Friday, December 12, 2008

Chicken Done Right

I've done an essay about Key West's live chickens, a noted tourist phenomenon on the streets of the city. There is another kind of chicken which I dare say is more notorious still, but mostly among locals:
Dion's is actually a fairly innocuous chain of inconvenience stores in the Lower Keys offering the usual mish mash of convenience items at inconvenient prices, but Dion's has a very special arrow in it's quiver.This particular store is on the corner of Truman and White in Key West, located at the Citgo gas station:Gas prices have been coming down in the Keys like they have everywhere else though in the city gas isn't as low as it might be; it never is. It's a bone of contention that Key West prices are generally 20 or more cents higher than elsewhere in the Lower Keys:And the Chevron across the street follows suit, or vice versa:I've heard rumors the Chevron might be changing hands and become something else but that's a noise that's been floating around for a while and so far nothing has changed, except they got a mobile seafood vendor on their lot. But this isn't an essay about fresh fish (I've done that one too lately), this is about chicken.Walk in and turn left and there it is heaps and piles of fried goodness. Well, not actually goodness so much as stuff that tastes pretty darn good. I am probably going to get a talking to when my wife gets around to reading this but with any luck it won't be until next week as the weekend looks pretty busy. She's a bit fussy about what I'm supposed to eat and fried chicken isn't on the list.They offer combinations of fried chicken wings, legs and breasts. Some people prefer wings because they have more crispy coating and less meat but for the purposes of this demonstration, strictly for the camera I ordered a single breast. Which cost me just under $2.50. I repaired to the Triumph for a quick demonstration of how to eat a Dion's chicken breast:There are a couple of things you need to know about Dion's chicken if you are an amateur. I have seen grilled breasts at the Stock island store on Highway One and they do taste good without the artery clogging deep fried effect, but if you are a Dion's novice, fried chicken is the way to go. A well fried breast is a work of art, crispy outside, moist inside but properly cooked all the way through. No salmonella thanks:I carry my own utensils, of course though Dion's does offer the plastic kind along with paper napkins, which I usually forget to pick up. Personally I eat this stuff with my fingers, trying not to burn myself if the meat is just out of the fryer. The best Dion's is obviously the fresh stuff and sometimes you can get a cooled rubbery chicken part that doesn't taste so great, which may be why you will meet some people who actually don't like Dion's, but they probably are weird in other more private ways as well. My colleague Noel for example prefers Kentucky Fried saying Dion's skin tastes like chicken unlike the Colonel's which apparently tastes of something else. I like Dion's and a picture is worth a thousand words, to coin a phrase:And that, sadly, completes the experiment. I have to insist that first timers try the fried chicken, but there are other foods available for old timers:I prefer the Jamaican beef patties myself over bait fish, and the poppers aren't bad either. It's up to you to branch out and see what works. Exciting exploration awaits at Dions. Lots of people stop by:These people aren't necessarily buying chicken, weird but true, but Dion's has every kind of processed food product in bright colors:Dion's has stores on the bigger islands between Key West and Marathon and also a store in Florida City on Krome Avenue at Palm Avenue and I've heard there may be one in Homestead somewhere.Hard times are upon us so these are the times a piping hot crispy breast from Dion's hits the spot, and calories be damned.