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Classic Southern Fried Chicken

"If there is one recipe widely associated with the South, it may be fried chicken. Delicious in its simplicity—nothing more than a farm-fresh chicken, buttermilk, a splash of hot sauce, and flour. Make sure to give yourself ample time when frying chicken. It’s not a quick dish: Like any good relationship, it requires time and attention. Fried chicken transcends any socioeconomic framework. Homemade fried chicken is in a class by itself," writes Jennifer Brulé in her new book, "Learn to Cook 25 Southern Classics 3 Ways: Traditional, Contemporary, International" now available on Amazon.

Classic Southern Fried Chicken

  • Makes

    4

    4-6
  • Meal
    dinner
  • Prep

    120 minutes
  • Cook

    60 minutes
  • Total

    180 minutes

    Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken (about 3 pounds), cut into 8 pieces (breasts cut in half, widthwise)
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 2–3 cups peanut oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned salt (like Lawry’s brand)

Directions:

  • 1. Place the chicken in a 1-gallon zip-top plastic bag and pour in the buttermilk and hot sauce. Zip the top shut and turn the chicken so that the marinade coats every piece. Place the bag in a large bowl and refrigerate. Marinate at least 2 hours (but no longer than 4, or the lactic acid in the milk that tenderizes the chicken could make the meat tough).

  • 2. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before frying. Pour the peanut oil into a 10 or 12-inch cast-iron skillet or heavy sauté pan. The oil should come about 1–2 inches up the inside of the skillet—this is called shallow frying. Be sure that the oil is at least 2 inches below the top of the pan; otherwise it could spill over once you put the chicken in. Cover and set over medium heat until it reaches 325–350° (use a candy thermometer).

  • 3. Meanwhile, toss the flour and seasoned salt together in a large bowl. One at a time, remove the chicken pieces from the buttermilk, allowing excess buttermilk to drain off. Place a piece of the chicken in the bowl of flour and toss to coat entirely (this is called dredging), then place the dredged chicken on a wire rack skin-side up and continue dredging the rest of the chicken.

  • 4. Preheat the oven to 200°. Fit a jelly roll pan with a wire rack.

  • 5. When the oil is 325–350°, carefully lay the breaded chicken pieces in the skillet—a 12-inch skillet can comfortably hold three drumsticks, or two large thighs or one large breast cut in half. The chicken needs plenty of room to fry properly, but it should not be submerged in oil: There should be 1–2 inches of oil around each piece, and the oil should come halfway up the side of each piece. Cover the skillet, with just the tiniest crack between the lid and the skillet to allow some steam to escape. Set a timer and fry for 10 minutes. Here is where you must watch the oil temperature and possibly adjust the heat slightly—the temperature needs to remain between 325° and 350°, with bubbles breaking around the chicken consistently but not vigorously.

  • 6. After 10 minutes of frying, use tongs to turn the chicken pieces over, set the timer again for 12 minutes and fry, uncovered now. Carefully watch the oil temperature; it needs to remain at 325–350°.

  • 7. Remove the chicken from the skillet and place it on the prepared pan. The chicken’s internal temperature, taken with an instant-read thermometer, should be 165–170°. 

  • 8. Set the tray of chicken in the oven. Keep all of the chicken there as you fry, to keep it warm.

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From "Learn to Cook 25 Southern Classics 3 Ways: Traditional, Contemporary, International" by Jennifer Brulé. Copyright © 2016 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. Available at Amazon.

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