And I helped!
My husband was hankering for a little down-home comfort food, Southern style. You know the drill, deviled eggs, biscuits, greens and -- of course -- fried chicken.
Now get this: Neither of us had ever fried chicken before. Seriously. Clearly this was a problem that needed to be rectified. But to the novice fryer, the amount of information is daunting. There are hundreds of techniques and recipes, conflicting tips and pointers, adamant and urgent pleas from people who insist their way is the only way to fried chicken nirvana. Mercy, I do believe I am getting the vapors.
A few things were abundantly clear. You do want to marinate your chicken, and you probably want it to be in buttermilk. You'll need to dredge in flour at the minimum, though additions and embellishments to that layer are myriad. You obviously need a fat with a high smoke point. For Fried Chicken 101, this will get you through the first midterm exam.
Buttermilk, check. But which fat? Some say you must use lard; others insist on shortening; yet others suggest canola oil with some bacon drippings. Sigh. We don't keep shortening in the house (trans fats and all...), nor do we generally have much in the way of lard. We went for peanut oil, with a healthy (or not, really) drizzle of bacon grease for good measure.
So. A jumble of legs, thighs and breasts emerged from their milky bath and finished off with a dusting of flour. How coquettish! After a light rest, they were ready for their close-up ... with a simmering cauldron of hot oil.
Frying chicken is not for the weak of heart, and I don't just mean those with blocked arteries. It is an explosive, noisy and sometimes dangerous process. Even covered, spattering oil would occasionally escape. I think we inhaled as much fat as we ingested at the end of the day.
But then, when your chicken comes out golden-brown, the fat wicked off onto paper bags and left to rest in a warmer, it's worth it in the end. Pair that up with some super-fluffy biscuits (recipe courtesy Bacon Press) and good old collard greens done the way I do all my greens. All that's missing is some white gravy, but had we gone that far, we would have had to start the meal with an amuse-bouche of Lipitor.
Praise the lord and pass the biscuits, dinner is served.
Southern Pan-Fried Chicken
4 each breasts, thighs and legs
1 pint buttermilk, or a combination of buttermilk and regular milk
dash of Tabasco
2 c. flour
4 Tbsp corn starch
salt, pepper, other spices as desired
Peanut or canola oil
A large, wide, heavy, lidded frying pan, ideally cast-iron or enamelized
A paper shopping bag
Put the chicken pieces in a large bowl or zip-top bag, and add the buttermilk and Tabasco. Toss to ensure the chicken is thoroughly covered in the marinade. Rest in the fridge for 8-12 hours.
Remove chicken from marinade, draining off excess buttermilk. In a paper shopping bag, combine flour, corn starch and seasonings and shake to combine. Place chicken parts one or two at a time in the bag, shaking to cover with flour mixture. Shake off excess flour and set to rest on a rack for a few minutes.
In your large frying pan, add enough oil to come about halfway up the sides of your chicken pieces, and heat over high heat to 320ºF. Place chicken carefully in the hot oil, a few pieces at a time and cover. Fry on each side, covered, for about 4-5 minutes, until the underside is a dark golden brown. Thighs will take the longest, breasts and legs less so, so it's a good idea to fry like parts all at the same time; i.e., fry all the legs together, then the thighs, etc.
Remove fried chicken to an inverted rack on top of paper bags or newsprint to wick away excess oil. If making ahead, you can keep the chicken in a warm oven, 150-175ºF, until ready to serve.