Guilty Pleasure: Fried Chicken

Little Feat, Dixie Chicken

I stay away from fried food: it goes straight to the arteries, it’s  smelly and greasy, and it leaves a pot full of hot oil to deal with. The last time I had fried chicken was from a KFC bucket at a Seafirst potluck. I pair fried chicken with hot Nebraska summers and corn on the cob. We kept chickens in the backyard when I was a kid; none of them had names. I hated the roosters who lurked behind the hen house and flapped up to peck at my hands when Ginny and I gathered eggs. If an older bird stopped laying, Muth would march the offender down the basement stairs, wring it’s neck, dunk it in boiling water, pluck the feathers, bone it, and fry it for supper. I have nightmares about headless chickens running amuck and I still avoid basements.

All that said, I also have dreams about eating fried chicken. Walking to the store recently in Vancouver, I saw a Popeyes franchise. Now I’ve seen the commercials, have read the rave reviews, and usually avoid the experience—but not this time. Before I could argue with my better self, I was sitting at a window table with a fried chicken breast and a golden biscuit on a paper plate. It was revelatory: hot, crispy, juicy—everything you want in fried food. I somehow turned down the offer of sides: coleslaw, mashed potatoes and gravy, Cajun fries, beans and rice, or macaroni and cheese. As it was, one piece of chicken and a biscuit contained my total daily calorie requirement.

So if you’re jonezin’ for fried chicken, avoid the mess and go to Popeyes; but if you insist, here’s my Mom’s recipe.

Fried Chicken

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 chicken , 2 1⁄2 – 3 lbs., cut in pieces
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. each: salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder
  • 4 cups vegetable oil

Dissolve salt and water in a large bowl; add the chicken. Cover, refrigerate 3-4 hours. Pour off the brine; rinse the chicken well under running cold water in the bowl. Drain. Combine the buttermilk and hot sauce—pour over the chicken. Cover bowl; refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 8.

Combine the flour, salt, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder in another large bowl or food storage bag; drain the chicken pieces. Add 2 or 3 pieces of chicken to the bag; seal. Shake to coat chicken Remove chicken to a rack; refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil. Heat oil to 350° or until a drop of water spatters when it hits the hot oil. Add the drumsticks, wings, and thighs, skin side down (the oil should come about halfway up the sides of the pieces of chicken). Cover; cook until tiny bubbles begin to appear in the crust of the side facing up, about 10 minutes. Turn; cook 10 minutes. Uncover the skillet; reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until chicken is golden brown, about 5 to 10 minutes longer or until cooked through Remove drumsticks and thighs from skillet to a rack placed over a cookie sheet; place in oven.

Raise heat under skillet to medium-high. Heat oil to 350°; add the breasts, skin side down. Cook until tiny bubbles begin to appear in the crust on the side facing up, about 10 minutes. Turn and cover. Cook 10 minutes, then uncover the skillet. Lower heat to medium-low, cook until golden brown about 5-10 minutes longer or until cooked through.

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