Fried Chicken, Like Frankenmuth

FRIED CHICKEN, LIKE FRANKENMUTH

BY GLORIA PITZER

As seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 94)… [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition).]*

The German community of Frankenmuth, Michigan, which for decades has celebrated the art of fried chicken (served family-style) has had thousands of customers lined up every weekend and holiday, waiting to be seated in one of their 2 large restaurants. Their fried chicken is like ‘Grandma used to make’ – richly flavored, moist inside and never greasy. The family-style dinner provides the table with large bowls of homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, moist and spicy dressing (called “stuffing” in other parts of the country), a fresh-from-scratch cranberry-orange relish, hot breads and beverages.

The fried chicken method:

Begin by setting your electric skillet at 400°F and melting ¼ pound margarine and ½ cup corn oil in it. Blend only until the margarine bubbles, without letting it change color. Don’t let it brown, please!

Run the pieces of a cut-up chicken fryer under cold water. Shake off the excess water but don’t let it get too dry. Dredge each piece evenly in flour, turning it over and over about 3 or 4 times to let the moisture of the chicken absorb the flour as you turn it and form a coating.

Place the floured pieces skin-side down in the oil/margarine mixture and, as it brown’s, sprinkle each piece with the following: 1/8 teaspoon onion salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, ¼ teaspoon paprika and a dash of sage.

When the skin-side of each piece is golden brown, turn and let the bone-side that you just seasoned, brown as well. Dust the browned side with the same 4 ingredients given above. Also sprinkle each piece, skin-side up and nicely browned, with 1 tablespoon flour per piece and then about 2 teaspoons of the drippings in which the chicken is being fried.

Rinse a baking pan in hot water and shake it off, but don’t dry it. Transfer chicken pieces to the moist pan, skin-side up, in a single layer. Put it in a 400°F oven to bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes – for a moister coating cover the pan with foil as the chicken is baking. Serves 4.

#GloriaPitzersCookbook

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*Also see…

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – It’s A Finger Licking Good Day!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Dog Days Of Summer

As always, happy Monday to everyone and #TGIM! I constantly await Mondays, with anticipation, for they are my #52Chances a year to share MEMORIES OF MY MOM with all of you!

Two weeks in and the dog days of summer (which refers to the hottest and most humid time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere – usually in July) have definitely been “hounding” us, so far, this month! It’s the kind of sweltering heat that makes me want to sell my stove in my next yard sale! Break out the cookbooks for microwaves, crock pots and grills!

Sometimes, like now, summertime is just too hot in which to cook anything in the oven. When our Michigan weather is hot and humid outside, the last thing any of us want to do is turn on the oven or even stand over a hot pot on the stove-top. Thus, taking the cooking outdoors is the natural solution. You can cook just about anything on the grill – far beyond the “meat family”. Just about everything tastes better when it is cooked on a sizzling hot grill and, with a little oil and foil, you can create some pretty awesome side dishes, as well!

Photo by Gloria Pitzer, 1964

#NationalPicnicMonth

On these types of days, when it is too hot to cook, I like to eat out… As in outside! Who doesn’t love backyard picnics with wonderful, char-grilled food on beautiful, sunny, summer days? Besides, July is, among other things, National Grilling Month!

The Great Lakes region, in which I live, is all about celebrating summer. We, Michiganders, really appreciate the summer months – especially after a long, Michigan winter! This year, our usual winter “hibernation” period was extended throughout the spring months, with the Covid-19 pandemic and “Stay Home” orders all across the nation.

The Pitzer children in July around 1970 (left-to-right): Laura, Michael, Cheryl, Bill and Debbie

#NationalGrillingMonth

Most everyone, like us, is so tired of being cooped up that all we need is ANY EXCUSE for a backyard cook-out! Therefore, happy National Grilling Month! Whether you use gas, propane or lighter fluid and charcoal… whether you have a small, tabletop hibachi or a large, deck-sized apparatus… JULY IS SUMMERTIME… and summertime is practically synonymous with grilling.

