Okay, you got me. We’re not really having fried chicken tonight—we’re having Irish boiled dinner, just as Husband’s Irish ancestors intended. But I have a big backlog of posts and none of them has an Irish theme, so fried chicken it is! We’re very loose with the schedule around here. You can still drink your green beer, though, so pipe down.
This recipe is based on my Southern grandmother’s version of fried chicken, with a few twists to make it my own. While you can deep-fry the chicken pieces until shatteringly crisp in a Fry-o-later or Dutch oven full of oil, I tend to use her shallow pan-frying technique instead, which uses far less oil. It still yields a crispy product, though I don’t fully understand how. It seems like covering the pan to finish the cooking would trap steam and make the coating soggy, but somehow it still stays plenty crisp. Huzzah! The kids love it.
Use a great-tasting, local-farm-raised chicken if you can for the best flavor. Then there's no need to brine the chicken ahead of time. Mashed potatoes and braised collard greens complete the meal. (See? I snuck some green in at the very end!)
Southern Fried Chicken
My grandmother dipped the chicken pieces in beaten egg, but I like to use buttermilk. Or, if we’re out of buttermilk like we were last week, I thin some yogurt with milk. The spices are all to taste. Use what you like. I never make it the same way twice.
1 medium whole chicken, cut up, or 2-3 lbs. of your favorite parts, bone in, skin on
1/2 cup buttermilk (I use Kate’s)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. dried sage
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Dash of cayenne
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Rinse and dry the chicken parts, and sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper. Pour the buttermilk into a small bowl. In a medium shallow dish, combine the flour and all the seasonings. You can either use this bowl to bread the chicken pieces, or you can toss the mixture into a clean brown paper bag. I usually do the latter so I can shake them around. Two at a time, dip the chicken parts into the buttermilk and then dip them in the flour, moving the pieces around until they’re fully coated. Shake off the excess flour, then set them on a large plate until ready to fry.
In a large cast iron or other heavy bottomed frying pan, heat the oil until shimmery hot, but not smoking. Make sure the pan has a lid nearby, or borrow one from another similarly sized pan. Fry the chicken in two batches, about 4-5 minutes per side, until golden. Return all the chicken to the pan in one layer if possible, or stacked if necessary. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 15 more minutes until cooked through to the bone. Transfer the chicken to a plate lined with paper towels and season with salt. Serve immediately. If there are leftovers, and there probably won’t be, don't heat them up in the microwave—use the oven or toaster oven instead to maintain the crispness.
*I’m not much of a gravy girl, but if you want gravy, here’s what my grandmother used to do. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. of the oil from the pan. Over medium heat, whisk in 1 Tbsp. of any leftover flour mixture (or 1 Tbsp. new flour) and cook it for a minute. Then whisk in about half a can of evaporated milk (NOT condensed milk), whisking constantly to scrape up the brown bits and simmering until it reaches the desired consistency. (You could also use 1/2 cup regular milk—it'll just take longer to cook down to the right consistency, maybe 5-10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper, and any other seasonings you enjoy.