When I read that this fried chicken (by Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis) was the best ever, I’ll be honest, I had my doubts. I mean read the ingredients–it sounds too simple…almost plain. But being curious, I tried it anyway. I am so glad I did because this is in fact the best ever. And as with most simple but amazing dishes, the secret is in the technique.
It’s hard to describe how awesome this chicken was. The batter had a great crunch an took on a surprisingly rich, porky, meaty flavor while the chicken inside was stunningly tender and juicy. No extra spices are needed for the batter and no dipping sauces for eating–this is just perfect the way it is and what every southern fried chicken should aspire to be.
- 1/2 cup salt
- ~2 quarts cold water
- 1 3-5 lb chicken
- 1 quart buttermilk
- 1 lb lard
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 1/2 cup country ham pieces
- 1 cup flour
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
The first step is to break down the chicken into 6 or 8 pieces–whatever you prefer (clipped wings, breasts, thighs, drumsticks). Brine the chicken parts in the mixed salt water for roughly 8-12 hours. This does magical things that guarantee you moist chicken.
Once time is up, dump the salt water, briefly rinse the chicken, and marinate it in buttermilk for another 8-12 hours. This will further tenderize the chicken and add a surprising amount of flavor.
When done marinating, drain the chicken of buttermilk. Don’t bother patting it dry–just let it drip.
Now, get the oil going. In a sturdy frying pan (cast iron if you have it), melt the lard and butter over low medium heat. Once fully melted, add the coarsely chopped pieces of ham. Yes, that us a frying pan pictured and not a deep fryer.
Let the ham gently cook for 30-45 minutes and periodically skim the scum off the surface. Remove the browned ham and raise the heat to medium/medium-high.
In a bowl, prepare the batter for the chicken. This is really simple: just mix the batter ingredients well. Dredge the chicken parts in batter, coating all over and shaking off the excess.
Work in batches of roughly 3 pieces at a time (over-crowding will drop the oil temperature and yield an oily, soggy crust) and add the dredged pieces of chicken to the hot oil. After 8-10 minutes, flip them over, and 8-10 after that, remove from the oil and let drain (either on a rack or paper towels). Repeat until all pieces are fried and keep the cooked chicken in a warm place (e.g. 200°F oven) so they don’t all get too cold on you..or have them cold. You’ll be happy either way (sort of like pizza or Chinese takeout).
Since I already had all this delicious oil going for frying the chicken, it only seemed appropriate that I have a fried side to go with it. So during all of the frying, I made a hushpuppy batter, mixing all the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet in another, and then bringing them together.
Then, I took teaspoonish sized scoops of dough, rolled them in my hand, and put them in the oil (again, small batches…like 4 at a time), rolling fairly regularly. They’re done within about 3 minutes. I’ve linked to the recipe I started from (I added more in the way of spices), but I’ll be honest, I’ve had better hushpuppies in my life as these were a bit on the dry side.
With everything drained and done frying, grab a cold beer, some napkins, and enjoy!