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The Frying Pan: How Black Cuisine Became American Supper
Over the past six months, we’ve interviewed North Carolina-based chefs, who have generously shared their expertise in making recipes from Nigeria, the southern United States, Brazil, and Puerto Rico for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the have come to watch as they do. Check out the food of the African diaspora here:
Chef Michael Bowling has had many culinary role models, but we stand head and shoulders above them all – for good reason.
“I’m a mother’s boy,” he admitted shamelessly.
In the bright kitchen on the west side of his business partner and sister, Joy, he shows off his mother’s old cookbook, a tattered spiral journal lovingly written with exquisite calligraphy.
“That one, Madame B’s Chicken, won the PM Magazine cooking contest, and it was featured in an old Fannie Farmer cookbook,” he beams. “It’s one of those things that you can wear and pass on. Its important to me. My sister keeps it because if I have it, I will lose it.
Bowling founded Hot Box Next Level Kitchen eight years ago, but his culinary journey began long before that. Growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he watched his mother and aunts perfect one after another: a lemon pound cake, a red velvet cake, and fried chicken. Her mother used heavy-duty brown paper bags to dredge the meat into seasoned flour, shaking them before placing them in a cast iron pan filled with very hot oil.
“I don’t really fry chicken at home, but it’s still one of my favorite things to cook and eat,” he says.
How to make fried chicken
Fried chicken is the undisputed king of African American cuisine. While Africans had long had sautéed chicken in palm oil, and the Scotts were the first to fry it in fat (but without seasonings), it is in America’s melting pot of cast-iron pans. black fried chicken got its crown. Black American soldiers in the 1950s even adopted the technique overseas, sowing the genesis of Korean fried chicken.
While the details may vary, the steps for classic fried chicken are basically the same: brine, wet, dry, fried. Bowling begins with a brine in buttermilk.
“Buttermilk for me is only part of my past and my story,” he said. “And an essential thing in southern cuisine. Think about it: we make buttermilk cookies, buttermilk pancakes, and fried chicken. Historically, it probably had something to do with heat; we had to do something with the milk that was going wrong.
An overnight soak in seasoned buttermilk is just the right decision. Using a generous hand with garlic, paprika, salt and pepper left the liquid almost orange by the time it was finished.
“You can’t do too much, but you can do too little for buttermilk,” he advised. “A 12 to 24 hour space for marinating is fine.”
The following steps are simple: Heat the oil slowly while making the wet egg dip and dry dough – an awesome 3: 1 ratio of flour and cornmeal.
“I ate a lot of cold fried chicken growing up,” Bowling explained. “Even now, it’s one of my favorite things. This shot of cornmeal keeps it crisp. Even if it has been in the refrigerator or there is a little dampness, there is a crackle factor.
Because he seasoned the marinade so well, Bowling opted for a lighter hand with the batter.
“I want layers of flavor,” he says. “In the restaurant, we make smoked wings, and we brine them for 24 hours, smoke them, then fry and dust them for a light finish. But we are proud of it.
Become a chef
He was about 8 years old when he started cooking, but he was helping out long before. Many Saturday nights were spent on her living room floor, cleaning greens and husking beans while watching “Hee Haw” with her sister.
“We would start making Sunday dinner on Saturday night, because there was a church in the morning, and if you didn’t start the day before, you wouldn’t eat until 5 pm.”
Bowling’s mother forced him to participate in many activities, such as choir and camp, which required travel out of town. He was looking forward to everyone, and not just because of the destination.
“My aunts always asked me what I wanted to take on my trip. Fried chicken and pound cake were the best way to travel, ”Bowling said. “They were packing me a baby igloo cooler full of goodies. Most of them didn’t make it past the first or second day because my friends all wanted a taste too. “
Once a year, his parents would fry chicken for the entire shift as a railroad engineer where his father was supervisor. The one-day effort has become something that employees look forward to every year. Hefting a cast iron skillet over the stove, Bowling recalled an almost irreplaceable loss.
“My sister had my mom’s cast iron pan, but she went to college and her roommate messed it up. The girl rubbed it with soap and steel wool. We cleaned up all the seasoning, ”he said. “She was young – she didn’t know any better.
Yet what Bowling lost in this legacy he more than made up for in knowledge. He started cooking for his friends in high school and kept part-time jobs washing dishes or riding the bus. After graduating he tried to quit the food industry, but “it felt like I couldn’t get out of the game. Every time I left I always kept a part-time job and it was there. that I was the happiest, ”he said.
Joy Bowling graduated and started traveling as a consultant. Often she would send her brother pictures of the food she was trying in Switzerland, France and London. Back then, a cook at TGI Fridays Grill in Roanoke, Va., He always looked at it wistfully. One day she told him that he too could make food like this if he applied. He tried and applied for a fine dining restaurant run by a black chef, who saw his potential and hired him.
“I loved it. We were making spinach rolls and different kinds of olives and feta cheese and all that wonderful stuff that I had eaten because my mom made sure we were grown, but I didn’t. ‘had never done it,’ Bowling said.
After his mentor left the job, Bowling learned under the guidance of another chef with a slightly more difficult personality.
“Tom Ford, a white man with a Napoleon complex. People hated him, but I loved him, ”Bowling said. “Around 2000, Tom told me that no one was going to give me a chance without a degree because I was black. Some might say he was racist. He told me the truth.
Bowling reached out to Johnson & Wales in Charleston, SC, and Ford wrote his letter of recommendation. He also arranged for work and accommodation if Bowling needed it. After graduating from culinary studies and working in food concepts in Charleston, Bowling and his sister finally went into business as Hot Box Next Level Kitchen.
With a food truck and a Brick and Mortar in Concord under their belts, the siblings are expanding to a stationary site by Johnson C. Smith University in late May. Located near 1622 W. Trade Street, the new operation will be located in the former A&P grocery store. There will be outdoor seating, lighting and equipment, a boon to the neighborhood historically on the Black West side. The bowling alley is excited. He had briefly lived in the area after a divorce a few years ago, but had yet to find an affordable place to open a store.
“We are going to help reactivate this part of the neighborhood. It’s on the tram and within walking distance of everyone. We’re really excited to be on the beautiful west side, ”he said. “It’s like coming home.”
Chef Michael Bowling of Hot Box Next Level Kitchen
4 boneless skinned chicken thighs
2 cups of buttermilk
4 tablespoons of HBX Dust (or 1 tablespoon of granulated garlic, 1 tablespoon of paprika, 1 tablespoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of white pepper, ½ teaspoon of pepper)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup of cornmeal
HBX Dust for sprinkling after frying
Method of production
Marinate your chicken for 12-24 hours in buttermilk and 3 tablespoons of HBX Dust or spice blend. Remove from the marinade and discard the liquid.
Preheat your oil over medium heat. The oil should have small bubbles the size of a pea.
In a bag, combine the flour and cornmeal. Place the chicken in a plastic bag and shake it. Massage the paste into the nooks and crannies of the flesh so that it is completely covered. Shake off the excess.
Gently place the chicken in the hot oil.
Fry the chicken over medium-high heat, 5 to 7 minutes per side, and adjust the heat as you go so that it is not too browned. Move your chicken so that it does not burn. Use a meat thermometer if necessary to check doneness (165 degrees at thickest point).
Using tongs or a fork, place the chicken on a paper towel to soak up the oil.
Sprinkle with the remaining spice blend and enjoy.