I read this book while in culinary school years ago before it was edited and loved it! I recently purchased it in honor of black history month so that I could include some of the stories and recipes on my blog and face book page; I fell they should be shared with family, friends and the public. I can’t wait to delve into the pages once again; African food history is intriguing and exciting; America I am… is wonderful in bringing forth the truths and traditions of our most favorite dishes! I hope you enjoy the information that will be shared from this book on culturalpalate.net; moreover it would be even better if you purchased your own copy for your black history cookbook library and to pass down to your children and the next generation!!!
Recipe inspired by America I Am – Pass it Down Cookbook
By Tavis Smiley edited by Chef Jeff Henderson with Ramin Ganeshram pg. 54
(Photos and dish preparation for this post by Chef Bobby Lavon)
1 3-pound fryer chicken, cut into pieces
2 cups buttermilk
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large onion, sliced
1 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (parsley, tarragon, thyme)
½ teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper,
2 cups flour
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon onion salt
Salt and pepper
3 cups oil
Soak chicken in buttermilk with garlic, onions, herbs, paprika, and ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Refrigerate overnight.
Place chicken pieces in a colander to drain.
In a large paper bag mix flour with garlic salt, onion salt, salt and pepper, and remaining ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Meanwhile, heat the 3 cups of oil in a deep cast iron pot until 350 F.
Place chicken pieces in bag with flour and shake, let sit 1 minute, and again. Add chicken to hot oil and on one side for 20 minutes, turn and fry additional 15 minutes more.
Place chicken pieces on a wire rack set over a cookie tray to drain, or on a paper towel-lined plate.
The History of Fried Chicken
Chicken parts that are floured or battered and then fried in hot fat. The term southern fried’ first appeared in print in 1925…Southerners were not the first people in the world to fry chickens, of course. Almost every country has its own version, from Vietnam’s Ga Xao to Italy’s pollo fritto and Austria’s Weiner Backhendl, and numerous fricassees fill the cookbooks of Europe. And fried chicken did not become particularly popular in the northern United States until well into the nineteenth century…The Scottish, who enjoyed frying their chickens rather than boiling or baking them as the English did, may have brought the method with them when they settled the South. The efficient and simple cooking process was very well adapted to the plantation life of the southern African-American slaves, who were often allowed to raise their own chickens. The idea of making a sauce to go with fried chicken must have occurred early on, at least in Maryland, where such a match came to be known as “Maryland fried chicken.” By 1878 a dish by this name was listed on the menu of the Grand Union hotel in Saratoga, New York…”
—The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 305-6)
[NOTE: this book has much more information than can be paraphrased here. Ask your librarian to help you find a copy]
“Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century descriptions of colonial foodways ignored the chicken for the most part. In the earliest manuscripts to enter America there are, of course, chicken recipes for roasts, stews, and pies, and none other than Governor William Byrd II was dining on the iconic southern dish of fried chicken at his Virginia plantation by 1709…” —Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Andrew F. Smith editor [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2004, Volume 1 (p. 226)
Recipes through time
PULLUM FRONTONIANUM (Chicken a la Fronto)
(Apicius. 6, 9, 13)
1 fresh chicken (approx. 1-1.5kg)
200ml Liquamen, or 200ml wine + 2 tsp salt
1 branch of leek
fresh dill, Saturei, coriander, pepper to taste
a little bit of Defritum
Start to fry chicken and season with a mixture of Liquamen and oil, together with bunches of dill, leek, Saturei and fresh coriander. Then cook approximately 1 hour with 220 deg C in the oven. When the chicken is done, moisten a plate with Defritum, put chicken on it, sprinkle pepper on it, and serve.
“To Fry Chicken
Take your chickens and let them boil in very good sweet broth a pretty while. Take the chickens out and quarter them out in pieces. Then put them into a frying pan with sweet butter, and let them stew in the pan. But you must not let them be brown with frying. They put out the butter out of the pan, and then take a little sweet broth, and as much verjuice, and the yolks of two eggs and beat them together. Put in a little nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper into the sauce. Then put them all into the pan to the chickens, and stir them together in the pan. Put them into a dish and serve them up.”
—The Good Housewife’s Jewel, Thomas Dawson, 1596, with an introduction by Maggie Black [Southover Press:East Sussex] 1996 (p. 41)
After they are dressed, cut into peeces and well washed, boile them in good broth, and when they are almost sodden drain them, and fry them. After five or six turns, season them with salt and good herbs, as parsely, chibols, &c. Allay some yolks of eggs for to thicken the sauce, and serve.”
—The French Cook, Francoise Pierre, La Varenne, Englished by I.D.G. 1653, Introduced by Philip and Mary Hyman [Southover Press:East Sussex] 2001 (p. 52)
“Fricassee of Small Chickens
Take off the legs and wings of four chickens, separate the breasts from the backs, cut off the necks and divide the backs across, clean the gizzards nicely, put them with the livers and other parts of the chicken, after being washed clean, into a sauce pan, add pepper, salt, and a little mace, cover them with water, and stew them till tender, then take them out, thicken half a pint of the water with two table spoonsful of flour rubbed into four ounces of butter, add half a pint of new milk, boil all together a few minutes, then add a gill of white wine, stirruing it in carefully that it may not curdle, put the chickens in and continue to shake the pan until they are sufficiently hot, and serve them up.
Cut them up as for the fricassee, dredge them well with flour, sprinkle them with salt, put them into a good quantity of boiling lard, and fry them a light brown, fry them a light brown, fry small pieces of mush and a quantity of parsley nicely picked to be served in the dish with the chickens, take half a pint of rich milk, add to it a small bit of butter with pepper, salt, and chopped parsley, stew it a little, and pour it over the chickens, and then garnish with the fried parsley.”
—The Virginia House-Wife, Mary Randolph, Facsimile 1824 edition with historical notes and commentaries by Karen Hess [University of South Carolina:Columbia] 1984 (p. 252-3)