Profiles In Manlyness: Theodore Roosevelt and Fried Chicken
For this article, I wanted to do something a little bit different, and go back into history a little bit. We all have our favorite foods, but what about some of our forefathers? What did they eat? Well, surely they didn't survive on single malt Scotch alone. So I did some research, and got some answers. Join me, if you will, for Profiles In Manlyness: Theodore Roosevelt
Colonel Roosevelt (he preferred his official military title to President, and certainly disliked the nickname "Teddy") lived a life most men could only dream of, from rampaging around Cuba with his rough riders during the Spanish-American war, to owning a cattle ranch and driving his herd through the Dakotas, to hunting throughout Africa and the US. No doubt it was his adventurous, take charge attitude that led to him becoming vice president: the Democratic party leaders in his state wanted him somewhere safe, a symbolic position with little power where he wouldn't be able to cause trouble. When William McKinley was shot six months after the election, Roosevelt ended up as President, ruining their plans.
While his time as President and accomplishments in the white house are fairly well known, some of his most impressive feats occurred after he left office. Never content to settle down and retire, he explored the Amazon basin, then returned home before the outbreak of world war one, when he offered to take up his military command once more and serve as an officer on the Western front despite being almost sixty. Perhaps his most impressive moment came while he was speaking at a campaign rally. An assassin shot Roosevelt in the chest, but the bullet passed through his glasses case and some papers and then struck a rib, stopping it before it hit any vital organs. So he opted to stay and finish his speech, which lasted for a full hour!
A no-nonsense down to earth guy like that enjoyed no-nonsense food, his favorite meal to eat, even at white house dinners, was fried chicken with gravy. Here's a classic recipe you can make, just the same as Colonel Roosevelt had it over one hundred years ago.
To Serve Four You'll Need:
4 chicken breasts with skin on
1 cup flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 cup buttermilk
canola oil for frying
For the gravy:
1 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp flour (use the seasoned flour from the chicken if you want!)
3 tbsp bacon fat or butter
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 cup whole milk
chopped sage, parsley, or chives for garnish
How To Do It:
1. Rinse the chicken breasts off and then pat dry.
2. Pour the buttermilk into a bowl.
3. Mix the flour and seasonings in a separate bowl.
4. Heat the oil over medium to medium high heat, it should just be smoking lightly.
5. Then dip each chicken breast into the flour, then the buttermilk, and then back into the flour. Shake it lightly to get any excess flour off and then fry in small batches, 1 or 2 pieces at a time. Adding too much chicken too fast will lower your oil temperature and it won't get crispy. If you don't want to get splashed by burning oil, the trick is to hold the chicken close to the oil and dip the lowest part of it into the oil, then gently drop it. If you drop fried foods close to the oil they wont splash, so getting close to the oil actually keeps you from getting burned. Its people who try to drop things from higher up to avoid getting burned that get splashed with hot oil. For breast meat you should only need about 8-10 minutes to fully cook the chicken. During that time you might want to turn it if the top of it is sitting above the oil.
6. During that time you can make your gravy by heating the bacon grease over medium heat. Melt it fully and then sprinkle in the flour a bit at a time. It should foam up and eventually make a thin paste.
7. Add the seasonings and whisk it around for a minute or so before pouring in the milk. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a low simmer to get it to thicken into a gravy.
Drain the chicken on paper towels and then serve with the gravy over top and some chopped herbs to garnish.
If you want to make a complete meal you can add some boiled red potatoes and carrots or green beans and just pour the gravy over all of it. And there you have it, a simple, satisfying meal as one of America's greatest Presidents would have enjoyed it!