Winner Winner {fried chicken}

Hi there. Remember me? I sometimes like to cook and take pictures of my food when I’m actually in my kitchen, which, these days, is not often. I provide you with inspiration for home-cooked meals and detailed instructions on how to achieve perfect results every time (now I’m just making stuff up). If nothing else, I, at least, am the one who gets “Cry for You” by Jodeci stuck in your head, right?

I’ve been out of town a lot lately and have a serious backlog of recipes to share with you. I’m not really sure where to go with this. I have two chicken salad recipes (regular and pesto), a recipe for French potato salad, one for baked salmon with roasted tomatoes and basil, a barbecue rub that we put on our beer-can chicken, a recipe for a quinoa and veggie bake that you can eat as the main event or as a side and one for fried chicken.

Look, I know you people like it when I bake, but I just can’t bring myself to do it these days. I can’t abide having dozens of cupcakes on my kitchen counter right now. Trust me, as soon as the weather changes and I no longer have to worry about someone accidentally peeping one of my thighs, then I’ll go back to sugar town.

For now, in total hypocrisy, I’ll instead share with you how to make fried chicken. When I told my dad I was going to make it at home, he stared at me, bewildered, and asked why I wouldn’t just go to Popeyes. He has a point. Fried chicken isn’t the easiest or cleanest thing to cook, and in some cases, I’ve even heard of people who, while deep-frying without shirts, accidentally set off the sprinklers on the entire floor of their apartment buildings. If you rent and like to cook topless, maybe this recipe isn’t for you.

If, on the other hand, you’re willing to crack open the back door and channel Nana, then you’ve come to the right place. I know that my grandmother used to make delicious fried chicken but she quit doing it as often once we moved nearby (I believe this was a coincidence, rather than any sort of sanction on her part, although…). I do, vaguely, remember eating it chez Nana one time when I was about 10 but I wanted to see if I could recreate something similar on my own and get a feel for what home-cooked fried chicken tastes like. Also, I’m going to need to renew my southern credentials and unless I could fry chicken, I felt as though I may be excommunicated at any time.

I did a bit of research to find some recipes I could draw from (mostly from Jonathan Waxman’s recipe featured in the Summer issue of Lucky Peach) and think that I ended up with a pretty good product. Here’s what I recommend:

  • 1 fryer*
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oil for frying (veggie, canola, peanut)

* I bought a whole fryer and cut it up into light and dark meat. I only cooked the dark and saved the breasts for some of that chicken salad I mentioned earlier. If you want to fry the whole chicken, split the breast and cut each into two pieces. Double your dredging/coating mixture too. You can also buy chicken pieces if you don’t feel like becoming a junior butcher enthusiast in your kitchen.

Alright. Let’s do this. Grab your cast iron skillet and add about 2-3 inches of oil. Begin to heat the oil over medium heat. Be careful not to heat it too high (use a thermometer). You’ll eventually want to do the frying when the oil reaches 300°F.

If you bought a whole chicken, break it down. If you didn’t, I believe you should still break it down, just in a different way.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the buttermilk, hot sauce, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and some salt and pepper. Drop in the chicken bits that you plan to fry and let them hang for 5-10 minutes.

Time to get the chicken ready for its fatty plunge. Do you have a large paper bag? If not, get one. Add the cornmeal and the flour and season with salt and pepper. (Yes, add it into the bag.)

Using tongs, retrieve your chicken from the buttermilk mixture, let the excess drip off and drop into the bag until everybody’s in.

Give the bag a good shake and then pull the chicken out and place on a rack until you’re ready to fry. Which hopefully will be immediately.

Time to party. Carefully add the chicken to the hot oil and fry for about 5 minutes per side. While that’s going on, preheat your oven to 300°F and get another rack ready for the cooked chicken.

Yee haw. Flip.

When you’re done, pop the chicken in the oven for about 10-15 minutes while the rest of dinner comes together. In our case, I fried some okra (in retrospect, maybe this is why I’ve put on 4 pounds this summer), and served this alongside some fresh crowder peas and sliced tomatoes.

This is a perfect end-of-summer slash no more swimsuit meal.