Perfect. Fried. Chicken.
I get it - such a statement is quite bold.
Let it be. This ain't my recipe. It's my grandmother's. And anything she cooked was perfect. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
I'll say it again full of pride: This is the best darn fried chicken, ever!
Speaking of pride, ma'am's and sir's, and what I was raised to do or not do, I'll say that my father, a Southern gentleman, taught me, with an ear-to-ear grin, to open doors for women right alongside the ways and means of sipping a dark drink. Momma, on the other hand, taught me how to charm and cook. But it was her mother, my grandmother Sitty, as she was known, who schooled me on the ins-and-outs of cooking. On Sundays, my grandfather Giddy, who by trade was a butcher, would bring home cuts of meat carefully trimmed and preserved by his skilled hands. Sitty would cook and stew all morning long–stopping only to put on her face and attend Sunday services. When we returned to their Valdosta, Georgia, home afterwards, family, friends, preacher men, and strangers would all gather to enjoy her Southern splendor at the family table.
The spread, just like the conversation, seemed to stretch for miles...perfectly fried chicken, collards, mac ‘n' cheese, cornbread, fried okra, biscuits–the Southern staples–were all served right alongside the Middle Eastern favorites from my grandparents' youth: hummus, tabouleh, kibbeh, and stuffed grape leaves. Together, we lived, ate, cooked, and learned.
Though my grandparents have since passed, those memories and lessons of family, food, and fare continue to impact my own life. Their passing did not bequeath me with a wealth of monetary goods; rather it was my grandmother's recipes and cast iron skillets that made their way into my hands to cherish forever.
Nowadays, I do most of the work in the kitchen, entertaining family, friends, and strangers just as those who came before me. Yet I know that I am never alone. As the ingredients from her recipes sizzle and pop in my inherited cast iron pans, I know that my guests will soon savor and enjoy another great meal. For me, I find comfort in knowing that my recipes always taste a bit better coming out of her skillets, as they are all seasoned with the very best ingredient in any kitchen–love.
This is just one of the many subjects and recipes that I'm proud to share with all of you in my latest book, A Southern Gentleman's Kitchen, Adventures in Cooking, Eating, and Living in the New South. In fact, you can pick up this month's issue of Southern Living magazine to snag my recipes for Pulled Pork Nachos and Tuesday Night Hamburger Steak.
Go ahead, pre-order a copy of the book today (and get ready for a signed giveaway next week). Meanwhile, whip up a skillet full of Sitty's Fried Chicken. I promise y'all are in for some good eatin'!
Sitty's Fried Chicken
My grandmother Sitty's secret recipe for fried chicken is all about the dredge, which uses basic seasoning, flour, and water. Simplicity is the key – after all, the star of the show is the chicken. Mama said that my grandfather Giddy, who was a butcher by trade, taught Sitty that the best chickens were those that weighed around 3 lbs. Preparing the chicken in the following manner will yield a very thin, crisp coating and juicy, tender chicken beneath.
1 (3-lb.) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces 2 tsp. kosher salt 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 1 cup all-purpose flour Peanut oil
- Rinse chicken with cold water and pat dry. Place chicken in a large bowl; sprinkle with salt and pepper, tossing to coat. Sprinkle flour and ½ cup water over chicken; toss chicken with flour mixture, using fingers to rub flour paste into skin until thoroughly coated. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill 1 – 24 hours.
- Pour oil to a depth of 1 inch into a 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Heat oil over medium heat to 350 degrees F.
- Fry drumsticks and thighs in hot oil, bone sides down, 8 minutes. (Increase heat for first few minutes, if necessary, to maintain oil temperature at 350 degrees F). Carefully turn chicken, rotating pieces away from your body; fry 8 more minutes or until browned and desired degree of doneness. Remove chicken, and transfer to a wire rack over paper towels. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken pieces (breasts and wings), reducing frying time to 7 minutes on each side.