Whenever I think of not eating “right,” my mind immediately heads south. Maybe it’s all the barbecue or the bacon or the fact that southerners use gravy on just about everything, including breakfast. Or, maybe it’s because the food is just so good, I know instinctively that it can’t be good for me.
But, whatever the reason, when I have the urge to eat bad, I head straight for the land of cotton and crackling. I’ll have mine Dixie fried, please.
So it was last Sunday that I found myself hauling out the deep fryer to make a heart-stopping pile of southern fried chicken. It was so good that even my 13-year-old-almost-vegetarian ate it (but only after I told her it came from Kentucky).
Sunday morning I brined a bunch of chicken (breasts, thighs and drumsticks) in a salt/sugar solution (roughly 3/4 of a cup kosher salt and an equal amount of brown sugar in a large pot of cold water) with a bay leaf, a few black peppercorns and some thyme. I put the pot in the fridge until diner. It’s worth the extra time and effort to brine the chicken; it comes out of the fryer moist and juicy every time.
That evening I removed and dried the chicken and let it sit out for half an hour to come up to room temperature. Meanwhile I put a couple cups of flour into a large bowl and a cup or so of buttermilk in another bowl. I didn’t have any real buttermilk so I put a tablespoon of white wine vinegar in regular milk (also, a great trick for making ordinary pancakes into “buttermilk” pancakes).
I mixed about a teaspoon of paprika,about a tablespoon of salt and a teaspoon of thyme into the flour along with some black pepper. This is a lot of salt, but you really do need it. On second thought, I added a bit of oregano and some cayenne pepper to the mix as well. I would have added a little onion powder as well, but I didn’t have any. There are almost no rules about what goes into the breading, use what’s on hand.
Then, I coated the chicken lightly in the seasoned flour, shook off the excess and dipped it into the “buttermilk” before coating it in flour again. I fried the thighs and drumsticks and 320 F for 10 minutes before raising the temperature to 340 F and frying the breasts for 12 minutes.
And then I spoke with a southern accent all through dinner.