Every Southern cook has their special touch for fried chicken. This recipe evolved from a blend of sources and has a couple of options. One Louisiana cook adds a tablespoon of Tabasco to the milk, giving the chicken a little spice. Another cook blends a few spoons of fine cornmeal with the flour for subtle crunch. Traditionally the best fat for frying chicken is lard. Today Crisco is favored by some cooks, other use vegetable oil. One trick for flavor is adding a few spoons of bacon fat to unsaturated cooking oil. Most important are three things: use no more fat than comes half way up the chicken. If frying's new to you, check fat temperature with a fat thermometer. Don't crowd the pan, pieces might barely touch, but no more.
Blend flour, salt and pepper in a paper bag, tasting for balance. Have milk in a shallow bowl. Use an electric fry pan or a large, heavy skillet, cast iron is best. Fat should come no more than halfway up the side of the chicken pieces. This isn't deep frying. Start with about 3/4 inch. Heat to 375 degrees.
Figure how many chicken pieces will fit without crowding in the pan. If possible fry white and dark meat separately for best cooking. Dip chicken pieces in milk, then shake in flour bag, shaking off excess. Arrange in the hot fat. Turn several times in cooking for even coloring. Fry about 15 to 20 minutes to golden and crisp, turn with tongs (don't pierce chicken as juices spatter in the fat). Lower heat slightly to 350 degrees and cook another 15 to 20 minutes. Test for doneness with instant reading thermometer -- should be 175 to 180 degrees. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot or cold.
Cream gravy for hot fried chicken:
Pour all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the fry pan. Whisk in the flour until smooth and cook over medium to medium low until golden. Whisk in the milk or cream and simmer until thickened and there's no raw flour taste. If too thick, add a little water or cream. taste for seasoning, pour over chicken or potatoes and serve hot.
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Copyright 1997 Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.