I have spent my whole life avoiding Popeyes Fried Chicken. I’ve heard that its Southern locations are excellent, but here in the Northeast, Popeyes appears in the news strictly along with the words, “shots fired” or, “human shield.” The branch location with which I am most familiar is in New Haven, CT, and it seems to exist in one, long perpetual armed robbery, broken up only from time-to-time by employees adding vials of crack to $50 three-piece boxes before passing them through the window. I certainly never visited, and Popeyes simply did not exist on my fried chicken radar.
Until, that is, I found myself in an airport down South during a 40 minute layover. I hadn’t eaten all day, and had only minutes to grab some chicken and get it into my belly at the airport’s food court. I opted for a two-piece, with mashed potatoes and a biscuit. The kid behind the counter asked if I wanted some “Delta sauce,” which I had never heard of. I hastily agreed, anxious to get to my little plastic table where I could begin shoehorning hot fried chicken into my throat.
The mashed potatoes were pretty standard-issue fast food stuff, and the biscuit was only remarkable due to the perfect butter-stained ring it left on my napkin. The fried chicken, however, was a revelation: unbelievably moist, piping hot white meat chicken covered in a thick, crunchy, spicy batter. Ripping strips off the breast and dunking them into the included tub of “Delta” sauce, I felt like I was eating fried chicken for the first time ever. The tangy, lightly spicy sauce perfectly complimented the salty, crunchy chicken. I wolfed down my late-lunch, and seriously considered filling the remaining space in my carry-on with more packets of Delta sauce, and wearing the cleaned bones as a necklace for the rest of the day, such was my new-found love for fried chicken.
Popeyes has just one location in Maine, in the Kennebunk Service Plaza right off Interstate 95. And while my experience with the restaurant is only limited to an airport food court, I still don’t have a ton of confidence in the quality of the chicken being served at a highway rest stop. Now, I have to satisfy my Louisiana-style fried chicken cravings at home, and this is how I do it:
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup water
- About 1 cup “Texas Pete” hot red pepper sauce
- 4 cups flour
- 2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 teaspoon paprika
- 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 1 quart buttermilk (optional)
- Salt, Pepper, and Garlic Powder (to taste)
- 1 (1 to 2 1/2-pound) chicken, cut into pieces
- Peanut Oil, for frying
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup chili sauce
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2-3 dashes hot pepper sauce
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Place cut-up chicken in a large bowl, and cover with buttermilk. Cover and chill for two hours, or overnight. This is an optional (but recommended) step.
- In a large bowl, add eggs, water, and red pepper sauce. Whisk until combined.
- In a large gallon freezer bag, mix flour, pepper, paprika, and cayenne.
- Remove chicken from buttermilk (if marinated) and sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
- Place all chicken pieces in freezer bag with flour mixture. Shake until all pieces are evenly coated.
- Remove chicken pieces one at a time, shaking excess flour. Dip each piece in the egg mixture, and return to bag of flour. After all pieces of been dipped in the egg mixture and put back in the bag, give it a second shake to coat chicken pieces again.
- Heat oil in deep fryer or deep pan to 350 degrees. Working in batches, drop each piece of chicken into the hot oil. Fry for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown, turning occasionally if oil does not completely cover chicken. Keep in mind that dark meat chicken takes longer to cook than white meat. Watch your wing segments, as well; these will finish cooking first.
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Chill in the refrigerator for one hour before serving.