My mama has given me many things in my life. My roots, my wings, sometimes a pain in my butt (you know it’s true Mama), so much love and maybe best of all…smothered chicken. I have said before that my mama is an excellent cook. And that Big Daddy is fond of saying “Bernie could cook a boot and make it taste good!” He is not wrong.
I will be honest here and say, in the past 10 years, my family of origin has undergone many changes. I am pretty certain that is a statement that can be made for most families, as change is the only thing that is constant in this world. You can count on things changing in this world. But you know one thing that has not changed in all of the changing that has remained the same? My mama’s smothered chicken. She has had her ups and she has weathered her downs, we have been high and low, but her love for her kids and her excellent smothered chicken are two things that have remained the same. If I ever had to equate food to love, I would say her smothered chicken, her rice and gravy and honey carrots (pea and asparagus casserole if we are lucky) would be a plate of love. Big Daddy, the kids, the dogs and I recently piled into the mini van to go spend the night at my mama and daddy’s house in Alex. and she asked me what I wanted her to fix for supper. Of course, I say smothered chicken. She already knew before she asked. When I had all of my babies, my mama would come and stay a few nights and smothered chicken was always on the menu. I really did not even try to attempt to make it for the longest time because I was convinced it was too hard and that no matter what, it would not be as a good as her’s. She always picks on me and says since I am such a good cook now, there is hardly anything she can make me that I cannot make myself. I can happily say that my smothered chicken cannot hold a candle to her’s. I am so glad to have her here on this Earth to make it for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, my smothered chicken is passable. It is ok. It might be pretty good. But Bernie has the magic touch and I am just fine with that. Maybe its because it is one way I still need her, one way she can be there for me like always, but she makes the smothered chicken of my dreams and when I am at her house or she is at mine, and she prepares my favorite meal, all is right with the world. Its funny how something so simple can do that, isn’t it? None the less, I had the envie for some smothered chicken yesterday afternoon and I decided to make it. I feel inadequate every time I set out, but the more I prepare it, the easier it gets. Its just a lot to live up to, you know? My mama is tiny, but she has some fairly big feet and her shoes are hard to fill. Especially when it comes to smothered chicken.
I was at a loss about how to tell ya’ll how to make a dish that I am only just now learning how to make really well. I held off until now because while it’s not hard per se, it is a little bit of an involved process. I have been gone so long though, not blogging, and so many have stuck with me while I took my little blogging hiatus, I figured I owed it to you to show you how to make one of my favorites or at least attempt to. So bare with me as I fumble through this. This is not baked chicken. This is not fried chicken. This is chicken that has been cut up and smothered in its own delicious juices. And it’s fantastic. (If you are a Jim Gaffigan fan, you will get that reference. If not, you should check out Jim Gaffigan so you will understand. He is hilarious.)
I will stop story telling for now. Though when it comes to mothers and daughters, the story never really ends. I certainly need to work on my smothered chicken technique and I do not claim to be an expert, but if I waited until I was an expert at making smothered chicken, we might be waiting a long time for this post. Plus, for now, I really enjoy that my mama’s smothered chicken is better than mine. I am not ready to be top dog in that category.
Ok ya’ll ready? Let’s do this!!
My mama’s smothered chicken
Stuff you need
One fryer chicken, cut up
Salt and pepper
What to do with the stuff
Wash and pat dry your chicken pieces. Drizzle some cooking oil all over the bottom of a large skillet. Bernie is pretty particular about the size pot she smothers her chicken in. And Stephen (my daddy) says you don’t want to use a pot too big when smothering your meat, that the meat fitting snugly in the pot makes for a darker gravy. I don’t argue. I use a magnalite deep skillet that is perfect for smothering chicken. For those who don’t know, Magnalite pots and pans are the holy grail for Cajuns. The BEST!!! I inherited one from BD’s Pappaw and I love it.
Now salt and pepper your chicken on both sides. Turn the heat on your pot/skillet with the oil in it.
Once the oil is warmed up, add your chicken pieces.
Allow the chicken pieces to brown one side. Mama says that adding a little sugar to your pan aids in the browning process, so I do what she says. Just a spoonful or so is good. And You don’t want your fire too hot or your chicken will stick. So medium to low heat is best.
Now allow your chicken pieces to brown on the other side. I add a little more sugar to the pot at this point as well. Just a spoonful will do. Remember to mind your heat so chicken does not stick. I also wiggle the pieces around here and there as I brown the chicken. It makes me feel like a chef. And also, it prevents the chicken from sticking.
Once chicken is nice and browned on both sides (thank you sugar!!!), you want to add some water to your pot. This begins the smothering part of the process.
I add enough water to half way cover the chicken pieces. It’s ok if you add too much since you are going to cook out most of the water. Lower your heat until the water is simmering. Cover your pot and allow the water to cook out. This is the first step in making that delectable gravy. Oh my yes. Rice and gravy. Staple on so many Cajun tables. *
Let the water almost cook completely out but not quite. Do NOT allow all of the water to cook out. No!!! You are going to add more water to the little bit that is left after the first round. So add more water and continue the process of making that gravy and simultaneously tenderizing that chicken. Hence the smothering. I hope I am explaining this correctly. You basically will see your water the chicken is cooking in turn to gravy. It’s magic!! It will begin to look like this…
See how it is getting thicker and darker and looking like gravy? Ok now do the same thing over again until you get the gravy a dark as you want and have enough gravy (is there such a thing?) and all pieces of chicken are cooked through and tender. I say fork tender, meaning you can stick a fork in the meat and it easily turns.
Smothered chicken makes the most fabulous gravy. If you need to thicken the gravy at the end, just add some cornstarch and whisk it around really good. My gravy making skills are a work in progress, it’s not an exact process and just had to be learned. I am still learning. You will want to remove your smaller pieces of chicken like the legs and wings so they don’t fall apart while the other pieces finish getting tender. Just remove them and put them on a plate and set aside. Sha small pieces of chicken being removed from the party, but they can come back later!!!
*Fun fact, when I was growing up, I would swear when I moved out I would never make rice again. That I would serve only mashed potatoes. My daddy would laugh to himself and basically say “don’t invite me then, my baby.” Ha ha! I am literally eating those words. My Momou gave me a rice pot as my first wedding gift. It’s a must have!
We recently got a huge bag of rice from some good friends who have a rice farm. The rice is so fabulous and smells so good cooking, it is absolutely worth getting some if you can. Their website is http://www.bakerfarms.net and you can actually order a bag of rice if you want to. I have eaten a lot of rice my days, my thighs and rear end can attest to that, but this rice is unique. It’s aromatic and it cooks up perfectly every time!!!
That’s my little rice side note. But it’s important because what good is that gravy if there is no cooked rice?!! Exactly!!!
I want to say thank you to all of my loyal readers. For your encouragement and sticking with me when I was not sure if I needed or wanted to continue blogging. Thanks for inspiring me. I am glad to know the words I write mean something to so many of you. I am back now and we are only just beginning. Your loyalty means the world to me!!! Thanks for reading! -Aimee