Most people reading this probably have not heard of Mary Brown’s fried chicken restaurants, but it is more popular than Kentucky Fried Chicken in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and has numerous locations throughout Atlantic Canada as well as in Ontario and Alberta. Its expansion over the years has pretty much tracked the migration of Newfoundland workers, first to Toronto, and then to Alberta, where Newfoundlanders make up a disproportionately large portion of workers in the oil industry.
Much like KFC, Mary Brown’s aficionados have frequently tried to replicate the recipe, with varying levels of success. I’ve never tried to replicate any famous fast food recipes myself, but in trying to create my own chicken finger recipe I think I may have stumbled upon the secret ingredient that has prevented anyone from successfully replicating it in the past; Aleppo pepper.
I ordered some Aleppo pepper online after seeing it used in a Million Dollar Chicken recipe video on YouTube, and I decided to add some to my chicken finger recipe to give it a little extra zip. That was in addition to my standard ingredients of salt, pepper, thyme and oregano. The first thing I thought of was how much it reminded me of the Mary Brown’s taste.
This was not long after a story appeared on the local news that Mary Brown’s was expanding into Turkey. As the chain had always chosen to stick to areas with a sizeable concentration of Newfoundlanders, expanding into Turkey seemed strangely random and made no sense. But Aleppo pepper comes from that region and is a very commonly used spice in Turkey, and so if that is indeed one of the main ingredients then the decision suddenly seems a little less random, albeit still a curious one. This is obviously just idle speculation on my part, but before you dismiss the idea, try adding a little Aleppo pepper to your homemade fried chicken recipe and see if it tastes strangely familiar.