Monday, September 8, 2014

Classic Fried Chicken

 If you know me, you know that I love to cook for my friends. I love to assemble a big group at my apt, plan a menu according to whatever theme we've chosen, and then show everyone how I made each thing. I also love it when everyone gets in on the cooking. It's always a good time!
 Recently, we decided to have a Southern Food night. It was awesome! In addition to my famous Baked Beans, we had Fried Confetti Corn, Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole (without the beef), and of course, Classic Fried Chicken. We added some 7 Up Biscuits along with The Best Carrots and Green Beans Ever and there, Ladies and Gentlemen, was a pretty amazing home cooked southern chicken dinner.
 To be quite honest, I had never cooked regular classic fried chicken. I know, I know, crazy, right? One would think that I would have cooked something so classic at some point in my life, but nope, never did! I must say, I think it was pretty slammin'! I did some searching to see which recipe I'd try, and (as you can imagine), I found a million versions. I went with Ree Drummond's recipe because that seemed to be pretty close to what I had in mind for a Classic Fried Chicken recipe. It was crispy and tender and fabulous and comforting and flavorful all at the same time. I think it'll probably be my go-to recipe the next time I decide to have another fried chicken night.
 Yes, of course, it's not the best idea to eat fried anything all the time, but everyone once in a while, a little comfort is a good thing!

2 cut-up fryer chickens in 16 pieces
4 1/4 cups cups buttermilk
5 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons seasoned salt, such as Lawry's
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground dried thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more for seasoning
1/4 cup milk
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying

 Thoroughly rinse the chicken, then cover all the pieces with 4 cups buttermilk and soak in the fridge overnight or up to 24 hours. When you're ready to fry the chicken, remove the bowl from the fridge and let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes, just to take off the chill.
 In the meantime, preheat the oven to 360 degrees F and mix up the breading. Place the flour, seasoned salt, paprika, pepper, thyme and cayenne (extra cayenne if you like heat) in a very large bowl. Stir together well.
 In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup buttermilk and the milk. Pour the milk mixture into the flour and, with a fork, gradually mix until there are little lumps throughout. This will adhere to the chicken and make for a crispier breading. If necessary, add a little more flour or milk to the bowl in order to make it slightly lumpy.
 Heat 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat until a thermometer reaches 365 degrees F. Lower the heat slightly, if necessary, to keep the oil from getting hotter.
Working in batches, thoroughly coat each chicken piece with the breading, pressing extra breading onto the chicken if necessary. Place the breaded pieces on a plate.
 Add the chicken to the oil 3 or 4 pieces at a time. Make sure they aren't sticking together, then cover the pan and fry for 5 to 7 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the chicken isn't getting too brown. Turn the pieces over, cover again, and cook 3 to 5 minutes more. All the while, monitor the temperature of the oil to make sure the chicken doesn't burn.
 Place the chicken on a baking sheet and continue frying the rest of the chicken. When all the chicken has been fried, remove the wings and legs to a plate and keep covered. These should be cooked all the way through by now but always check, if any pink juice or meat is visible. If so, return to the hot oil for another minute or so until fully cooked. Leave the thighs and breasts on the baking sheet.
 Bake the thighs and breasts for 15 minutes to finish the cooking process. Sometimes I'll cut into the thicker part of one of the larger pieces, just to make sure the chicken is cooked through. If any pink juice or meat is visible, the chicken needs to continue cooking in the oven.

 If you have no desire to cut up a whole chicken, by all means have your butcher do it, or just purchase chicken pieces. I like just the legs and thighs, so that's what I bought. Simple!
 I had originally planned to add hot sauce to the buttermilk (since I know that's also a classic thing to do when marinating the chicken), but I figured I didn't need to do that since the flour was already seasoned really well. But if you'd like to add the hot sauce, go for it!

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