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As we continue to experience the pandemic more folks are borrowing traditions from the past to entertain themselves and their family. Evening walks through the neighborhood, lawn games and outdoor gatherings among family members are being enjoyed like we have not seen for some time.

What could be more symbolic of simple fun than an old timey picnic? Not grilling burgers or hot dogs on your fancy grill or cooking on your Big Green Egg, but just throwing a blanket under a shade tree and opening a basket of all-time favorite picnic foods.

Historically, fried chicken, cold salads and lemonade are listed as typical picnic fare. 

At some point in time I realized that I loved “cold fried chicken,” preferring it over the “hot from the pot version.” But I think I first became aware that it was a staple on its own, and not just a refrigerated left-over when I heard Miss Kitty tell a pensive Matt Dillon that tomorrow she would pack them a picnic lunch of “cold fried chicken.”

According to Fan Fiction writer Lady KRedzz, author of “Precious Moments, Forever Kitty and Matt” that cold fried chicken picnic may have played out something like this:

“It was a quite Sunday afternoon in May of 1893 and it found Matt and Kitty creek side, enjoying a picnic lunch.  Kitty had fried up some chicken, cooked some biscuits, made potato salad and a cherry pie, an indulgence that had won her a first- place ribbon at the county fair.” 

Following lunch, the conversation took on a romantic tone and Matt told Kitty that there had not been a day gone by since he met her that he hadn’t wanted a future with her, but that his badge had come first, and that she had her business at The Long Branch  to run. But now that the country was getting calmer and quieter, maybe they could finally give their relationship a chance.  

“Oh, Cowboy, I do love you so.  And, I will help you give us a chance," Miss Kitty replied.

Um’, cold fried chicken!

Why does cold friend chicken taste so good?  Usually cold fried foods are unappetizing to say the least.  Cold French fries, anyone?

Chef Jeffery Gardner says when fried chicken starts to cool down, the skin contracts and bonds itself to the meat. This process causes the top part of the skin to separate slightly from the crust, which prevents moisture absorption and sogginess, allowing the breading to maintain its satisfying chomp. Also, as the steam escapes the chicken, the moisture loss results in meat with greater density and a more pronounced “chicken-y” flavor. 

This discovery likely came about before refrigeration when chicken was fried and left on the counter- top.  When folks realized that the dish was not only edible, but also desirable, several hours after leaving the hot oil, fried chicken started to become a popular mainstay of picnics and church gathering throughout the South. 

However good the fried chicken, as time went by and we became more and more health conscious, it still got a bad rap. That is until the 1990’s when Oprah Winfrey proclaimed that her personal chef Rosie Daley’s “unfried chicken” could run a neck to neck race with real fried chicken sans the fat and calories.

Rosie marinated the chicken in yogurt, rolled it in seasoned breading and baked it in a high- temp oven, turning the chicken every twenty minutes while it browned.

Today the healthier version of fried chicken is easier than ever with the help of an Air Fryer. I know, I said put away the Green Egg, but there is room for both!

Just this week Guy Fieri “fried” up some breaded chicken tenders on TV with Rachel Ray using the popular appliance. Kids love fried chicken tenders.

Try this easy recipe using chicken drumettes.

A blanket, a shade tree and those you love are all you will need to enjoy an old-timey picnic during the pandemic.  And who knows! Maybe our country will become quieter and calmer.

Ingredients:

1 package of chicken drumettes

For marinade:

1 pint of buttermilk

Brine from almost empty jar of pickles (any kind, I used home-made)

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

For breading:

Combination of flour, corn meal and Panko Bread Crumbs and corn starch(enough to coat the chicken pieces) seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder (your choice of seasonings) in bowl or large plastic baggie

Non-stick spray such as Pam

Instructions:

Put buttermilk, pickle juice and Worcestershire in bowl.  Add drumettes and marinate in refrigerator for several hours.

Spray Air Fryer Basket with non-stick spray.

Pre-heat Air Fryer to 390 degrees and set to cook for 20 minutes. 

Dredge half of the drumettes in breading. Shake off excess. Place in air fryer basket in single layer not touching and spray generously with non-stick spray.

Turn chicken halfway through cooking time, spray generously with non-stick spray and continue cooking. Check for golden color after 8 additional minutes.

When browned, remove from basket to paper towel lined plate

Dredge and cook remaining drumettes.

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