These days, the smells of charcoal and lighter fluid, along with sizzling burgers, chicken, hot dogs or steaks seem to drift through all of the neighborhoods around me. Whenever you light up your grill this month, know that you are part of an ongoing celebration for National Grilling Month. Thus, share any or all of your grilling ideas and creations on social media with #NationalGrillingMonth. However, take note that July is also considered the driest and hottest month of the summer. So, also, be careful and mindful of the dangers of fire!

1970, Pitzer Vacation at Mackinac Island, MI

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in her syndicated column, No Laughing Matter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI)

SUMMER CAN BE FUN – BUT NOT FOR MOTHER!

(Published in the Port Huron Times Herald; Aug. 18, 1977)

Inasmuch as this is an election year, I wish the governor would include me in a kind of relief program to cover mothers of children who are on vacation for the summer. After two weeks of muddy blue jeans and wet towels, my Biz Bag turned in a letter of complaint and left for Yellowstone. And the refrigerator door has not closed since school did.

‘With Avon, you get personal service’, they tell me on TV. Well, since the kids have been home on vacation, my Avon lady asked me to pick up my order…in a locker at the bus terminal.

Of course, summer has not always made me feel like a wart on a hog at bay. In the days of my energy, I could spend a languid afternoon with the entire family at the beach and frolicking through the sand, could sally forth to the Good Humor truck, with brood in tow, while each one took 20 minutes to decide which flavor they would take.

I know you won’t believe this, but I could then bring myself to embrace a child with all of the tranquilized sweetness of Doris Day and plead: ‘Please, Michael, tell Mommy where you buried Daddy!’ I wouldn’t have minded so much except Daddy was carrying the money for the Good Humor man in his swim trunks pocket.

And it was completely unreasonable to expect the Good Humor man to accept one of the children as collateral – or ALL of them for that matter – until we could uncover Daddy. For these are the same children who follow you through the souvenir pavilion, commenting candidly: ‘Look, Mommy. That Lady has her wig on crooked.’ And “doesn’t that man have funny looking knees?’

At moments like these, I know I was never meant for motherhood. It can be very depressing. But gone are the days when I approached summer vacation with the children as if I had the unfailing cheer of Betty White and Ralph Edwards.

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

I wasn’t meant to spend my life serving Kool-Aid and Crispy Critters to swarms of children who embark on our porch like occupational troops in the Berlin Airlift.

I always found that, just as I was about to walk the gangplank of gloom, a cheerful neighbor (probably the mother of ONE) would enumerate for me all the blessings of having the children at home and prescribe how to enjoy them while they’re small – which is exactly like trying to tell me the only way to save money in Las Vegas is to step off the plane and walk directly into the propellers.

I mean, how can anyone live with children, who think all it takes to open a limeade stand is the garden hose and a sack of lime; who now slam the same door all summer they left open all winter; who, for the entire 87 days of summer [vacation] will ask questions like: ‘Why can’t we go see FRITZ THE CAT? It’s a cartoon – isn’t it?’ And ‘Why do you have that twitch in your neck, Mommy?’ Or ‘Can I put a band aid on this worm?’

If a summer relief program is out of the question for mothers like me, I personally feel that the least the governor could do is declare me ‘A Depressed Area!’

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

I have SO MANY, great, childhood memories of summer vacations with my family to places like Tahquamenon Falls, Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island (as pictured above), all in Michigan; as well as Cedar Point, in Ohio, and Niagara Falls, in Ontario, Canada just to name a few.

Every year, while my siblings and I were growing up in the Algonac/Pearl Beach (MI) area, there were always picnics and various backyard barbecues to have or to attend. Our parents created so many awesome memories, about which we can happily reminisce – well, speaking for myself, anyway.

Summertime also had another special meaning for our family, as Mom and Dad’s first born and last born children – my oldest brother, Bill, and my younger sister, Cheryl – ironically, share July 3rd as their birthdays (9 years apart)! The rest of us, Mom and Dad included, have wintertime birthdays (during November, January and March). The summertime memories that Mom and Dad created for us, as we were growing up, will last a life-time!

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 103)

THE LOAVES AND FISHES

MY RELATIONSHIP with Hazel is among those blessings I always count twice! Even though we had different moms but the same dad, we were very close as sisters. In all of the many years that we’ve spent vacations together, even live together, we’ve never had one crossword between us. The worst part of our relationship has always been not being able to say goodbye when it’s time to part at the end of our yearly visits.

