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To my mind, we have only marketing to blame for the rise in popularity of near-meatless chicken wings, and the decline (demise?) of the “pulley bone,” the most delectable morsel on a yard bird. At the Sunday fried-chicken dinners of my youth, no one wanted the wings, but we would come close to fisticuffs over the pulley bone. What is it? That moist, tender breast meat surrounding the clavicle—“wishbone”—and if you butcher your own chicken, you can have one too. If you don’t have a deep-sided cast-iron skillet with a lid, use a 5-quart lidded stockpot or Dutch oven to guard against splatters.
Chicken-Fried Chicken with Milk Gravy (Serves 4)
1 whole (3- to 4-pound) organic chicken
3 cups organic all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons rice flour
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 1/2 to 2 pints good-quality lard, for frying
For the milk gravy:
1/4 cup pan drippings from the fried chicken
(with some of the browned bits)
1/4 cup organic all-purpose flour
2 to 2 1/2 cups organic whole milk
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Hot biscuits, for serving
To butcher the chicken: Rinse and dry the chicken, inside and out; pat dry with paper towels. Use game shears to remove the chicken’s backbone, starting at the cavity opening and working up to the neck on either side of the backbone. Reserve the backbone for stock.
Pull one leg away from the body and bend it downward until the thigh joint pops. Work your knife tip around the joint to remove the thigh and leg, then find the thigh/leg joint, work your knife around it first to sever the ligaments, and cut into two separate pieces. Do the same on the other side.
Bend a wing backward to locate the joint and detach it the same way; repeat on other side.
For the pulley bone: Turn the chicken breast-side-up on your cutting board, and use your forefinger along the top centerline to find the tip end of the wishbone. Use a chef’s knife to cut straight down through the breast just behind that; when your knife hits bone, change the angle so that the blade slides forward between the breastbone and the meat, and under the two ends of the wishbone. Voilà! The pulley bone.
Separate the breast into two halves by scoring down the centerline of the breastbone, then cutting through both the meat and the bone.
To fry the chicken: Rinse the 9 chicken pieces thoroughly, and pat dry with paper towels. Set the chicken parts on a wire rack over a baking sheet to dry; have a second wire rack handy for the cooked chicken.
Preheat the oven to 200° F. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl until uniform in color. Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
In a deep-sided cast-iron skillet, or stockpot, add enough lard to reach a depth of 1 1/2 inches. Have both a meat thermometer and a candy thermometer (for the fat) handy. Turn the heat to high under the skillet and bring the oil temperature to 350° F; adjust the heat as necessary to maintain the temperature between 350 and 375° F throughout the process.
Working in batches, coat only the pieces that will immediately fit in the skillet. Using one hand for the egg and the other for the flour, dredge each piece of chicken first in the flour mixture, then dip it in the egg to coat, dredge it again in the flour mixture, and add it to the hot lard.
Partially cover the skillet with the lid and cook the chicken for 10 to 12 minutes, turning several times, until light golden brown on each side. Remove the lid and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, turning each piece once, until they are a medium golden brown. Remove to the clean wire rack and check that the internal temperature next to the bone of the thickest piece is 165° F. Cook the remaining chicken in batches. Serve immediately, or hold in a warm oven for up to 15 minutes while you prepare the gravy.
To make the milk gravy: Transfer the drippings and any scraped-up bits from the bottom of the frying skillet to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, or saucepan, over medium heat, and slowly sprinkle in the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook for 1 minute, until the mixture begins to turn golden, then slowly add the milk, stirring continuously.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the gravy is thick and bubbly. Season with the Tabasco sauce, salt, and pepper. Yields about 3 cups. Transfer to a gravy boat or a small bowl with a ladle to serve alongside the chicken, accompanied by hot biscuits.
Find this and more than 175 other organic wild game, seafood, foraged foods, and garden fare recipes in The Field to Table Cookbook by Susan L. Ebert (Welcome Books, 2016), available in the Cowgirl magazine store at store.cowgirlmagazine.com.