My husband has continuously asked for one dish ever since we got married – friend chicken. And being that half of my family is from the deep south, you would think that I would have some old grandmother recipe that I had made for years and, quite, frankly, didn’t even need the recipe. But the sad reality is that I had never made fried chicken before, and for only one, embarrassing reason – fear. Fear that I wouldn’t cook the chicken enough. Fear that I would spill oil everywhere. Fear that the chicken would not crisp up like you see on all of the cooking shows. And worst of all, fear I would embarrass my southern side of the family.
But, after 5 years I just couldn’t say no to my husband any longer. I figured I would give it a shot and if it went wrong, we would get take out and I wouldn’t tell a soul. Or, if it went right, I would not only be a fantastic wife, but a cook with new found confidence in doing something out of my comfort zone. Having said that, you know which one of the two was my outcome.
I won’t say it isn’t hard, or scary. It is both of those. But, once I got the hang of it, I was surprised at how crispy and delicious they looked. And even more surprised when we took our first bite and I thought had went to heaven. They were crispy, flavorful and had a slight hint of heat. With mashed potatoes and a glass of wine it was the Sunday night meal. And yes, I was completely oblivious to the caloric consequences – it was just too darn good to care.
The recipe came from Bon Appetit and was deemed the only friend chicken recipe you would ever need. They couldn’t have been more right.
A few tips I learned as a first-time fryer:
1. Don’t fill up the oil too far because it will REALLY get higher when you put the chicken in and you could risk a spill or two.
2. Use peanut oil and buy more than you think you need.
3. When in doubt, fry a bit more. This chicken is so moist, I do not believe a bit more time frying could have done it wrong.
4. Make sure to marinate overnight. It makes all the difference.
5. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, now would be the perfect time to buy one. And I promise you will use it for more than just frying chicken.
Thanks again to Bon Appetit (and my husband constant requests) for enticing me to do something different in the kitchen, and learn that I can really expand my skills as long as I put fear aside.
2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 3–4-lb. chicken (not kosher), cut into 10 pieces, backbone and wing tips removed
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Peanut oil (for frying)
Whisk 1 Tbsp. salt, 2 tsp. black pepper, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl. Season chicken with spices. Place chicken in a medium bowl, cover, and chill overnight.
Let chicken stand covered at room temperature for 1 hour. Whisk buttermilk, egg, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Whisk flour, cornstarch, remaining 1 Tbsp. salt, and remaining 1 Tbsp. pepper in a 9x13x2″ baking dish.
Pour oil into a 10″–12″ cast-iron skillet or other heavy straight-sided skillet (not nonstick) to a depth of 3/4″. Prop deep-fry thermometer in oil so bulb is submerged. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°. Meanwhile, set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet.
Working with 1 piece at a time (use 1 hand for wet ingredients and the other for dry ingredients), dip chicken in buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Dredge in flour mixture; tap against bowl to shake off excess. Place 5 pieces of chicken in skillet. Fry chicken, turning with tongs every 1–2 minutes and adjusting heat to maintain a steady temperature of 300°–325°, until skin is deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 165°, about 10 minutes for wings and 12 minutes for thighs, legs, and breasts.
Using tongs, remove chicken from skillet, allowing excess oil to drip back into skillet; transfer chicken to prepared rack.
Repeat with remaining chicken pieces; let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.