People usually associate Southern cooking with three things: Biscuits, BBQ, and Fried Chicken. I probably need to get my passport revoked because I have not until today, put up a single blog post or recipe on fried chicken. Fried chicken is a lot like BBQ sauce or potato salad. Every Southern cook has their own version and usually, a couple of good stories to go with it. Here's mine...
My mom grew up in a children's home in Troy, Alabama during very hard times. The kids all had to have a job and my mom always preferred to be in the kitchen. Once a week there would be fried chicken and they would have to go out in the yard and catch the chicken, kill it, clean it and then help cook it. Ugh. Hard to imagine. Mom taught me how to cut up a whole chicken and her techniques for frying. The big secret is the buttermilk. Don't skip that step... makes the chicken so juicy. Here is my mom's recipe. I still use her cast iron skillet when I make it.
TRADITIONAL BUTTERMILK SOUTHERN FRIED CHICKEN
1 whole chicken with skin, cut up (about 3 pounds)
2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon kosher salt + 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon black pepper + ½ teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon paprika
3 cups self-rising flour
6-8 cups Canola oil for frying based on the size of your skillet or Dutch oven
Special equipment: Thermometer for frying and a meat thermometer
Put the chicken pieces in a large zip top bag. Pour the buttermilk over it and close. Toss to coat all of the chicken. Put the bag in a bowl and place it in the refrigerator for 8-24 hours to soak, turning the bag occasionally.
When you are ready to fry, fit a deep cast iron skillet or Dutch oven with a thermometer. Pour in the oil about 1 ½ to 2’ deep. Over medium high heat, bring the oil up to 360 degrees. You want to try to keep the oil at 360 during frying process. It will drop as you put in the chicken but let it come back to 360 degrees before adding more.
Combine the 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, cayenne, and paprika. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and discard the buttermilk. Season the chicken liberally with the spice mixture on all sides.
Put the flour plus 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a zip top bag. (Back in the day, we used a brown paper bag.) Take the chicken, one or two pieces at a time and put into the flour mixture. Shake well to coat. Lightly shake off excess. Put on the baking rack after you have coated each piece.
When the oil is up to temperature, use the tongs to carefully put the coated pieces of chicken into the hot oil. Do this in batches, taking care not to overcrowd or put too many pieces in the pan at one time. You will lower the oil temperature and the skin will not be crispy. Cook the chicken for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally until the chicken is deep golden brown and delicious. Remove one piece of chicken and check the temperature with a meat thermometer at the thickest part of the breast or thigh but away from the bone. Chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees F. Drain on a rack covered with a brown paper bag. You may want to lightly sprinkle the hot chicken with a little salt. That’s how my mom did it. Hope you like it as much as I love remembering those days standing by the stove with my mom, on chicken duty.