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October 3, 2018

Beyond Traditional Fried Chicken

As Americans we truly celebrate fried chicken. It’s as an iconic American dish, as apple pie and lemonade. We love it, we crave it, we have many national restaurant chains dedicated to it, and we even sing about it (Zach Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried”).


Fried chicken even happens to be our own Chef Richard Reilly’s food destination favorite. To hear him talk about it would even make a vegan curious. I myself consider fried chicken to be in my personal top 10 (oysters being #1 on my list in case you were curious, but I digress).

On a recent trip to New Orleans for the ACF National Convention, the team and I ate at an establishment well known for fried chicken, Willie Mae’s Scotch House. Their rendition was incredible. Simple honest fried chicken with the thinnest most delicate coating you can imagine. It was like eating rice paper crusted chicken. It also happened to be the juiciest bird I’ve ever enjoyed… Good eats!

Many years ago, an old colleague of mine born and raised in the deep south would bring a pile of her classic Southern buttermilk fried chicken to work twice a year for all to share. These two occasions were truly food nirvana for many of us. Albeit simply prepared, marinated in buttermilk, dredged in seasoned flour and fried to perfection in a cast iron skillet filled with lard, this chicken continues to stand far apart from any others I have ever had.

Patriotic as this all sounds, fried chicken, as with any food, has evolved and even become global. I have seen many delicious adaptations of our focus in question in the last few years. Not to sound like Bubba Gump but I have seen, Buffalo Fried, Ramen-Crusted, Sweet Tea Glazed, Rosemary Infused, Korean, Japanese, Nashville Hot, Coconut Fried, Sambal BBQ Fried, Togarashi Fried, Fried Chicken Tacos… You get the idea.

I’ve seen literally hundreds of variations of fried chicken and waffles out there, the most unique being a Chicken & Waffle Cupcake with Maple Cream Cheese frosting… YUM! Of all I have eaten lately, my favorite was at a little dive near the Brooklyn Bridge called “Pies & Thighs”. Nothing overly unique just good, honest down-and-dirty Southern, antibiotic/hormone-free, simply brined, floured fried chicken atop an incredible house-made waffle drizzled, with hot sauce and honey butter.

Then of course there is the melding of trends like “Carnival Cuisine”, which Chef Russell explored earlier in the year. Fried chicken mashups resulting in some delicious offerings, which included Fried Chicken Corn Dogs, Crispy Chicken Fries and Popcorn Crusted Fried Chicken.

The bottom line, you can uniquely and creatively shape the future of fried chicken by adjusting the marinade, the coating, the presentation, or the topical accents, making it a destination item of your own. That said, always count on the chefs and products at Custom Culinary® to aid in your quest. From our full line of Ready-to-Use Sauces like our Gold Label Harissa, to our customized offerings such as Lemon Tahini Brine, we are here to help.

I hope I get the chance to taste your elevated fried chicken offerings sometime soon. Drop me a line when you’re ready. Just remember, like Zach Brown says, “You know I like my chicken fried, cold beer on a Friday Night.” 

Keep the creative juices flowing and I’ll see you in the kitchen soon!

Michael Smith

Michael Smith
Michael Smith, CEC, AAC
Corporate Executive Chef, Segment Sales
Custom Culinary, Inc.