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November 11, 2013

Southern Fried

Pan Fried Chicken


Everyone has a favorite food. One which they may only crave occasionally, but when they do, the craving is so fierce and undeterred that it turns them from a rational and thinking being into a single-minded and irrational soul. The realization that food could could create such determined passion came to me at an early age when I discovered my unwavering love of fried chicken.

I’m not sure how I developed my fondness for fried chicken, but I’m sure it had something to do with the fact that we lived just up the street from a fried chicken restaurant. The entirety of their menu was comprised of baskets of fried chicken and steaming bowls of mashed potatoes served alongside pitchers of gravy. While I had a soft spot for the potatoes, it was the golden, crispy pieces of chicken that won my heart.

We only ate there once, but I remember it in vivid detail from the red gingham napkins and sky blue Pyrex™ bowls heaped with potatoes, to the gigantic plastic rooster that stood watch at the cash register.

In the summer when it was warm enough to open the windows, I would drift off to sleep as the smell of fried chicken came wafting through the house on the evening breeze. It’s not surprising, then, that the whole of my small being became obsessed with eating fried chicken, and while my mother wasn’t the sort to fry food, it didn’t stop me from relentlessly hounding her to change her ways. I mean, really, what sort of a mother won't fry chicken?

Thankfully, by the time I was a teenager, she'd had a change of heart and quickly mastered one of the best fried chicken recipes that I'd ever put my two lips on--it was magnificent with a thick, crispy golden batter that cracked between my teeth and succulent meat that was juicy to the bone. As you might imagine, I couldn't get enough of it, but since it was so much work, unfortunately, it only made the menu a handful of times each year.

I hate to think that I've become my mother (though I'd be honored), but when it comes to frying chicken, Mr. B would say I just don't do it often enough, so this weekend I relinquished to his demands and decided to feed my craving along the way. 

This recipe is a shout out to old school Southern fried chicken. It's fried in a pan and then crisped in the oven. It's fabulous, easy, and no work at all. In fact, it made me promise to fry chicken more often.
 Southern Style Pan Fried Chicken
 3 bone-in chicken breasts, halved
3 bone-in chicken thighs
3 drumsticks
1 recipe brine
1 quart of buttermilk
1 pint heavy cream
4 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
flour
cornstarch
salt and pepper
1/2 stick of butter
vegetable oil for frying

1. Cut off any excess fatty skin from the chicken pieces.
2. In a large, plastic container with a tight fitting lid, pour in 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and 4 tablespoons of sugar; add 8 cups of boiling hot water. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt and then immediately add 8 cups of ice; let mixture cool.
3. When brine is cool, add the chicken pieces, making sure that all of the chicken is submerged in the water. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
4. Drain chicken brine from container, leaving chicken in place.
5. Pour in the quart of buttermilk and the pint of heavy cream; add the hot pepper sauce.
6. Make sure that chicken is completely submerged in milk mixture; cover with lid and refrigerate for an additional 6-8 hours.
7. Pour 3 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of cornstarch onto a rimmed sheet pan. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of fresh ground black pepper; blend well with a fork.
8. Drain the chicken in a colander.
9. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mixture, shaking any excess off; set aside on a clean sheet pan and continue until all the chicken pieces have been dredged.
10. In a large heavy skillet, heat 1 1/2 cups of oil and then stir in the butter; heat until temperature reaches 335 degrees.
11. Gently place chicken pieces--without crowding (you'll have to fry in two batches) into the pan and cover with a lid; fry for 8 minutes, or until golden and then turn; cover with the lid and fry for another 8 minutes.
12. Drain chicken on crumpled brown paper and then transfer to a rack set over a sheet pan; bake at 375 degrees until crisp and hot; sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.



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