After the great response to last week’s all-bacon burger, I knew I had to do something daring for this week’s installment of my Great Bacon Odyssey. Because I don’t want to repeat myself, and because I’d prefer not to have a heart attack before I turn 50, I thought it best to avoid eating something made entirely out of bacon this time. Instead of making and eating something that had already been made by others, as I did with the bacon burger, I decided to make something that had never been made before.
But what to make? There are so many outlandish bacon experiments to be found online that just looking through them for inspiration nearly made my arteries clog themselves out of sympathy. Eventually I came back to the comments readers had left on my articles and emails they’d sent me, and I happened upon several people suggesting chicken-fried bacon. The idea of coating a strip of bacon in batter and deep-frying it didn’t appeal much to me, because it seemed almost sacrilegious, implying that the taste of a crisply fried strip of bacon required improvement! But, I thought, what about reversing the meats — what about bacon-fried chicken? A few Google searches didn’t turn up anyone doing something like what I had in mind, and as we all know, if something isn’t on the internet, it didn’t happen. So I began to work on the idea.
I decided to pre-fry the bacon, reasoning that it would be crisper that way and would likely adhere to the chicken better due to some of its fat rendering off. I took nine strips of uncured, but spice-rubbed, bacon from Trader Joe’s, and fried them up in a small skillet just until the meat was cooked and a decent amount of fat had rendered, but well before they were as crispy as I would have made them if I’d been planning to eat them without further processing. I chopped up the cooked bacon with a chef’s knife and mixed the bits with some (wheat) flour and a little ground chipotle, enough for a little smoky kick but not nearly enough to affect the pure bacony goodness.
I started my deep fryer heating canola oil to 375°F, and prepared a plate of just flour and a bowl of fork-mixed eggs. When the oil reached its designated temperature, I took a rinsed-and-dried chicken thigh (bone-in, with skin), coated it with the flour, dipped it in egg (allowing excess to drip off) and pressed it into the bacon bits. I then put it in the fryer basket and let it cook for about ten minutes.
I should mention this was actually the first time I’d ever used this deep fryer, which in hindsight was not the greatest choice I could have made. Unless you have a really good, and fairly big deep fryer, I suggest using a large heavy pan and turning the chicken over halfway through to ensure that it cooks through. I had to microwave the pieces I made for 30 seconds each before I could eat the parts closest to the bones, as they were clearly undercooked.
The first piece done and cooled a little, I of course tried it out. The meat was tender and juicy and very good, but the skin! The skin w as transcendent! There aren’t enough “m”s in “Mmmmmmmm” to describe it. It was so good I swear it might make a pig or chicken seriously consider cannibalism. My wife tried the skin, too, and pronounced it amazing. (No video this time, because there really was no effort involved in eating the results, and because I don’t think you really want to watch me eat fried chicken.)
I had noticed that the first thigh I cooked had lost a fair bit of its bacon coating, and, reasoning that this was probably due to the size of the bacon bits, scraped the remaining bacon bits into my Cuisinart Mini-Prep and ground them up much finer, then added a bit more flour to them. The second and third thighs I cooked (all I had coating for) held their crusts much better.
The verdict: Yes, bacon very definitely makes fried chicken better. The meat was as good (once the undercooked-ness had been rectified) as any fried chicken I’ve ever had, but the skin was — and I can say this without hyperbole — one of the very best things I have ever tasted. If you like fried chicken and you like bacon, you must try this. It may spoil your palate for any future fried chicken you eat, but you really won’t mind.
Again, as promised, the awesome folks at ThinkGeek will send a $25 gift certificate to the first person who suggested the idea to me. In this case, that means the first person who suggested chicken-fried bacon to me, since that was my inspiration. That person is kentgeek, who left a comment on my very first Great Bacon Odyssey article. That means the prize hadn’t been announced yet, but he still deserves it. Please keep those ideas coming! There are many more posts to come, and more gift certificates to earn.