Fried chicken: South's bird of choice is finger-licking good

Special to Lowcountry LifeApril 11, 2012 

Lowcountry folk love it.

Southern people can't get enough of it.

It is the bird of choice, and everyone knows which part they enjoy the most.

I can remember when every household in my neighborhood had fried chicken for Sunday dinner. Why, it was the "Sunday Special." Not only did the meat taste good, it looked good, and, of course, eating it with your hands made it finger-licking good.

Those were the days when the cook would purchase a fryer and cut it into pieces. Everyone's child wanted the wishbone and could not wait to make a wish. Mamas taught daughters how to cut a chicken -- it was a work of art, as one knew just how many pieces there should be. What a lesson that was!

Just what is it that makes fried chicken so good? Is it the seasonings? Is it the pan or is it the cook? A good cook has her secrets. There are many ways to fry chicken. Care to try a few good ideas and then rate your fried chicken?

Spicing Up Fried Chicken

Choose a flavor and then add seasoning to flour or batter.

Onion: 1 tablespoon garam masala

Mid-Atlantic: 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning

Middle Eastern: 1 tablespoon za'atar

Southern-Fried Chicken

3 1/2 pounds chicken pieces

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup flour

1 1/2 cup shortening

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Place flour in paper or plastic bag. Add chicken pieces, 1 or 2 at a time; shake to coat.

Melt shortening in a large cast-iron skillet on high heat. Add chicken skin side down a few pieces at a time; cook 15 minutes on each side our until cooked through and golden brown. Drain on paper towel; keep warm. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Crispy Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Buttermilk Soak

3 cups buttermilk

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

4 pounds medium chicken wings, thighs and drumsticks

Flour dredge

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Vegetable oil for frying

For the buttermilk soak: In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk with the salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Add the chicken; stir to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate for 4 hours.

To make the flour dredge: In a large resealable plastic bag, mix the flour with the onion powder, garlic powder, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper and shake to combine.

Set a rack on a baking sheet. Working with a piece at a time, remove the chicken from the buttermilk soak, letting the excess drip back into the bowl. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over. Transfer the chicken to a rack and let stand for 30 minutes.

In a deep skillet, heat 1 inch of oil to 350 degrees. Set another rack on a baking sheet; line with paper towels. Fry the chicken in batches at 315 degrees burning once, until the chicken is golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each piece registers 160 degrees, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the paper-lined rack and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Oven-Fried Chicken

3-pound broiler chicken or chicken parts

1 egg, lightly beaten

Bread crumbs

Lemon pepper

Poultry seasoning

Juice of 1 lemon

Cut chicken into serving parts; wipe dry. Sprinkle with salt, lemon pepper and poultry seasoning. Juice of lemon may be used in place of salt. Marinate overnight or several hours. Drain; dip pieces of chicken in lightly beaten egg. Place in a lightly oiled baking pan. Place in oven heated to 400 degrees. Bake until lightly browned, 1 hour, basting occasionally. Do not overcook.

Columnist Ervena Faulkner is a Port Royal resident and a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. Email her at features@beaufortgazette.com.

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