El Capitan Cooks All-American Treat; “Yankee” Fried Chicken – with a Greek Twist

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El Capitan’s late-night, gourmet sausage stand is famous for serving up mouth-watering hot dogs, brats, and warm pretzels to throngs of hungry customers.

Everyone in town knows that the excellent music, lights flashing to the beat, and a hot Polish sausage in a steamed bun with cream cheese are the best way to end a night out in downtown Bellingham. The man behind the restaurant, El Capitan himself, is Marc Ravaris.

In full disclosure, my connection to Marc goes far beyond this article. He and I met in 2010 when I was a freshman at Western Washington University and a raw new recruit of El Capitan’s pirate crew. If I had to describe him in one word, it would be “teacher.”

He loves to help people learn, whether it be history, business, photography, and lighting, or just general good old fashioned life advice, and I have been a “student” of sorts ever since I was hired at 18.

As I am leaving Bellingham soon (and getting nostalgic), I thought it would be fitting to learn one more of the many tricks Marc has up his sleeve. Though most certainly a jack-of-all-trades, I never knew he was an expert chef—besides cooking hot dogs, of course.

Given the circumstances, I decided to do this recipe article a little differently than I have in the past. Instead of a sit-down interview, Marc invited a friend and I to come see the fried chicken preparation step-by-step in person.

We arrived to find all of the ingredients neatly laid out, complete with the all-American accompaniment to fried chicken, three cold bottles of beer. My friend and I snacked on the carefully arranged Kalamata olives, feta cheese, bread and herbed olive oil, intermittently taking photos of the cooking process. While we mostly got caught up hearing about adventures from Marc’s youth, we did get a thorough cooking lesson between stories.

Marc explained the history and how the name “Yankee” came to describe this fried chicken. Coming from a Greek heritage he was accustomed to the flavors of Greek cooking like lemon and oregano, while growing up in Vermont. Not long after he moved away from home, Marc’s parents moved from Vermont to North Carolina. About a year later Marc went to North Carolina for a visit. That night his mom cooked her signature fried chicken for dinner, one of Marc’s favorites.

Her recipe had all of the flavors of a more traditional southern fried chicken, but included additional Greek flavors like lemon and oregano to change it up a bit. A neighborhood friend of Marc’s brother, who had been eating southern fried chicken his entire life (and claimed it was was his favorite dish), was visiting for dinner. After dinner, the neighbor declared that the chicken was best he’d ever eaten, and due to Marc’s family’s Yankee roots, he coined the name “Yankee Fried Chicken”.

I had never made fried chicken before watching Marc do it—splattering oil makes me nervous. It turns out that if you’re cooking it right, you don’t have to worry about getting those little red oil burns on your arms and spots on your clothes.

So here’s how it’s done (serves 3):

  • 3 chicken breasts, cut into smaller chunks (about the size of two fingers)
  • Buttermilk (20 oz.)
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 cups Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • Dried herbs—oregano, thyme & parsley
  • Lemon pepper
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Canola or safflower oil

  1. Place chicken in a bowl and pour in enough buttermilk to cover. Marc recommends soaking the chicken in buttermilk for at least one hour, but ideally overnight if you’re planning ahead.
  2. Mix juice of one lemon with one egg in a separate bowl.
  3. Pour oil into pan, about a half and inch deep. Heat oil on a low enough setting that the oil heats thoroughly without splattering, ideally in a deeper frying pan or a cast iron skillet.
  4. Make a pile of bread crumbs on a large plate. Mix herbs and spices in to taste.
  5. Piece by piece, remove chicken from the buttermilk, let excess liquid drip off, and roll it around in the egg/lemon juice mixture.
  6. Again, let excess moisture drip off and roll the chicken in the bread crumb/herb mixture. Once thoroughly coated, place the chicken into the hot oil. Repeat with remaining pieces.
  7. Fry for about 10 minutes on the first side, until the outside turns golden brown. Flip, and fry another 10 minutes or so. Remove the chicken with tongs or a slotted utensil and enjoy.

Some tips from the cook:

  • Make sure to use an oil with a high smoking point, like canola or safflower. Olive oil will not work for this recipe!
  • Use Panko bread crumbs instead of flour for texture and flavor.
  • You will know the oil is at the right temperature when it is active around each piece of chicken, but is not so hot that it is splattering.

The chicken was a little crispy on the outside with a lemony crust and a little zip from the pepper. The meat was moist and had a rich, buttery flavor. I enjoyed the smaller chunks because I got some of the crust in every bite.

Marc completed the meal with Kokanee beer, boiled potatoes seasoned with parsley and a classic Greek salad of cucumber, tomato, red onion, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, sprinkled with dried oregano and drizzled with olive oil and vinegar.

This is a dish I will be bringing out to share with friends on a sunny weekend. If you try it, leave us a comment below to let us know how it went, or stop by next time you’re out late downtown and let the captain know you enjoyed his Greek Yankee Fried Chicken!

Printable copy of the recipe:

El Capitan’s Gourmet Sausages & Pretzels

1201 Cornwall Avenue, Unit 101

Phone: (206) 459-2567

Hours:
Wednesday-Saturday 4:00 pm-2:00 am
Saturdays 11:30 am – 2:00 am

Closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday