1. You must brine the chicken pieces ahead of time.
2. There is no substitute for buttermilk; don’t even think about it.
3. No, you cannot use any other kind of pan but a cast-iron skillet. No.
4. Temperature – you’ll have to do a few test pieces to determine the right setting on your stove for the pan you’re using. On my stove, it’s just under medium with a 12-inch iron skillet. You’re aiming for a temperature that’s lower than what you’d normally use for grease-free deep fat frying, but not so low the chicken gets soggy. But, it has to be low enough that the outside doesn’t burn while the inside stays raw.
– about 6 thighs and drumsticks, brined
– 2 and 1/2 cups flour
– scant tablespoon salt
– two teaspoons garlic powder
– slightly less onion powder
– a couple vigorous shakes of HOT paprika, or cayenne pepper
– 1 teaspoon crushed thyme
– Lots of fresh-ground black pepper
– 1/2 teaspoon MSG. Yep, that’s right, MSG, sold as Accent. No, it’s not toxic, and no, you’re not allergic to it (big food myth). Leave it out if you’re paranoid.
– Enough Crisco to have about a half-inch of hot oil in the skillet
Mix your dry ingredients and put them in a wide, shallow bowl. Pour buttermilk into another bowl, replenishing as needed. Take chicken and dunk it in the buttermilk, shaking off excess. Mash (yes, mash) chicken into flour mixture all over, coating everything. You can be really decadent and give it another dunk in the buttermilk and another flour mashing (mmm, mmm). Set chicken aside on plate.
IMPORTANT – Let the chicken rest for at least 20 minutes after coating. This lets the coating set up and stick to the chicken so it doesn’t peel off during cooking.
Fry chicken two – three pieces at a time. Cover and fry for about 20 minutes, then turn, recovering the skillet and cook for another 15 minutes or so. Remove the cover and cook for another 5 minutes, turning the chicken again to recrisp the outside and evaporate the water that’s gotten into the crust from the covered skillet. This method is the best, and is well-described in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.
Drain the chicken on paper towels, and keep warm on an uncovered plate in the oven until all the pieces are done.
Best served with other heart-attack-inducing dishes, such as creamy mashed potatoes with cream gravy. I like to accompany it in the traditional Southern way, with greens stewed with ham hocks, and lard biscuits. This is a not a meal for health sissies.
Reserve about two tablespoons of the Crisco, scooping up the little browned bits that fell off the chicken. Add three tablespoons of flour and make a roux. In a separate pan, boil a chicken bullion cube in a minimal amount of water, just until dissolved. Set bullion aside.
Slowly add about 1 and 1/2 cups whole milk to the roux, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Add bullion, and let thicken, stirring constantly. If you need a little more thickener, whisk flour into cold milk and add. Be sure to add a generous amount of fresh black pepper.