Southern Pan-Fried Chicken

Enough with the vegetables for a few days. I'm tired of thinking about what to do with zucchini and squash. Let's talk about Southern Fried Chicken. This is more along the lines of how my grandmother fried her chicken. It requires a little extra effort, but the results are outstanding. The chicken gets two long soaks, first in brine and then in buttermilk. The frying fat is a special mix of lard and sweet butter, flavored with country ham, which makes the chicken extra crispy and rich-tasting. Carefully cooked, fried chicken will absorb a minimal amount of fat. Be sure to pat off all excess dredge; fry evenly at the proper temperature; and drain the chicken well on crumpled-up, not flat, paper towels or a wire rack.

Buy the freshest chicken you can find, meat market, or your neighbor who has a chicken farm.

Makes enough for 4
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One 3-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces, brined for 8-12 hours.
1 quart of buttermilk
1 pound lard
1/2 cup ((1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup country ham pieces, or 1 thick slice country ham cut into 1/2-inch strips
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch (do not omit)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prepare brine by using 1/4 cup of kosher salt per quart of water. Make enough to cover chicken. Add chicken pieces cover and refrigerate for 8-12 hours.

To prepare chicken for frying: Drain the brined chicken and rinse out the bowl it was brined in. Return the chicken to the bowl, and pour the buttermilk over. Cover and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. Drain the chicken on a wire rack, discarding the buttermilk.

Meanwhile, prepare the fat for frying by putting the lard, butter, and country ham into a heavy skillet or frying pan. Cook over low heat low heat for 30-45 minutes, skimming as needed, until the butter ceases to throw off foam and the country ham is browned. Use a slotted spoon to remove the ham carefully from the fat. Just before frying increase the temperature to medium high and heat the fat to 335 degrees F.

Prepare the dredge by blending together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl or on wax paper.

Dredge the drained chicken pieces thoroughly in the flour mixture, then pat well to remove all excess flour.

Slip some of the chicken pieces, skin side down, into the heated fat. (Do not overcrowd the pan, and fry in batches if necessary.) Cook 8-10 minutes on each side, until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Drain thoroughly on a wire rack or crumpled paper towels, and serve.

Fried chicken is wonderful eaten hot, warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Wait until you see the gravy for this tomorrow!

 

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