Jeff Henderson is now a star chef on the Food Network and best-selling author, but you'd never guess where he learned to cook: in prison. Henderson was a drug dealer and spent nearly 10 years behind bars, but a jail-time job in the kitchen showed him how cooking could turn his life around. As a nationally-known speaker, he has inspired thousands.
Henderson shares two of his favorite recipes for fried chicken and beans.
Friendly Fried Chicken
Jeff's Thoughts on Friendly Fried Chicken:
"The great debate over fried chicken always has to do with how best to get that crispy, flavorful outside -- oh, and OK, which part of the chicken tastes best fried. Well, these days we know that fried foods are not good for your health, so I recommend you don't eat this dish too often. But every once in a while, it's OK to dust off that cast-iron skillet and fry up some good ol' chicken.
This was one of the first recipes I learned, thanks to my former mentor in prison, Friendly Womack Jr. What makes it so great is that the chicken gets seasoned three times, and the meat is pierced with a fork to let the flavors penetrate. I am not going to say any more. Get your skillet out and follow this recipe to a tee. Oh, and also do this: Fry one wing first to make sure the oil is hot enough and the flavor is what you want before you do the whole batch. Read the story, folks!"
3/4 cup ground black pepper
2/3 cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons onion powder
4 tablespoons cayenne pepper
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
16 chicken wings
1/4 cup buttermilk
5 cups canola oil
What To Do:
1. To make the Friendly spice mix, stir the pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne together. Divide it in half and add one-half to the flour. Mix well with a fork and set aside.
2. Rinse the chicken wings and pat dry with paper towels. Place the wings on a flat surface. Using a fork, pierce the chicken wings to allow the spices to penetrate.
3. Tuck the chicken wings at the joint and season them with the second half of the spice mix. Place them in a medium bowl and coat them with the buttermilk. Cover and let it marinate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
4. When ready to fry, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and dust it well with the seasoned flour. Hit two pieces together to shake off the excess flour.
5. Heat the oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet to about 375 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, test the heat by dipping the end of one wing in the hot oil. If the oil starts boiling heavily, it's too hot. The oil should have a medium boil when the chicken is dropped in.
6. Gently drop the wings in the oil and fry, turning two or three times, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the skillet to a large plate lined with paper towels.
Continue Reading for Another Recipe
Big Easy Red Beans and Rice
Jeff's Thoughts on Big Easy Red Beans and Rice:
"The red beans in this dish are traditionally cooked with a ham hock, but I've substituted a smoked turkey leg for the pork. You get great flavor and a healthier dish. You can also add cooked ground beef to turn this from a side dish into a hearty meal."
1 pound dried red kidney beans
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
2 bay leaves
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup finely diced yellow onion
1/2 cup finely diced green bell pepper
1/2 cup finely diced celery
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound smoked turkey leg or wing
4 to 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cups long-grain rice, cooked
What To Do:
1. Soak the beans in water to cover for at least 24 hours, then drain.
2. Melt the butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, onion, bell pepper, celery, and flour. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
3. Add the beans and smoked turkey and stir well. Add enough chicken broth to cover the beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Once the beans are tender and seasoned, the broth should have thickened. Add more broth or water if it is too thick. The mixture should be soupy but not watery. Discard the bay leaves and thyme. Shred the smoked turkey meat (discarding the bone) and add it to the beans. Serve with white rice.