This image courtesy of Evan Sung
Not just anyone gets the honor of feeding Mardi Gras’s fiercest krewe, but New Orleans caterer Venessa Williams, a lifetime Louisiana resident and accomplished singer who sometimes performs with Kermit Ruffins, is one of the lucky few. Commissioned yearly to feed the crowd at the Zulu Social Aide and Pleasure Club’s annual parade party, she prepares thousands of pieces of her famous bird in giant, mobile, jerry-rigged fryers she designed herself. That chicken—accompanied by her tender, beautifully seasoned (and totally vegetarian) red beans and rice—have made her the go-to girl for church suppers, funerals, and Super Bowl parties alike. Williams’s subtly spicy chicken is easy to replicate at home. She insists on using chilled chicken parts, an essential step for developing the crispest crust possible. That, and something a bit more intangible. “It’s all about the vibrations,” she trilled as she made us a batch in her kitchen, a tableful of ornate crucifixes stationed not ten feet away. Frying the cayenne-seasoned chicken in a stockpot filled halfway with oil, she watched as the chicken bobbed up and down in perfect pitch with its maker. “Keep it harmonious, and the chicken will follow,” she said.
OccasionCasual Dinner Party
Dietary ConsiderationSoy Free, Tree Nut Free
Five Ingredients or LessYes
- Peanut oil, for frying
- 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces and chilled
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 large egg, beaten
SEASON THE CHICKEN: Fill a large (at least 6-quart) pot halfway with the peanut oil and heat to 350°F. In a large bowl, toss the chicken with 1 teaspoon each of the salt and cayenne pepper.
DREDGE THE CHICKEN: In another large bowl, whisk the remaining teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper with the flour. Place the beaten egg in a third bowl, then toss the chicken in the egg. Working in batches of no more than 4 pieces at a time, toss the chicken in the flour mixture.
FRY THE CHICKEN: Fry the pieces in batches in the hot oil until cooked through, about 13 minutes for the breasts and 15 minutes for the thighs. Drain on a rack and serve immediately. Serve with New Orleans Style Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice.
2014 Lee Brian Schrager & Adeena Sussman
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