Popeyes, born in Louisiana, comes to Paris, mon dieu!
Paris got a bit spicier with the arrival of its first Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. The Louisiana-born restaurant, second only to KFC among global fried chicken chains, opened a location earlier this month across from the Gare du Nord train station, used by 100 million passengers each year.
Judging by posts on social media, the notoriously picky Parisians embraced the chain, which is known as much for its chicken sandwich as its fried chicken. Posts on Twitter and elsewhere showed locals lined up down the block to taste the new arrival.
The company franchising Popeyes in France plans to open 300 locations across the country, according to the French newspaper Le Figaro.
France has fewer fast food restaurants than the rest of Europe, notes Le Figaro. That could be an opportunity for Popeyes and other American chains, like Five Guys, Chipotle and Steak 'n Shake, all of which recently opened in France. Or it could mean the French have better things to eat than burgers and fried food.
Popeyes was founded in 1972 just outside New Orleans by Al Copeland, a flamboyant businessman who raced speed boats, loved over-the-top Christmas lights and once got into a public spat with the horror novelist Anne Rice. Kit Wohl, a New Orleans publicist and author, worked with Copeland for more than four decades, from the time he had only six restaurants until his funeral in 2008.
"He was super smart. He was, even frankly, brilliant," Wohl said of Copeland.
More:Popeyes' flounder sandwich is back in time for Lenten season
In New Orleans, Popeyes is still considered a local restaurant, even though it has spread across the world and Copeland lost control of the chain in 1992 due to a bankruptcy. And New Orleanians love the biscuits from Popeyes almost as much as the spicy chicken (they never order the regular). This year at Mardi Gras, revelers could be seen on the streets dressed as Popeyes biscuits.
Wohl remembers when Copeland worked to perfect the Popeyes biscuit. It took him years.
"When he was doing the biscuit development, we used to hang out by the elevator when the test kitchen would come down with biscuits to sample," she said. "Everybody in the building gained 15 to 20 pounds."
The new Paris Popeyes brought Copeland's biscuit to the land of baguettes. The biscuit can be found listed on the Paris menu under a section called "petites plaisirs," literally small pleasures.
Last year, with Copeland's son, Wohl published "Secrets of a Tastemaker," a cookbook celebrating the Popeyes founder. The cookbook does not have the recipe for the Popeyes' biscuit, but it does have the recipe for a similar biscuit Copeland created for his second restaurant concept, the more upscale Copeland's.
"When he developed the Popeyes biscuit, it was almost like he got a Ph.D. in biscuits," Wohl said.
The Popeyes biscuits are cut, Wohl noted, while Copeland's version was a drop biscuit.
"The Copeland's biscuits are different, but they do have that same quality," she said.
Copeland’s Buttermilk Biscuits
It is imperative that all of the ingredients, including the dry mix, are well chilled. The result is a tight dough and a loftier finished biscuit. The goal is for the cold ingredients to hit the super hot oven resulting in a rapid billow of the dough, which then remains stable as the biscuits brown. When the vast disparity between the temperature of the dough and the hot oven is not present, the billow either does not happen or it is not stable. The result is flat biscuits. Who wants that?
Makes 10 large biscuits
- 2½ cups Swans Down Cake Flour
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup vegetable shortening, frozen
- 1½ cups chilled buttermilk
- 4 tablespoons salted butter, 2 tablespoons softened and 2 tablespoons melted
Preheat oven to 425°F.
For best results, chill all ingredients except butter prior to mixing. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a bowl. Using a box grater, coarsely grate the frozen shortening directly into the flour and gently fold it in with a spoon.
Make a well in the center of this mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Gently stir the buttermilk into the flour just until the dough comes together. It will still be a little wet and sticky. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes, but for no longer than 3 hours.
Brush a large rimmed baking sheet with some of the melted butter, then refrigerate the pan to firm the butter.
Using a large spoon, scoop the dough into 10 mounds on the baking sheet, spacing the mounds at least 1 inch apart. Lightly dollop the softened butter on top of each mound.
Bake the biscuits until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and brush the tops of the biscuits with the remaining melted butter.
Place the biscuits in a basket and cover with a tea towel to keep warm until serving.
Recipe from "Secrets of a Tastemaker: Al Copeland" by Kit Wohl and Al Copeland Jr.
Todd A. Price writes about food and culture across the South for the USA Today Network. He can be reached at email@example.com.