Mrs Aitch is going to hate this one. She's not normally fussy; not fussy at all, but she really hates bananas. In the same way that I loathe mashed potato. If you are ever lucky enough to invite us to dinner, the worst scenario would be shepherd's pie as a main course, and banoffee pie as a pudding.
To us Brits, American food can sometimes seem a bit Gothic. I would include Chicken Maryland in this category. Or, if not Gothic, certainly slightly weird. A bit white trashy, perhaps? Duelling banjos, denim dungarees and mobile homes raised on bricks. Scrap metal yards and ravenous doebermanns. Maybe I'm being horribly unfair? Any observations are certainly not meant to be critical. After all, we're the nation which tucks into haggis, jellied eel and stargazey pie.
In America, Chicken Maryland is served with "gravy"- what we call in Blighty a "white sauce", or in The Great Republic, "Béchamel Sauce". I suspect that the addition of banana fritters may be a British interpretation, and if so, I apologise. If any Southerners out there in cyberspace think that the following receipe is inaccurate, please email me, and I will gladly post up a correction.
Okay. That's that one out of the way. Here's The Greasy Spoon's take on Chicken Maryland. I've based this version on the recipe in Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham's excellent book, "The Prawn Cocktail Years". I can't recommend it enough:
Take some chicken thighs (an excellent and affordable cut, by the way), rip off the skin and dip them into seasoned flour, and then again into a bowl of beaten egg. Shake off the egg, and dip them into the seasoned flour for a second time. In a deep frying pan heat up 100g of unsalted butter and 75ml of sunflower oil, until frothy. Put in the floured chicken piece, and fry gently. The secret here is not to crowd the pan. If you do so, your chicken will start to stew, rather than fry, because of the fall in temperature. So, fry the chicken a few pieces at a time. On a lowish heat. It should take about half and hour. Make sure you turn the chicken pieces about half way through the cooking time.
In the meantime, mix together 100g sweetcorn (tinned is absolutely fine, to be frank, I can't detect any difference), two small egg yolks, and salt and pepper. Beat two egg whites until frothy, and gently fold them into the mixture. Add a tablespoon of baking powder, and about 50-75g of breadcrumbs, until it forms a thickish batter. Place to one side.
Take out the chicken pieces and keep them warm in a rack in a hot oven. Strain off the hot chicken oil, leaving just enough in the pan to fry the sweetcorn fritters. Drop tablespoons of the sweetcorn batter into the reserved hot oil, and fry for a couple of minutes on each side, until puffed and golden. Drain on kitchen paper, and keep warm in the oven with the chicken.
Take 100ml of chicken stock, and reduce it by three-quarters. Fry four small sliced bananas in unsalted butter, until golden, sprinkling them with some brown sugar as you do, so that they begin to caramelise. Grill some rashers of streaky bacon, until crisp. Pour 100ml of double cream into the reduced chicken stock, and bring it back to the boil. Reduce until slightly thickened, and squeeze in some lemon juice. Check the seasoning and stir in some freshly chopped flat parsley.
Arrange the fried chicken on a large plate with the sweetcorn and banana fritters, and crispy bacon pieces. Spoon the "gravy" over the fried chicken, and serve the rest in a sauce boat. Garnish with chopped flat parsley. That's it. Quite a lot of bother, in some ways; but strangely satisfying. A perenniel favourite.