonful of peaches and juice, another pancake, etc. Top with soft whipped cream.

 

  1. Deli-icious Pancakes for Mom: Cook the pancakes as directed, and serve alongside smoked salmon, capers, minced onion, and fresh dill.

 

  1. Pancakes Madame. Top the cooked, buttered pancakes with a fried egg and cracked black pepper.

 

  1. Bring Home the Bacon Pancakes: Add 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese and 1/4 cup crumbled cooked bacon to the batter before cooking. Serve with maple syrup and a side of scrambled eggs.

Here are easy pancake and waffle recipes using our mix from The Old Mill. This pancake mix is used every morning in our Pigeon Forge, TN, restaurants. To find The Old Mill Buttermilk Pancake Mix, and our full line of pancake mixes, come visit us in Pigeon Forge and bring home a bag from the General Store. Or, order the mix and a custom gift box just for mom by shopping our Old Mill Pancake Mixes.

Buttermilk Pancakes

1 cup The Old Mill Buttermilk Pancake Mix

1 large egg

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Heat a pancake griddle to medium-hot, about 375 degrees. Lightly grease with oil or butter. Place the mix in a large bowl, and stir in the egg, buttermilk, and oil until ingredients just come together and are smooth. Pour less than 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto the griddle, and cook until bubbles form, then flip to cook on the other side, cooking until golden brown, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side. Makes about 8 pancakes.

Buttermilk Waffles

1 1/4 cups The Old Mill Buttermilk Pancake Mix

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 large eggs

3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat a waffle iron. Place the mix and sugar in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the eggs and buttermilk and stir until smooth. Lightly grease the waffle iron, and pour on about 1/3 cup of batter. Close the waffle iron, and cook according to manufacturer’s directions, about 3 minutes. Makes about 5 to 6 waffles.