My great grandmother gave me her recipe for fried chicken close to twenty years ago. At the time, I didn’t realize that I was the only person in the family with which she shared this recipe. Let me start by saying I’m not going to give you her exact recipe, but it’ll be good enough to knock the socks off of anyone you make this for….that is, unless I come over for dinner and make Granny’s actual recipe, and then you will have the second best chicken in the house, but I can assure you, the danger of this happening is minimal.
One of the things that it took me some time to learn, is the balance of ingredients to create the proper thickness for the batter. In addition, Granny didn’t use much oil at all to fry her chicken. She just kept turning it, and it would come out golden reddish brown and so freaking crispy on the outside and moist on the inside that it was like biting into an apple. Please tell me you get that reference. Crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside…the only better way to describe it would be to compare it to awesome fried chicken and, well…that would be a little silly.
I don’t have measurements for this recipe, because Granny never gave me any. What I can share is variation on the ingredients; what I’ve done to update it; and try as best as I can to describe how it’s supposed to taste. You’re going to have to try this a few times before you get it perfect. But if you keep trying, you will be sooooo glad you did. So here are the important ingredients…
Chicken pieces (I prefer leg quarters, or a whole chicken cut in pieces)
Fresh Parsley (about a handful)
Fresh Thyme (two or three sprigs)
Paprika (make sure you use good paprika)
Pour the buttermilk into a large freezer bag. Season the buttermilk with the herbs and seasoning. Before adding the garlic, removed the skin and smash 5 or six of the gloves and add them to the bag. Close the bag completely (or you’ll make a mess), and mix it all together. After rinsing your chicken pieces, add them to the buttermilk mixture and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 8 hours. When adding the salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and paprika, I’d keep the measurements to a couple of tablespoons. If you use good paprika, you’ll need even less than that. I use about a quart of buttermilk for one whole fryer chicken, which is usually 3 to 4 lbs of chicken. These approximate measurements are based upon that amount of liquid. I would change them based upon the amount of chicken and buttermilk, of course.
Another good soaking technique is to get up a bit early before work and mix this all up and let the chicken sit all day, and by the time you get home, it’ll be ready for the grease. Granny used Crisco to fry her chicken. While using Crisco is hands down the best way to go, this will work with regular vegetable or canola oil just fine.
This is where this recipe ends up being a bit different than your standard buttermilk fried chicken recipe…
Once the chicken is done soaking, take the pieces out of the mixture and transfer it to a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, mix about two cups of flour with salt, pepper, paprika, and granulated onion and nothing else. Season the chicken in the bowl with pepper, paprika, and granulated onion…no salt (that’s enough with the salt).
Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and use your hands. Mix the chicken in the bowl with the newly added seasoning. Gradually adding the seasoned flour to the chicken, continue to mix it all together to create a batter on the chicken. (BTW, you should be heating your oil while this is happening). If the mixture gets too thick, like the consistency of dough, add a little water to loosen it up. You may not need to use all of the flour mixture. You’ll know you’re ready to fry when two things happen: 1. The grease is hot; and 2. The mixture in the bowl looks like this…
Take note of the colors. All of that color is coming from the paprika. We don’t really think about paprika having a serious impact, but this recipe is one that has really made me appreciate it. Granny used to say “Don’t forget the paprika, no man wants light skinned chicken…I don’t care who he is.” You’ll see what the paprika does to the chicken in just a minute.
Remember when I said Granny used Crisco shortening for this? Well, she also used a cast iron skillet…also a very important element. The one I use was given to my mother when my great great grandmother came to visit my parents in their first apartment and she realized Mommy didn’t have a cast iron skillet. That was 35 years ago, and she’d already had this one for years…if you don’t have one, make the investment, trust me.
Getting back to this Crisco shortening. She didn’t use a lot of it. There was only ever about an inch or so of liquid in the pan at any given time, and she just took special care to keep turning the chicken. The only alternative to this method, that I think works really well, is if you have a deep fryer large enough. I’m not talking about a “Fry Daddy”, those don’t work as well for some reason. This chicken calls for something more substantial.
If you opt for the cast iron skillet option, you may end up with a bit of a tightrope act with some of the pieces of chicken…whatever it takes to get it done.
Finally, you will have, what I like to call the “Chicken Kiev of fried chicken”, making a reference to the juice that will come squirting out upon your first bite. This stuff is nothing but the TRUTH. Anyone who tries it, please let me know how it turns out, and if I was unclear about anything. Eat up!!