The untitled Joe Cuffy Project

In high school, there was a guy named Kenny Brite. He was one of those old geezers that sit around the general store spinning yarns, only in a teenager’s body.
One of his stories was completely fictional, but so epic, everybody remembers it to this day. If you asked Petey and the Kid, they could recite it verbatim—although neither has met Kenny.
Way out in the country lived a solitary man named Joe Cuffy. Every morning, almost before the sun came up, Joe would get up and go for a walk. He’d pull on his overalls and work boots, and walk a couple of miles along the rutted roads near his house.
In the fall in eastern North Carolina many farmers burn their harvested fields, to clear them and nourish them for the next growing season. This is also the time of year when fog often lies heavy and thick in the flat countryside.
This particular morning was a perfect storm of fog and smoke. Visibility was almost nil. It was as if the world was a snow globe filled with cotton batting.
Any other man might have waited for the sunshine to eliminate the miasma, but Joe was not any other man.
When the Maola milk truck knocked him into the ditch, neither the driver nor Joe saw the other. On such a bumpy road, it was just a little more jostling in a spasmodic drive. The truck quickly vanished into the murk.
Because Joe lived alone, and sour and misanthropic were some of his better qualities, it took a bit before anyone in the community noticed he was missing.
Finally, three days later they found the old farmer’s corpse just off the road.
And. The Rats. Had. Eaten. His. Head.
Why, you may ask did I just share this legendary tale?
Because every time I grab a carton of Maola buttermilk out of the dairy case, I think of poor old Joe Cuffy.
And when I buy buttermilk, it’s always that brand, because they consistently carry the fat-free variety. To me, this odd, tart liquid is almost magic. It’s thick, rich, and clingy. It makes the best biscuits, my famous chicken fingers, and the most authentic ranch dressing.
When doing a three part dredge, normally it’s flour, then an egg wash, and a top coating. But when you use buttermilk, it seals the first coating, and perfectly becomes the glue for any type of top coat, no matter whether it’s more flour, breadcrumbs, or even something heavier.
Recently I picked up some chicken cutlets on sale. I did a quick inventory to see what I could do with them. I had some pecans in the fridge, but I was low on eggs. I did have some buttermilk, so I decided to make pecan chicken, and instead of an egg wash, I would use buttermilk.
It exceeded my hopes. There was a golden crust of pecans, and the buttermilk added a bit of a bite to what could have been cloying. The meat was juicy, and you could actually pick out the chicken flavor amongst everything else.
Joe Cuffy’s Pecan Chicken
4 chicken breast cutlets
2 cups flour, divided
1 cup fat-free buttermilk
2 cups pecans, chopped in a food processor until about the size of large breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter
Oil for frying
Salt and pepper
Make a three-part dredge. First, 1 ½ cups flour. Second, buttermilk. Third, the pecans and ½ cup flour, well-seasoned. Season the chicken. Coat with flour, shaking off excess. Dip into buttermilk, then lay them into the pecans, patting them onto entire surface of chicken. Plate and refrigerate for thirty minutes for coating to set.
Heat skillet with butter and about ½ inch of oil until hot. Turn heat to medium, and place in chicken. When the first side is browned, flip and cook on the other side (about 5 minutes on each side).
Remove to paper towel-covered plate. Makes four servings.
I hope you enjoy Joe’s chicken.
Two pieces of advice: keep some buttermilk on hand. You’ll be surprised at the places you can use this rich, tangy stuff.
And please be careful when walking in the fog.
Thanks for your time.

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