Wednesday, 27 April 2005

Southern Fried Chicken

All descriptions I have heard or read about authentic Southern Fried Chicken were always in the superlatives. I emphasise 'authentic' there because we have these plethora of so called southern fried fast food pieces that they say do not bear much resemblance to the real thing. One of the list of my must do things in my foodie life is to have the real mccoy in the deep south of the US. I think Jmom can help me if ever I am there. ;) I gotta have a taste of the real thing and other southern specialties like grits, gumbo, corn fritters, etc. Meanwhile, I found a nifty recipe from Lesley Allin's Great American Food. She says that despite the variations to this dish, there a few rules that southern cooks adhere to. Among them is the use of a cast iron skillet and that the chicken is fried not deep fried. Curious to know that she also recommends using brown paper bags for draining to retain the crispiness instead of using paper towels. Now that I haven't tried before.

I followed her recipe and procedures (making some adjustments of course) for at least 3 times and I could say that it undeniably produced fried chicken with a very crispy outside but juicy inside. I also tried both lard and vegetable oils. Lard wins hands down in terms of taste. It was really yummy especially the gravy. But my golly, when I saw how it solidified in the pan after just a short time of cooling off I could almost feel my arteries constricting! Reluctantly, I have to let go of the lard to save my arteries from clogging. Maybe I'll have it like ... mmm ... once every year. ;)

Getting back to the crispiness, maybe it's to do with the buttermilk and the flour. There certainly wasn't any fancy ingredients in there. Maybe the cast iron skillet has something to do with it lending its even heating properties to the frying. The resulting fried chicken when eaten on its own is actually a bit bland because we only put 1 tsp salt for every cup of flour. However, when you have it with the gravy - pow wow brown cow! Super deeeelicious! Another peculiar thing I noticed here is the addition of the lemon juice in the gravy. I seriously thought it would ruin it or curdle it, but oh no it even brought out the creaminess of the gravy and gave a nice sour-salty taste. Yum! Oh drat, I drooled on my keyboard !! yaaah ...

Southern Fried Chicken

1 - 1.5 kg  chicken - cut into serving pieces
250 - 500 ml (1-2 cups) buttermilk*
120 g  (1 cup) plain flour
1 tsp fine salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Lard or vegetable oil for frying
4 smoked streaky bacon - chopped thinly
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) chicken stock
125 ml (1/2 cup) double cream (heavy cream)
1-2 Tbsp lemon juice
  1. Marinate the chicken pieces in the buttermilk for at least 2 hours or better if overnight. Let it come to room temperature before cooking.
  2. Mix flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper in a plastic bag. Take the chicken, one at a time, from the buttermilk and put in the plastic bag with flour mixture. Twist the end of the bag to close and shake well to coat the chicken evenly. Repeat with all the chicken pieces. Set aside 2 Tbsp of the used seasoned flour.
  3. Heat 1/2-inch layer of lard or vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet/frying pan. Add in the bacon. Fry until crispy. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels; set aside.
  4. Add the flour-coated chicken in the hot fat putting the serving or presentation side down first. Do not crowd the chicken in the pan. Cover and cook in medium heat for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove cover and turn chicken with tongs. Do not use fork because it will pierce the meat and thereby lose its juiciness. Fry uncovered for a further 10-15 minutes. Take out the chicken from the pan and drain in a brown paper bag or on paper towels just make sure not to let them linger on the towels too long or it will go soggy.
  6. Drain all but 2 Tbsp of the oil from the frying pan leaving behind all the brown bits at the bottom. Add in the reserved 2 Tbsp seasoned flour. Cook until lightly browned. Add the stock, cream, and lemon juice and bring to boil while whisking constantly until sauce is smooth and thick. Taste and add more seasonings it necessary.
  7. You may add the crisp fried bacon to the gravy or sprinkle them over as a garnish if you wish. Serve with some mashed potatoes.
*Note: If you don't have any buttermilk, you can substitute with the following: for every cup of buttermilk, put in scant 1 cup of milk in a non-metal container then add 1 Tbsp vinegar or lemon juice to make 1 cup; do not stir, let stand and curdle for about 5-10 minutes.

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