Gracious alive, Cal, what’s all this?” He was staring at his breakfast plate.
Calpurnia said, “Tom Robinson’s daddy sent you along this chicken this morning. I fixed it.”
“You tell him I’m proud to get it—bet they don’t have chicken for breakfast at the White House. What are these?”
“Rolls,” said Calpurnia. “Estelle down at the hotel sent ‘em.”
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
It's the 4th of July weekend again. All over America, people are setting up barbecues, preparing their slip and slides and enjoying the sunshine - at least in all the films I've seen. My sister, who now lives in Seattle, will be able to let me know how true this all is. It seems almost unbelievable that a year has gone by since Miss Maudie's Lane Cake appeared here on the blog, in all its marshmallowed glory. But a year it has been.
Summer is back, with a vengeance this week, and conditions here in London are feeling distinctly Maycomb County-esque. I hate to be one of 'those' English people, who speak of nothing but the weather, but it is an unavoidable topic at the moment. 36C, in other countries, might be a standard summer's day (it is where I am from), but here in the land of double glazing, heated buses and carpeted floors, it's oppressive. The office, the homes, the public transport, the people - we're not built for it. For the first time since arriving here in the UK, I couldn't sleep for the heat this week, tossing and turning to find the elusive cool patch on my bed.
What better timing then to return to this, my favourite summer book, one I turn to each year as the temperature increases. This breakfast, laid before Atticus Finch (up there alongside William as my top fictional dad) is a veritable feast - a quiet and heartfelt thank you from his town. It's a breakfast probably better suited to a cooler day, but so long as you stay out of the kitchen as much as you can while the oven is on, you'll be fine.
Fried Chicken and Rolls
Serves 4 for breakfast (you'll have leftover rolls)
4 chicken thighs (bones in, but without their skin)
Pinch sea salt
Pinch ground black peppercorns
Pinch sweet paprika
500ml vegetable oil
1tbsp fast action yeast
125ml tepid water
2tbsp vegetable oil
Large pinch salt
425g plain flour
Two mixing bowls
Wide saucepan or frying pan, with a lid (I used a paella pan)
1. The night before you fancy this for breakfast, place the salt, chicken and buttermilk in a bowl, squelching it around to ensure the chicken is covered. Cover and leave overnight in the fridge.
2. To make the rolls, combine the water and yeast in a jug, and whisk to combine. In a bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, oil, sugar and salt. Add the yeast mix, then the flour, and mix with your hand to combine. Tip the dough you've created onto the bench and knead until smooth and elastic - around 10 minutes. Lightly oil a bowl, place the dough back in and cover it, then allow the dough to double in size. This will take around an hour, depending on how warm your kitchen is.
3. Tip the dough out onto your bench and split into twelve evenly sized balls. I found that weighing the dough and dividing by twelve allowed me to divide the dough evenly, but you don't need to be this pedantic. Shape into balls and then place a centimetre or two apart in a roasting tray lined with greaseproof paper. Leave for forty minutes to prove again. During this time, heat your oven to 180C.
4. Once risen again (it's fine that the sides of the rolls are now touching - that's what you want), melt the butter and paint it over the tops. Bake for 15 minutes, until risen and golden. Remove from the oven and leave on a cooling rack while you finish with the chicken.
5. While the rolls are cooking, you can cook the chicken. Heat 2cm of vegetable oil in wide frying pan/saucepan (with a lid). Mix the flour, paprika and pepper together in a shallow dish. Remove the chicken from the fridge and take the pieces out of the buttermilk, wiping them as you do. Turn them in the flour until covered.
6. Once the oil is at 170C (or is hot enough to brown a small piece of bread in a few seconds) lower the chicken thighs into the oil, ensuring that you don't put them on top of each other. Put the lid on the pan, turn the heat down and cook for seven minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook for five minutes on the other side. If the coating doesn't look golden brown by this point, turn the heat up for a minute or two at the end. Remove the chicken from the pan and allow to cool slightly on some kitchen paper.
Serve with tomato or crisp lettuce - something fresh and cool. Leftover rolls should be eaten within a day or two, or frozen until needed.