This is the first recipe here from the cookbook that I have probably used more than any other, even more than my old Joy of Cooking, although that would be a close second. My Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cook Book is the first edition from 1961, although it didn’t come to me until 1968 when I graduated from high school. I don’t know what any older or newer ones were like, but this one contains all from-scratch recipes, tested, as the cookbook says, in the Betty Crocker Kitchens. The title could be misleading to readers who think of Betty Crocker as the face of pre-packaged mixes, especially after merging with General Mills, but this is not that kind of book, and I learned a lot about cooking from it.
The Wikipedia articles on Betty Crocker, the Betty Crocker Cookbooks, and the Betty Crocker Kitchens are lacking full information and references, such that I can’t find any reference to my cookbook, yet here it is. After merging with General Mills, much of the history must have been lost. Sounds like a good research project for an aspiring non-fiction writer. There are a few short articles floating around trying to figure out if there was a real Betty Crocker (there wasn’t), but not much else of value.
After trying many traditional methods of frying chicken, this one rose to the top of the list for being simple, foolproof, and just really tasty. I do think it works best with dark meat pieces—thighs and drumsticks—but the original recipe calls for a whole cut up chicken. Just make sure your pieces are skin-on and on the bone. I pretty much only use chicken thighs, and this recipe makes a crispy skin that you want on fried chicken, without all the stove-top mess.
Adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cook Book (New York: McGraw, 1961) 323.
Preheat oven to 425°
Prepare the dish
In an 8 x 8 glass baking dish (or size to accommodate your portions) heat shortening and butter in the oven until both are melted and the dish is hot. Prepare the chicken while the dish is heating. Double the shortening for a 9 x 13 dish.
2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons paprika (mine is smoked)
Combine coating ingredients in a paper or plastic bag, then shake pieces in the bag until well-coated. Set pieces aside until all are done if you are doing more than I’m making here.
Place the chicken, skin side down, in the hot dish. Bake 30 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over and bake for another 30 minutes or until done. If you are cooking a casserole in the same oven with the chicken, you could lower the temperature to 375° and turn the chicken after 45 minutes and still cook for the remaining 30. I would not try a lower temperature or you will not get that fried chicken crispiness.
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