I have learned all about southern fried chicken in my monthly visits to my daughter who lives in Nashville. Crisp and crunchy and slightly salty on the outside, and tender and juicy inside, there is nothing quite like it. We Northerners try and try, but somehow the best fried chicken still seems to be made down south. I think this is because Southerners rely on tradition and don’t give much thought to contemporary health concerns when it comes to their fried chicken. If Grandma threw lots of fat in the pan and a ton of salt and pepper in the flour, that’s how the chicken still gets fried. The main consideration is to keep the fat as near 365 degrees as you can, from the moment you place the chicken in the pan right up until you lift it out. This will give you the crisp skin and juicy meat that makes fried chicken so tasty. You can also adapt this method to other birds. I’ve made a great, crunchy and delicious quail.
- 1 quart buttermilk
- ¼ cup Tabasco sauce
- 2 3½- to 4-pound frying chickens, cut into serving pieces, thoroughly rinsed and patted dry
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 4 cups vegetable oil
Combine the buttermilk and Tabasco in a large nonreactive bowl. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat them well. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and allow to marinate for 3 hours.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
Place the flour in a large plastic bag. Combine the salt and cayenne. When well blended, add to the flour and shake to blend.
Add the marinated chicken to the flour mixture, one or two pieces at a time, and toss to coat well. When nicely coated, transfer to the parchmentlined baking sheets. Continue coating the chicken until all of the pieces are done.
Heat 2 cups of oil in each of two large, heavy-duty, frying pans until very hot but not smoking.
Add the chicken pieces to the hot oil, taking care not to crowd the pans, and fry the chicken, turning it occasionally, for about 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and golden brown and crisp.
Using tongs, transfer the fried chicken to paper towels to drain. (If you need to make more than two batches, preheat the oven to low. Place the fried chicken on baking sheets and into the preheated oven with the door slightly ajar. This will keep the chicken warm and crisp while you continue frying.)
Place the chicken on a large serving platter and serve it, family style.
Nutritional information is based on using 3 1/2 pound chickens.