Letting pieces rest in the rub and a last minute buttermilk splash is key to flavorful crispiness.
With trepidation, I’ve been working on a recipe for fried chicken, wondering why anyone needs another with Emeril Lagasse and Paula Deen crowding the kitchen. That, however, is a pitiful excuse. Up until now my fried chicken has been only so-so.
I grew up following generations of Alabama women who made outrageously delicious fried chicken several times a week. They could make it with their eyes closed, and I assumed when I came of age, frying up a mouth-watering batch would come naturally. Ain’t so. Being able to make crisp and juicy fried chicken, seasoned just right, is not genetic. I couldn’t make a batch that pleased my palate to save my life. A chromosome must be missing.
A well-seasoned cast iron skillet distributes heat evenly.
Sadly, not one of my family recipes was left behind; only the memory of my grandmother shoving sweet butter underneath the skin of one of her yard walker before frying the bird in lard. I’m sure their recipes were not as fussy as the one I’ve penned below. I doubt they even had a recipe to begin with. But here’s what I’ve learned.
Using a well-seasoned, cast iron skillet’s a given. And no one on my family tree soaked chicken in buttermilk. But I love the tang the milk brings forward and began soaking mine a day in advance as so many recipes insist. The result was tangy and moist chicken with a lovely golden hue, but the skin was limp, not as crispy as Aunt Suelas’. Omitting the lengthy bath, dipping the pieces into the buttermilk before just frying, and then adding cornstarch to the flour (per a Bon Appetit recipe) solved that problem.
Then there’s the heat of the oil and size of the chicken pieces; both need consideration or your chicken may burn before the flesh is cooked. Using a thermometer is foolproof, but I enjoy the art of “chicken whispering”. When frying chicken, it should sound like a steady patter of raindrops, not a torrential thunderstorm; like enthusiastic applause, never a thundering ovation.
Close to nirvana, I made another batch. What was that off-flavor about? I checked the expiration date of the flour that was hiding behind a jug of olive oil and, oops, should have been discarded a year or so ago; back to the frying pan. And here it is: my recipe for the best fried chicken I’ve made to date. At last I can look you in the eye if you want to talk fried chicken.
I believe in choice, my choice of potato salad being no exception. This choice is gut-driven and deeply personal. My grandmother made a simple potato salad that accompanied her fried chicken and hickory nut cake to our family reunions in Selma. She made that same salad when a tragedy befell a friend, the bowl of love left quietly on their porch. My mother made the same salad that … Full recipe post »
Although Michigan has been experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures of late, it seems like a good time to make soup. The panic buying felt by the coronavirus maelstrom is like nothing I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve lived through the fallout of epidemics, famines and the scourge of the HIV virus, but the flames were never continuously fanned by instant media–non-stop overload. I jump each time my phone pings! I’ve bumped … Full recipe post »
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