Hazel has always given me such enthusiastic support about my work, and such compassion for the events in our family, with our children. Even though there is an 18-year difference in our ages, you’d never know it by looking at us. In fact, you’d probably take HER for the younger one! She has incredible energy and we love to do the same things – even to having the same taste in furnishings and decorating our homes.

One example Hazel set for me to follow was her gracious ability to offer hospitality, to make the unexpected guests feel welcomed and sincerely wanted. Some people need a month’s notice before they can even have you stop for pie and coffee! Not Hazel!

Paul & Gloria Pitzer with Hazel & Chris Allen; Torrance, CA – May 1982

I have seen her carry off a steak dinner with all of the trimmings that started out for just the four of us (Hazel, Chris, Paul and me) and before the event was over, included six others, stopping by a few at a time, unexpectedly. In which case, we simply pulled up another chair to the table and set out another plate, while Chris put another steak from the freezer into the microwave to defrost and then onto the grill on the patio.

With each guest, who arrived unannounced, we added a little more lettuce and a few more tomatoes to the salad and [put] another potato into the microwave to bake. When we discovered there were only eight potatoes, however, and there would be 10 at the table, we improvised. We sliced each baked potato in half, lengthwise, and arrange them on an oven platter, cut side up, dusting each in a little grated Parmesan, a few parsley flakes [and] a little paprika.

Then, drizzling these in a bit of squeeze-bottle margarine, we popped the tray under the broiler for a minute just before sitting everybody down to eat. We opened three cans of assorted fruit and dump this into a pretty glass bowl, sprinkling some coconut over the top of it and by breaking each of the long ears of corn in half, we pulled off the best feast since ‘the loaves and fishes’ and with leftovers, yet. Nobody went away hungry that evening and we enjoyed so much being together. It was wonderful!

#NationalHotDogMonth

As seen in Mom’s syndicated column series titled “No Laughing Matter”, from the 1970s. The full article is called, This Cook is Rated X (or) Yes, Gloria! There Really is a Colonel Sanders (no publishing data available): “At our house ‘eating out’ meant roasting HOT DOGS in the front yard. But then, we didn’t know of many restaurants where 5 children, who hated green vegetables and spilled catsup on the tablecloths, were welcomed. I had to learn to cook by default…the way I saw it, as long as my husband could get marvelous fried chicken at home, why should he take me to Colonel Sanders’?”

#NationalCulinaryArtsMonth

SUMMERTIME COOKING… As seen on the cover page of Mom’s July-August 1988 newsletter: “Shaker cooks, whose culinary skills I admire, place ears of husked and ‘de-silked’ corn in a large pot of cold water, seasoned with the barest pinch of sugar (never salt because it toughens the tender fibers) until the water boils. At that point, they cover it and cook it for one minute more – or as long as it takes to recite ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. Then they drain and serve the ears as fast as they can, with lots of sweet butter, salt and pepper.”

IN CLOSING…

#NationalIceCreamMonth

#NationalBlueberryMonth

#NationalPeachMonth

#NationalIceCreamDay

In honor of the National Ice Cream Month celebrations going on for July – and Sunday is National Ice Cream Day too – here is Mom’s copycat recipe for homemade ice cream like Baskin Robbins, as seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 252). You can substitute just about any frozen fruit, such as BLUEBERRIES or PEACHES, for the strawberries that are listed in the following recipe. The possibilities are endless!

Above recipe developed by Gloria Pitzer

P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…

#CelebrateEveryDay

#WHBY

My next visit on the “Good Neighbor” show, with Kathy Keene, is in two weeks. Be sure to tune in – Monday, July 27th around 11am (CDST)/12noon (EDST) as we discuss chocolate chip cookies, like Bill’s Brother’s Mother’s or Tom’s Mom’s; which, Mom claimed, were even better than Mrs. Field’s!

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

#ThankGodItsMonday

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…28 down, 24 to go!

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Mondays & Memories of My Mom – It’s A Finger Licking Good Day!

Happy Monday, happy July, and happy National Fried Chicken Day! As always, #TGIM – I continually look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances each year, in which I have to share my memories of Mom!

I can’t believe it’s July already! I hope everyone enjoyed the nice, long Independence Day weekend in some way, safely. A lot of people around us, were having their own backyard celebrations all weekend.

