I stopped in at LeRoy’s Fried Chicken on Howell Mill with some buddies last week. The new walk-up-only chicken stand had been open three days, it was a Friday afternoon, and we decided, hey, let’s go hang out at one of two umbrella-less tables on their porch and sweat until I have a nice ass print in my khakis. Yeah, I didn’t really think that one through.
I ordered quickly then forked over my $11 (plus a buck in the tip jar, labeled “chicken feed”) for my two piece with mac ‘n cheese and a coke.
And then I waited, and perspired. But at least I had some entertainment. Maybe fifteen minutes into our wait, a lady who had been waiting ahead of us inquired, “what oil do you use for frying?”. Julia smiled a bit and proudly replied, “lard!”.
The woman’s face instantly fell, as if someone has pissed on her snow cone. “Lard. That’s pork right? I can’t eat that…you have to cancel my order. You have to refund my money”. Yeah, it’s not Muslim friendly fried chicken. She had been waiting out in that sun for over twenty minutes to find out she couldn’t eat it. Wha Wha.
Oh well, I got mine! So there it is, pressure fryer lard cooked fried chicken. I love the deep color. I thought it was a nice indication of flavor to come.
No such luck. The exterior, which I’ll call a batter, was too thick, soggy, uneven in parts, and grossly under-seasoned. In appearance it reminds me of the Ad Hoc fried chicken, which goes with a coating of flour/seasoning, followed by a buttermilk dredge, followed by more flour/seasoning. The result of that is a thick coating, an entity unto itself, a delicious shell of crunchy flavor, rather than an extension of the chicken itself. It’s different than what I do at home (single thin flour dip) but it’s a tasty rendition, mostly due to the amount of seasoning in Keller’s recipe, particularly the double-take inducing amount of garlic and onion salt. LeRoy’s chicken fails in that regard.
Second is the issue of the texture. I watched the dredge/coating process through the window and it didn’t appear that they were letting the buttermilk (or egg wash, I couldn’t tell) sufficiently drip-drain from each piece before coating with flour. I believe that this results in an excessively wet batter that becomes chewy and soggy on the inside of the shell during cooking.
When I’m cooking fried chicken, I will often let the post flour dip chicken sit for thirty minutes on the counter, or an hour or more in the fridge to remove as much moisture from the exterior as possible. Perhaps in the mad dash to push out as much chicken as possible on a busy Friday, LeRoy’s doesn’t have this luxury of time.
I will be back, because these problems are easily addressed, but I expect more at that price. Oh, and can you throw us a combo meal for under $10? A drink and a side included? The mac was enough for three people, which is fine if you are sharing, but ends up being pricey and wasteful for a party of one.
I went again yesterday to see if things had changed, and the lunch situation is indeed improved. There’s an $8 combo meal with two pieces of dark meat, a biscuit, butter, and a lemonade or sweet tea. There are also umbrellas which make the few minute wait more bearable. I enjoyed the biscuit too, though mine looked different than other photos I saw online. Perhaps they changed the recipe? It’s super buttery and satisfying. The chicken, however, still needs some work. The crust is still too thick, overcooked, gummy, and just plain not crunchy enough. I dislike that the wet batter peels away so easily, exposing the should-be-but-isn’t crispy skin of the chicken thigh. I hope it’s still a work in progress…or maybe it’s just my personal tastes interfering?