While interviewing Jeffery Hobbs about the fried chicken at Sissy's, the subject of this week's review, I asked a number of questions about his process. I've only fried chicken at home a few times (the smell!) so I'm not well versed it its mechanics. I did, however, page though all my cookbooks to learn a little about what makes for good fried chicken from a cook's perspective. I used some of that info during my interview.
I asked Hobbs to tell me about the birds he was using. He couldn't remember the name of the farm but it was near Pittsburgh. He mentioned the birds were small, "about 2 1/2 to three pounds." That number jumped out at me.
I'd read it in the fried chicken recipe in Ad Hoc, a cookbook by Thomas Keller that takes a super-refined approach to casual home cooking. The only reason I remember the number is because I tried to find those birds at a handful of grocery stores but couldn't. Your average bird runs three to four pounds. Some get up to five or more. (You can get smaller birds if you ask ahead at many groceries.)
Keller calls for smaller birds because smaller birds yield a higher skin-to-flesh ratio, and we all know the best part of fried chicken is the skin. Hobbs echoed the sentiment exactly. He added some language about portion size, but the real reason was the skin. It was a small attention to detail that's apparent in all great cooking.
I haven't had a ton of fried chicken in Dallas, but I'll tell you Sissy's serves up some fine bird. Don't even touch it till you get a bottle of sriracha in hand. It's not real sriracha -- like many things at Sissy's the sauce is made by hand -- and it may even be an improvement on the sauce. So sweet. So smooth.