#NationalFriedChickenDay

As I mentioned above, today is National Fried Chicken Day – which makes it a finger licking good day in my book – and tomorrow will actually be the 39th anniversary of when Mom FIRST appeared on the Phil Donahue Show (July 7, 1981); demonstrating, among other things, how she imitated fried chicken like the Colonel’s right at home!

As I’ve written about previously, that show was definitely a milestone event, to say the least – for our family as well as our community! Because of Mom’s appearance, our small post office in St. Clair was swamped with about a million letters, throughout that summer and fall. The requests and orders generated from that show, as it aired and re-aired around the world for about a year, just kept pouring in! It was truly an overwhelming response that none of us ever expected.

Donahue 1981 promo

Mom has written many stories about her experiences, on TV and radio shows, related to her KFC-style chicken imitation, which she called “Big Bucket In The Sky! Chicken”. Below is just one of those stories, from her book, My Cup Runneth Over And I Can’t Find My Mop, and a copy of that recipe.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, pp. 71-72)

KFC & THE COLONEL

HISTORY BOOKS have said little of the one person who really put the state of Kentucky on the map, namely the gentleman whom will always be associated with ‘finger-lickin’-good’ fried chicken, Harland Sanders. He was born in Henryville, Indiana in 1890, and died in late 1980.

Harland was one of the food industry’s most successful men. In 1956, Harland Sanders was an out-of-work 66-year-old [man]. When he died, he left a multi-million-dollar food empire. One survey said that, next to Santa Claus, he was the world’s most recognized personality.

When he founded KFC, he had taken his Social Security check, a pressure-Fryer, a can of spices and herbs and set out across the country to show a few restaurant owners how to fry chicken the ‘right’ way! If they liked it, he promised to supply them with the secret coding.

He was a born salesman! And successfully so, considering the number of jobs he held in a lifetime. Once, over WFAA-Radio, in Dallas, I had the pleasure of speaking with the Colonel and it was that conversation, set up by the host of the show I worked with every Thursday, that gave me the clue on how to season flower at home so that it would taste like the Colonel’s coating on his Kentucky fried chicken.

He had just sold that business to the Heublein liquor and food conglomerate, for around $2 million and it was (quote) ‘the dumbest thing I ever did do!’ He complained that the gravy tasted like ‘wallpaper paste’ and the chicken was ‘dry as cardboard’ and that his recipe and technique had been so terribly altered that he was sick about it.

But he was also being taken to court by the company to which he sold KFC. To prove his point, he told me, in court, he prepared his chicken the right way and passed it out to the jury, the judge and the court along with the bucket of chicken purchased down the street from a KFC unit. The court ruled in his favor.

He told me he had read about our recipes in the Corbin, Kentucky newspaper and that he was flattered with my version of his product, but that I didn’t have to go to all of the trouble of imitating 11 herbs and spices.

He said he wanted to see just what kind of a detective I REALLY was, so he told me to go to the supermarket and find one product in a (quote) ‘package’ that would do the same job as those 11 herbs and spices. And I was to report back to him on the radio show the following Thursday. We tested a dozen or more products during the next six days. And finally I found Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix! It was wonderful!

Original illustration by Gloria Pitzer; edited by Laura Emerich

‘You really are a detective after all,’ Colonel Sanders told me on the air that next week, by telephone from his home in Kentucky. I was on the phone from our home in St. Clair. So it was, indeed, the Colonel himself who put me on the right track with this recipe, and with thousands of people listening in the Dallas area. I am so grateful for this wonderful experience. My cup runneth over!

It was also in the conversation with the Colonel that I was urged not to sell my business as long, he told me, as I had the energy and the aptitude to run it myself. At the conclusion of the lawsuit, I was pleased to see that the company was moved to improve the product and give it back its original goodness. Harland remained as a public relations representative for them until the time he passed away.

Most interesting about his background was that he was eight years old when he was turning out entire menus of American delicacies for his widowed mother, while he took care of the house and did the cooking so that she could work.

He said he went on to become a streetcar conductor, a farmhand, (to Cuba as) a soldier, a railroad fireman, section hand, insurance agent, a steamboat promoter, gaslight manufacturer, tire salesman and, finally, as a service station operator in Corbin, Kentucky.

