Chicken Frying 101

3 01 2008

Fried chicken is one of those things that you either do really right, or really wrong.  Mama did it to suit my dad, which meant it wasn’t exactly her only child’s notion of “fried chicken.”  Fried chicken is supposed to be crunchy on the outside with just enough flavor in the crust to keep it from tasting like fried flour, and really moist and tasty on the inside.  “Juices dripping down your chin” moist.

Like I said, that’s not the fried chicken I grew up with.  Ours was barely breaded and not in the least crunchy.  It was browned then steamed…well, that’s how she referred to it.  After she’d browned all the pieces, she’d load them back into the double-deep cast iron skillet (aka the chicken fryer) and put the lid on until the chicken was fully cooked.  I was about 14 when I found out she could really fry chicken.  I was pleasantly surprised!  Why hadn’t I brought a guy home from church for “Sunday dinner” before??

Frying chicken wasn’t necessarily one of my strong points.  I could do oven-bbq chicken really well, and I learned to love Oven Fry!  However…the fried chicken of my fantastical dreams lay somewhere outside my abilities.  For years I limped along with Oven Fry…the crunchy kind.  Still…that works for me when I’m too lazy or don’t make the time to do the “real thing.”  At some point, I sort of got the hang of things…making a really tasty breading and deep frying the pieces.  A slow process, but mostly effective.

Enter Paula Deen…The Lady who can COOK.  In the meanwhile, I’ve actually tasted Southern fried chicken.  Yes, Virginia…you Yankee!  There is a difference! LOL!  Seeing as how my mother was born in OK, you’d think I’d have been raised on good ol’ Southern Fried Chicken.  We’ve already established this was not the case.  What amazed me even more was that even her good fried chicken didn’t come anywhere near the flavor of this Southern staple.  It didn’t take me long to figure out there was more to this method than met the eye.

Armed with a shaker of “house blend” (or seasoned salt to the neophyte), I seasoned my raw chicken thoroughly and put it to set in the fridge overnight.  I think you could skin chicken and have the same effect…it might cut out some of the “fat” content too.  On the 2nd day, I poured in a couple of cups of buttermilk and let the chicken bathe in that overnight.  Unfortunately, it’s about here that our story starts getting a little squirrelly.

I went to the pantry to get the hot sauce…”Aunt Paula’s” recipe calls for 3 eggs and 1 cup of hot sauce.  Holy cow!  That seems like an awful lot to this CA girl, but…well…let’s tackle that first problem there…  I’ve got a fresh bottle of hot sauce all right, but my eggs are frozen.  What to do now…  And so, not to be outdone and thwarted from my fried chicken dinner by the lack of EGGS…  Since my chicken was lounging in a bath of buttermilk, I poured in a healthy amount of the hot sauce (though not quite a cup, by maybe half), and proceeded to bread it with flour and fry away.

The result of this evening’s lesson was fried chicken that was super moist and tasty all the way to the bone, however the crust was too bland (need a little good ol’ house blend in there too) and although super crispy (baking powder and soda in the flour), a bit too fragile due to no egg in the wash.  Next time, I think I’ll skin the chicken and season it.  Let it sit for 12 hours or so, then pour on just enough buttermilk to coat everything (I’m thinking a gallon zip lock bag), and let that sit for another 12-24 hours.  At that point, fix up a wash of egg and hot sauce and a lightly seasoned flour mixture.  Bathe the chicken, bread it, fry it.   Hey…at least the rolls came out great!




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