tiers of fried chicken for guests at a fried chicken
party in Los Angeles, Calif. on Saturday, Sept. 29,
— Growing up, I celebrated birthdays with Power
Rangers-themed slumber parties or outings to Chuck E.
Cheese’s. In my early 20s, I often spent them at a
slightly too-expensive restaurant and then went and drank
slightly too much at a bar or club I probably wouldn’t
darken the door of anymore. But as I began to accept the
mixed bag of realities that constitutes adulthood, I
realized that when it comes to birthday parties, I could do
what I please.
pleases me — on any given Tuesday, not just once a year
— is fried chicken. I realized that one day a year I could
let loose and try to get as close to all the fried chicken
(not just one regional or cultural style) as possible. And
that is how Jenn’s Fried Chicken party, known in my inner
circle as JFC — started.
The idea is
simple: Collect as much fried chicken from as many
restaurants as possible under one roof, then spend the night
devouring it. Instead of presents, I ask for chicken:
Everyone who attends the party is responsible for bringing
some from somewhere.
I supply the
obligatory rest: homemade biscuits, mac ’n’ cheese, a
green salad as a reprieve to all the fat, whatever pie I’m
currently obsessed with, and booze (normally copious amounts
of bubbly, some rosé and a new cocktail every year).
In the three
years I’ve thrown the party, it’s taken on a life of its
own. Competitive friends try to one-up each other with their
fried chicken (extra points to anyone who waits in line at
Howlin’ Ray’s), there are fried chicken pool floaties,
and the party has its own hashtag (#JFC).
is a guide to throwing your own fried chicken party. Maybe
it’s for your birthday, or maybe you just want to do it
some weekend night, because who in these times couldn’t
use the artery-hardening comfort of a survey of fried
chicken, all washed down with scrubbing alcoholic bubbles,
in the company of friends.
About 1 hour.
1 pound elbow
macaroni or cavatappi pasta
1 quart milk
1/2 cup plus
3 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) butter, divided
1/2 cup flour
4 cups grated
(about 1 pound) Gruyère cheese
2 cups (about
11/4 pounds) grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided
2 cups (about
1/2 pound) grated smoked Gouda cheese, divided
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups
panko bread crumbs
drained and chopped pickled jalapeño chiles
1. Heat the
oven to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted
water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook according to the
directions on the package. Drain.
2. Place the
milk in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat to warm;
be careful to watch that the milk does not come to a boil.
3. In a large
pot, melt 6 tablespoons butter over low heat, then whisk in
the flour. Cook over low heat until the mixture comes
together to form a roux, about two minutes. Whisk in the hot
milk and cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens, about
two minutes. Stir in the Gruyère, 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1
cup of the Gouda cheese. Remove the pot from heat and stir
in the nutmeg, black pepper and salt to taste. Add the
macaroni and stir. Pour the mixture into a 9- by 13-inch
4. Melt the
remaining 5 tablespoons of butter. In a bowl, stir together
the butter, bread crumbs, remaining cheddar and Gouda.
Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the baking dish. About
5 minutes before the dish is finished, sprinkle over the
5. Bake until
the top is golden brown and the macaroni and cheese is
bubbly, about 35 minutes. Remove and cool slightly before
from a recipe from Ina Garten.
minutes. Serves 10.
2 small or 1
1/2 cup oil
In a blender,
combine the shallot, garlic, vinegars, honey, mustard and
lemon juice. Pulse until blended. With the blender running,
slowly drizzle in the oil to emulsify and form the dressing.
This will make about 1 1/4 cups dressing, which will keep,
covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week.
(about 1 pound) mixed greens
delicious or similar sweet apple, shaved or thinly sliced
1/2 of a
small red onion, thinly sliced
cucumber, shaved or thinly sliced
1 cup toasted
pecan or walnut halves
1 cup shaved
or shredded aged Gouda or provolone
In a large
bowl, top the greens with the apple, onion, cucumber, pecans
and cheese. Toss with the dressing right before serving or
serve with the dressing on the side.
Makes 1 cocktail.
seedless grapes, plus extra frozen grapes for garnish,
Leaves from 1
sprig thyme, plus 1 thyme sprig for garnish, divided
2 ounces gin
In the bottom
of a cocktail shaker, muddle together the 5 grapes and thyme
leaves until the grapes are crushed and have released their
juices. Add the lemon juice, gin and simple syrup, along
with ice. Close the shaker and shake until the liquid is
well chilled. Strain into a short glass filled with ice.
Garnish with a sprig of thyme and/or frozen grapes.
friends are taking care of the chicken, concentrate on the
sides and the alcohol.
I use Govind
Armstrong’s recipe for buttermilk biscuits (available at
recipes.latimes.com). They’re flaky and flavorful, and you
can bake them a few hours ahead of time. Serve them
alongside a selection of jams, preserves, butter and honey
for a build-your-own-biscuit bar.
For the mac
’n’ cheese, I make Ina Garten’s basic recipe super
extra by upping the amount of cheese and adding smoked Gouda
and pickled jalapeños to the topping.
I grew up
eating a green salad with every meal, so it seemed only
fitting to serve one at the party. I used shaved apple, red
onion, cucumber and toasted pecans for crunch, and I added
shavings of good, aged Gouda for a little extra nuttiness. A
simple vinaigrette will suffice. I added pureed shallot and
garlic to mine, along with a dollop of honey.
pie to finish the meal. This year, I went with the Key lime
from Winston Pies in Brentwood. It’s tart and refreshing,
and it doesn’t feel too heavy after a plate of fried
bliss: The party is not about being cool, it’s about
scratching a deep, deep itch. “Gypsy” by Fleetwood Mac
is one of my favorite songs of all time and, because playing
it on repeat would drive everyone (except me) nuts, I have a
streaming service conjure a playlist based on this one song.
Find the song that is shamelessly or shamefully you and let
the computer do the rest.
Set the table
for dinner, but set up the food buffet-style. Depending on
how large your party is, you can rent tables, chairs,
glasses, dishes and cutlery from multiple shops around town.
If you’re thinking flowers (one must have flowers at an
adult dinner party), go with a short but full arrangement on
the dinner tables and smaller arrangements to fill out the
IN YOUR GLASS
Eric Onley at
Everson Royce Wine & Spirits in Pasadena, Calif.,
suggests many bottles of La Ghibellina 2013 Metodo Classico
Italian sparkling wine. “I absolutely love this with fried
chicken,” he says. “It’s less bready, with more tree
fruit than a Champagne, and it cuts through the fattiness
and saltiness and leaves you with a delicate balance. It’s
like refreshing your palate between every bite.”
Non-Champagne sparklers are also cheaper than their fancy
I put my
fried chicken on cake tiers to save space on the table. Some
guests will invariably arrive late (you know who you are).
Don’t worry about the fried chicken getting cold. If
it’s good chicken, it will be good cold.
wise friends set up busing stations for plate soaking after
dinner parties. Hide bins full of soapy water in a corner to
catch all the dirty plates. When you wake up the next
morning, half the work has been done for you. And even if
you forget to brush your teeth before bed, get that garbage
bag full of chicken bones out of the house after the guests