When they could, Harland and his wife, Claudia, enjoy dining at the Elmwood Inn, in Berryville (KY), where as you might expect, his favorite dish was chicken! Given the honorary title of ‘Colonel’ by the state of Kentucky, for his contributions to its cuisine, he remains one of the most respected and recognized figures in the food industry.

Our ‘Better Cookery Cookbook’ [which I rewrote for Mom and it was republished under the title ‘Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective’, in January 2018 by Balboa Press] contains my versions of his products, which you can re-create in your own kitchen from those recipes.

I also tell you in detail, in that book, about our visit to The Donahue Show when I was asked to prepare the famous chicken on camera for millions of viewers and, instead of a deep fryer, the staff provided me, by mistake, with a toaster oven.

Still shot from mom’s Phil Donahue appearance 4-16-93

The recipe had to be revamped right then and there on camera. It worked out so well that we have, since that experience, included the ‘oven-fried’ version on our sheet of sample recipes, which we have probably sent without charge, just for a self-addressed, stamped envelope, to over a few million people!

Here is a copy of that “Big Bucket In The Sky! Chicken” recipe, as I’ve given out in a previous blog post and, also, posted under the “Recipes” tab, on this website:

See also https://therecipedetective.com/2018/11/06/big-bucket-in-the-sky-fried-chicken/ for another version included in this story.

#NationalPicnicMonth

July happens to be National Picnic Month, among other things. When I pack up a summer picnic for me and my husband, I like to use the same classics that Mom used to always make. I can’t eat them now, but I always loved her homemade fudge brownies, chocolate chip cookies, coleslaw, potato salad and, of course, fried chicken (which is always great, hot or cold)! My husband still enjoys them, on my behalf, while I now make low-carb dishes for myself. Our favorite picnic standards are very similar to those listed on HowStuffWorks.com, in Sara Elliott’s informative article, Top 10 Picnic Foods.

At our house ‘eating out’ meant roasting hot dogs in the front yard. But then, we didn’t know of many restaurants where 5 children, who hated green vegetables and spilled catsup on the tablecloths, were welcomed. I had to learn to cook by default…the way I saw it, as long as my husband could get marvelous fried chicken at home, why should he take me to Colonel Sanders’? – Gloria Pitzer [“No Laughing Matter”, This Cook is Rated X (or) Yes, Gloria! There Really is a Colonel Sanders (no date available – circa 1970s)]

Frankenmuth, Michigan is a city that has been world-famous, for many decades, for their family-style, sit-down, fried chicken dinners. This wonderful little town is not too far from us, near Saginaw, MI – from where one of Mom’s favorite radio shows still airs, “Listen to the Mrs.”, co-hosted by Art Lewis and Ann Williams on WSGW-Radio. Not now because of the pandemic, but normally tourists flock to this little German-style town from all around the world and will stand in line for hours to get their world-famous chicken dinners at one of the two largest establishments in town.

The two major restaurants in Frankenmuth that serve the famous family-style chicken dinners are Zehnders and the Bavarian Inn. The town’s German heritage exudes from its many restaurants, hotels, breweries and quaint little shops that line the mile-plus length of the main street through town – from Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland (which is all Christmas, all year) to the Frankenmuth Brewery!

Mom and Dad loved to take road trips to Frankenmuth, as do my husband and me. Although we can’t right now because of Covid-19 restrictions – we’re looking forward to a great day trip there in the future. I miss all the German culture experience that this small tourist town has to offer! Over the 40 years that Mom investigated different restaurant dishes as “The Recipe DetectiveTM”, she came up with many imitations from Frankenmuth of some of the famous dishes available at the two major restaurants mentioned above; plus, some bread and confection imitations from the local bakeries and fudge shops, as well.

IN CLOSING…

#NationalFriedChickenDay

In honor of National Fried Chicken Day, here is Mom’s wonderful copycat recipe for Fried Chicken, Like Frankenmuth…Happy cooking!

P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…

#WHBY

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

If you missed last week’s show, you can listen to it at https://www.whby.com/2020/06/29/laura-pitzer-emerich-open-show/!

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

#CelebrateEveryDay

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