There is a better-than-good likelihood I am just always going to fry my own chicken.
Not because I’m so great at it — I am not — but because I have the basics of it down and can do it without suffering third degree grease burns on my forearms.
*discreetly moves arms under table out of view*
First of all, I’m Southern. I was born in North Carolina, raised in Arkansas. Even when I was “in” Washington, D.C., most of my time was spent living in Virginia (Arlington), a state as southern as it gets. I live in Florida now, what I’ve heard called South of the South.
I seem to always remember my grandmother having a ham, usually. My dad and I would come in from his shop (the garage behind her house, where Dad grew up), grease-covered and filthy, already tired, and there she’d be with a giant ham, potatoes, green beans with a ham hock in them, bread, and always something for desert like cherry pie. And that was just for lunch.
I don’t remember my Aunt Hebe (she was like a grandmother to me) making fried chicken that often, but both her and my Granny must have. Now, my mother worked hard to feed me and my brother and sister healthy meals at home, and to expose us to a variety of foods from across the globe (their favorite place is still the sushi restaurant).
But I love comfort food, good Southern food, the kind of food that fills you up, makes you feel good, the kind of food that makes a meal you remember. I love fried chicken. I love mashed potatoes and green beans and cornbread. I love peas. I love a good biscuit with a lot of butter.
Fried catfish is hard to do well, but when it’s done right, it’s amazing. I love shrimp and grits. I love good barbecue.
Look, I love food. And I love Southern food.
But fried chicken will always be my Holy Grail. It will be my Everest. It will forever be my ongoing experiment.
It’s going to take a little while to perfect, but when I get it right, I’ll know.
Here is my base recipe:
1 package of chicken breasts or thin chicken filets
2.5 cups of flour
2 tbs of onion powder
2 tbs of garlic powder
1 tbs of lemon pepper
1 tbs of paprika (maybe less?)
1 tbs of chili powder (maybe less?)
3 eggs, beaten
Drench the chicken in the egg first, then the flour mixture — with all the spices mixed up in it — then back in the egg, then back in the flour. Fry it lower than you’d think, and in a black iron skillet, or you’re not doing it right.
The trick is not to have the oil too hot when you first put in the chicken. The outside will cook up fast, and the inside will stay raw — you want it to cook through all the way.
Of course, the real question is how to you get the perfect coating.
I don’t know. But I do know that my next adventure in fried chicken will be to incorporate buttermilk. I’ve seen enough recipes for chicken to know that something special will happen when you let the chicken sit in the buttermilk overnight.
I like to serve it with mashed potatoes and some kind of green vegetable, like lima beans. The kids always get fruit on the side, too.