This week, I’ve been enjoying some time off from work, so for dinner tonight, I decided I’d cook up a big “country” style dinner. Nothing says country like some fried food and nothing fries food as well as my great-grandmother’s iron skillets. I have no idea their age; she received them as wedding presents in the first decade of the 20th century and they weren’t new when she received them. They were passed to my grandmother and then to me, and I treat them like they were gold plated! They NEVER have seen the inside of a dishwasher, and only when I cook something like creamed corn, do I even put soap in them. Normally, they get a swish of hot water when the pan is still hot, then they are wiped out and dried off for the next use. Because of years of this kind of use, they are slicker than any non-stick pans available on the market today.
Tonight’s dinner consisted of fried chicken, fresh lady peas, fried fresh okra, boiled heirloom potatoes with a little garlic butter, a pan of cornbread (must for a southern dinner) and a pitcher of sweet iced tea.
Since I am constantly asked how I make fried chicken with such a delicious crust, I thought I’d share that recipe with you this week. There’s really nothing special about my fried chicken, but my customers love it. Some people double bread their chicken, and I’m know to do this when making homemade chicken tenders, or frying boneless skinless chicken breasts, but for good ole’ bone-in chicken, simply follow this recipe:
1. Find a bowl (or a pot if you don’t have a large enough bowl) that’s large enough to hold the amount of chicken you’re planning to cook.
2. Wash the chicken and place it in the bowl. Cover chicken with non-fat cultured buttermilk, and let it soak for at least 20 minutes.
3. Find a second large bowl or pot. Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and put into the second bowl. Using a 5# bag of flour (all purpose or self-rising, whatever you have on hand), pour the flour over the chicken. You need to use enough flour to totally incase the chicken. The chicken has to be embedded in this big bowl of flour, so yes, you’re going to end up wasting a good bit of flour in the end. Toss the chicken to coat well, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss some more and then let the chicken stay in the flour for at least 20 minutes before frying.
4. To fry the chicken, use either an iron skillet, large teflon coated skillet (if that’s all you have), a stock pot or a deep fryer if you have one. Get the grease good and hot. On the stovetop, I usually cook on medium high. In a deep fat fryer, 375F is ideal. To test and make sure your oil is hot enough, sprinkle a little flour in and see if it fizzles and bubbles. Cook the chicken in one even layer (if using a pan) for 8-10 minutes, then flip and cook 8 more minutes (actually your cooking time will depend on the thickness of your chicken and if it’s white or dark meat). White meat cooks faster than dark meat, so to make sure your chicken is cooked thoroughly, invest in a digital meat thermometer.
White meat chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 165F. Dark meat requires an internal temp of about 180F or it will be pink on the bones.
Tip # 2.. DO NOT drain the chicken on a paper towel/plate. This makes the crust soggy. To keep the crust crispy and allow the grease to drain off, place a cooling rack (like you use for cookies) over a plate with a paper towel on the plate (in between the rack and the plate). Drain the chicken on the rack. That’s how we keep chicken crisp in the restaurants while holding for service and that tip works with anything fried with a crust.
For fried okra, follow the same steps, but use cornmeal instead of flour!