Fried Chicken for a Crowd: Feeding the Line

A few times a year we are able to welcome Nick’s Offensive Linemen over to the house for dinner and some sort of super cool family of 7 entertainment. You know, the activities that parents suggest to teenagers to find an awesome way to hang out together. Hey, guys! Wanna play Taboo? How about charades? We dial up the fun by letting our oldest two kids be the team captains of opposing teams. I feel like seeing just how quickly you can go from 22 year old guys hanging out, having fun, to 35 with 5 kids playing competitive Boggle is an important life lesson for our guys, too.

Last summer we had the Offensive and Defensive Linemen come to our neighborhood pool for a cookout and pool party. The pool’s old diving board was not so springy after the fact, and they have since banned water polo at the pool, but I still consider it a win! But winter time calls for dinner and a family board game. When my husband told me the time had arrived for our players’ dinner, in the middle of our kitchen remodel planning, we decided to get our dinner on the books while I still had a functioning stove and sink.  Just before we hung up from our phone call my husband said “The guys are excited about fried chicken.” Click.

Have you ever made fried chicken for 30…20 of whom are college football players? I hadn’t either. I literally bought out all the bone-in chicken available at Lowes Foods and went down the street to borrow my neighbor’s deep fryer so I could work two in tandem. And when Fried Chicken Night arrived I started breading and frying about 4 hours before the guys were set to arrive.  I won’t lie, I was nervous. What if we didn’t have enough food? What if I couldn’t fry it all in time?

Breading station set up!

I looked up one of those handy charts that tells how much of an item you need for a party of whatever number of people. The fine people of the internet suggest planning for 2 pieces of chicken per person. I figured my people were above average and rounded up, and I think ended up making just shy of 125 pieces. I lost count after a while…

Round One

I started breading and frying with a plan: both fryers working and then transferring fried chicken into a warm oven to wait. Microwave steamed green beans (which turned out very average) and two gigantic crock pots full of mashed potatoes, along with 72 rolls rounded out our menu. (A few years ago I made a churro cheesecake for the pool party and it was a hit, especially with one of our linemen who had returned this year as a Graduate Assistant, so I pulled out that recipe to finish off the evening). The rest of the food was prepared when chicken frying started. After blowing the fuse for the outlets twice, and moving the fryers to seperate ends of the kitchen, things were moving along.  The tension level rose when the second fryer came unplugged, and I had to switch to just using one out of fear that my oil wouldn’t be hot enough! I did NOT want to contribute to a unit-wide case of food poisoning! (Even after being extra careful, I texted Nick as soon as morning workouts ended to be sure no one had gotten sick.  Only after hearing from him did I consider dinner a success!)

The chicken took about 4 hours to fry and 40 minutes to devour. We sent a few guys home with an extra piece for the drive, but when the dust settled after a competitive game of Pictionary and some good laughs, I was left with two vats of frying oil and 5 rolls. It sounds crazy, but it is one of my favorite parts of being a coach’s wife. Not the work or the preparation, but being able to include our family in my husband’s life work and welcome his players into our house.  But I may wait a few months before I fry 40 pounds of chicken again.