When I was a kid a bazillion years ago we would often visit my Gramma Frieda in Illinois. She was born and raised there, a daughter of a prosperous German farmer and married to the son of a Lutheran minister. She was not excessively religious but she was a terrific cook. I have mentioned her cooking abilities in other things I’ve written. She could do it all and then roll up her sleeves and work alongside the men in the fields. That kind of work is what she actually enjoyed most. Somehow the confines of the house was not to her liking even though she excelled at all things domestic.
She probably got that way because her mother, my great-grandmother, was a stern disciplinarian. As a young girl, she once told me, she stayed out all night at the barn dance and when she crept in at dawn there was Great-Grandmother standing with hands on hips to say the day has begun and you have chores to do. No bed for you young lady. Get to work.
She was the wit and soul of a party and any other time of the day. She had an infectious laugh that was more of a giggle. I miss her every day. When I feel like I need a lift I make up a batch of her twice-cooked chicken. This is a really good recipe for your farm raised birds and is as easy as pie. I offer this recipe with help from my Aunt J who was my Gramma’s youngest daughter.
Gramma’s Twice Cooked Chicken
Rinse a whole chicken in water and towel off. Cut it up into pieces. Dump enough flour to coat the chicken into a plastic bag, paper sack or just put it in a bowl. Season it with salt, pepper and paprika. Use your own discretion in how much seasoning you would like. You can also substitute the salt and paprika with seasoned salt like Lawry’s. Shake a couple pieces at a time until all is coated well. Fry in about a quarter inch of hot fat (lard, Crisco or peanut oil) until browned. Get the fat to just start smoking before putting in the chicken then turn the heat down a bit so the chicken doesn't burn. Turn the pieces once. Transfer to baking dish or casserole and bake covered in a 325- to 350-degree oven until meat reaches 165 degrees and desired tenderness. I add about 1/4 cup water to the pot to steam the chicken for even more tenderness. I go for about 2 hours for 4 to 5 pieces of chicken. You can also do it in a slow cooker.
Gramma liked the chicken to fall off the bone and that’s the way I like it, too. She always made milk gravy with the chicken browning bits. If you make gravy, scoop out as much of the fat as you can to make the gravy less greasy. Try to leave the cooked bits in the pan. They make the flavor. After the chicken becomes nicely cooked, it can be partially covered to prevent drying out.
If you can’t use your own chicken, try to buy the most natural chicken you can find. They really taste the best. A happy, young hen who has spent her whole life on a farm, in the company of other chickens and a rooster, lots of bugs and worms to eat along with your farmer's chicken feed, good old dirt to scratch around in all day, room to run and jump at will. On Gramma’s farm, the old hens went into a stewing pot for soup or casseroles (often with scrumptious homemade noodles).