Crispy Country Fried Chicken

Crispy Country Fried Chicken

Crispy Country Fried Chicken

One of the best food memories I have of growing up on a farm is watching my mother prepare chickens that we raised and frying them in a cast iron skillet (in lard, of course).  That succulent chicken was a favorite then, and is still.  Over the years I've tried various methods for making the best fried chicken, and this is my favorite. A soak in brine overnight does amazing things, the buttermilk flavors and acts as "glue" for the breading, and I recently discovered from a Southern cook how to get a more substantial "crust" on my chicken, something I had tried to do for years. This fried chicken recipe will make you a rock star with your family and friends!  Serves 4

2 quarts cold water

1/4 cup salt

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup hot sauce (I like Frank's)

3 pounds chicken pieces (split breasts cut in half, thighs, drumsticks)

1 cup buttermilk

1 Tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

2 cups self-rising flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 cup buttermilk

4 cups vegetable or peanut oil

Combine the water, salt, and sugar in a 6-qt. plastic container with lid.  Stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved.  Add the hot sauce.  Add the chicken.  Cover and refrigerate 3-8 hours, or overnight.

One hour before cooking the chicken, remove it from the brine and place in a gallon freezer bag with zip-top.  Combine the buttermilk, salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne in a glass measuring cup and pour over the chicken.  Press out the air and seal the top.  Turn the bag and massage the chicken to coat with the buttermilk mixture.  Allow to set on the counter for one hour.

Whisk together the flour, salt, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne. until well-combined.  Pour the buttermilk over the mixture and, using your fingers, rub it into the flour mixture until evenly incorporated.  (Small clumps will form that add texture to the finished chicken-who knew!?)

Heat the oven to 400-degrees.  Place a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet.  Place about 3/4-inch of oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet.  Heat over medium-high heat until the oil is 375-degrees (use a thermometer).

Carefully place half of the chicken pieces, skin side down into the oil.  Fry until deep golden brown on both sides, about 6-7 minutes.  Adjust the burner to keep the temperature of the oil between 350-375 degrees.  Transfer the chicken to the rack in the pan, then fry the remaining chicken, and add that to the rack.

Bake the chicken in the preheated oven until an instant-read thermometer registers 165-degrees, 12-18 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve.

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Very Best Buttermilk Biscuits

Very Best Buttermilk Biscuits

Very Best Buttermilk Biscuits

Some meals just aren't complete without a warm, tender, flaky biscuit on the side.  This recipe is my absolute favorite, and is no-fail.  It all starts in the food processor, then the resulting mixture gets transferred to a bowl to receive the buttermilk;  you can make these in a flash!  Makes 8 large biscuits.  Inspired by a recipe from America's Test Kitchen

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

8 Tablespoons (4 ounces) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

4 Tablespoons (2 ounces) vegetable shortening or lard, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Place the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450-degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the dry ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse just to combine.  Add the butter and shortening and pulse just until the mixture resembles a really coarse meal.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Stir in the buttermilk just until combined.

On a lightly-floured board, knead the dough 8-10 times.  Pat the dough into a 9-inch circle that is 3/4-inch thick.  Cut with a 3-inch floured biscuit cutter and place on the prepared pan.  Gather up the remaining dough and pat into a 3/4-inch thick circle and cut out remaining biscuits.

Bake until the biscuits begin to rise, about 5 minutes, then rotate the pan and reduce the oven temperature to 400-degrees.  Bake until golden brown, 12-15 minutes.  Serve immediately, or transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before storing in a zipper-lock bag.)

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