Monday, April 8, 2013

Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Gravy Recipe

Fried chicken is one of those recipes that people feel really strongly about. Some say deep fry it while others insist that shallow frying in cast iron is the only way. Some folks swear that the only oil to fry chicken in is Crisco while others fry it in everything from peanut oil to butter to that ever-present Southern staple: lard. Then of course, there's the brine, which can mean soaking your cut-up bird in buttermilk, plain old salted water or more involved salt water mixtures using rosemary, lemons and garlic.
Whatever your poison, one thing's for certain-- fried chicken done up right is the greasy nectar of the gods. Crunchy, crispy and a bit salty on the outside while crazy juicy and tender on the inside, fresh-from-the-pan fried chicken simply can't be beat.
Years ago, my mom taught me her recipe for frying chicken, and it's definitely one of the good ones. Like many recipes, the brine we use to marinate our chicken is pure buttermilk and nothing else, and the bird is ideally soaked in it overnight. This is a crucial step for moist and tender chicken, so don't skip it. When it comes to breading, we insist on flour and basic seasonings all the way, and when it's frying time mom always uses her favorite grease combo consisting of equal parts shortening and butter which makes for extra crispy fried chicken. I like to add a tablespoon of bacon grease to the frying oil as well for even more punch.
So, here it is, our family recipe for fried chicken. Mom always served her chicken with milk gravy, but I've included my recipe for a basic pan gravy made with a chicken stock. You could definitely substitute milk for the chicken stock here. Serve your fried chicken with mashed potatoes or cornbread dressing (pictured above and recipe coming later FYI) and of course, a big pitcher of sweet tea. Enjoy!

Mom's Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Gravy Recipe

While a cast iron skillet is preferred for this recipe, an electric fry pan or large non-stick pan works just as well.

Serves 4-6

1 whole fryer chicken, cut into even pieces (about 3-4 pounds)
2 cups buttermilk
All-purpose flour for coating (about 2 cups)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning blend
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 tablespoon bacon grease, optional
Additional salt and pepper, to taste

For the gravy:

4 tablespoons leftover pan drippings
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or whole milk (if you want cream gravy)
Salt to taste
Lots and lots of black pepper (this is a Southern thing!)

Pour the buttermilk into a large bowl or plastic bag and add the chicken pieces, making sure they are coated well. Cover and refrigerate for several hours, preferably overnight. Take a large paper bag and add in the flour, salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning and cayenne. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and place it in the paper bag. Shake the bag well to coat all the pieces of chicken evenly.

Melt the butter and the shortening in a large cast iron skillet. Heat your pan to medium-high, being careful not to burn the butter. When your pan is hot, add the chicken and brown it well on all sides, about 10-12 minutes. Then reduce the heat to medium-low. Place a cover over the chicken and continue to cook another 25-30 minutes or until the juices run clear. Uncover and continue to cook another 5-10 minutes on medium or until the chicken becomes nice and crispy. Remove chicken to a rack and drain. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

Pour off all but 4 tablespoons of the leftover drippings (discard the rest or save in your lard tin). Be sure to keep all the crispy goody bits on the bottom of the pan. They add a ton of flavor. Add the flour to the pan and whisk it over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Then, gradually whisk in the chicken broth (or milk) and continue to cook stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes or until your gravy has thickened. If your gravy is too thick, feel free to thin it out with some more chicken stock, milk or a little water. Reduce the heat to low and season the gravy with salt and black pepper, the more pepper the better.

Serve fried chicken with gravy, mashed potatoes or cornbread dressing.

All photos and text ©2013 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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