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Surprisingly enough, this is my first attempt at frying chicken. Standing over a pot of oil has never been my favorite way to cook, and the mysteries surrounding the crisp skin and moist meat was something I happily left to other people. But, yesterday my husband announced that he was craving fried chicken and I figured I should make it for him since he’s been pretty good about helping out around the house lately (nothing like encouraging good behavior with naughty food). Besides, I figure it’s high time I fry myself a chicken.

I decided to use Martha Hall Foose’s recipe from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea. I chose this one because it seemed to be pretty beginner-friendly. She has a lot of  helpful notes in the margins, and admits up front that there are a million different ways to fry a chicken, none of them wrong. She recommends that beginners use an electric skillet, which of course, I don’t have. I can really see how it would help though; keeping the temperature constant was difficult. You can see in the picture that some of the pieces ended up rather dark. It didn’t affect the taste as much as I thought; these were some delicious pieces of bird. I added a brining step, which I always do with chicken when I have time. It adds so much flavor and moisture. Usually I’d brine for 8-12 hours, but I didn’t have that much time on this one. So, I brined it (1/4 c. of kosher salt to 1 qt. water, mix enough to cover chicken) for 3-4 hours.

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Foose recommends soaking in buttermilk and  hot sauce, so I figured I’d try it. It didn’t seem to make the chicken spicy, but I’m sure it added something to the final taste. I soaked the pieces in 1 1/2 c. buttermilk and 2 tbsp. of hot sauce for about 3 hours. Then, I was ready to fry. After letting the pieces drain on a wire rack, I patted them dry and put some flour into a ziplock bag, along with salt and pepper. I shook one piece at a time in the bag so that they were fully covered and placed them back on the rack so that they would be ready to go once the oil was hot enough.

I melted the last of the neutral lard I rendered in my dutch oven. It wasn’t quite a cup, so I added about another cup or so of vegetable shortening so that the melted fat was a little over 1/2 ” in the pan. Then, you have to use a thermometer to make sure the oil stays a constant temperature. Bring it up to 365 degrees then gently slip the chicken into the oil skin side down. I fried in two batches; half of the chicken at a time. I didn’t want to overcrowd the pan, and figured if I messed up the first batch I might do better on the second. As I said, it was very difficult to keep the temperature constant. You really have to keep turning the knob up and down. I don’t know if this would be easier or harder with electric burners.

So you put the chicken in skin side down, and cook partially covered for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes are up, rearrange the pieces, but don’t flip them. Cover and cook for 6 more minutes. Turn chicken over and cook for another 8 minutes for white meat and 12 minutes for dark meat, rearranging halfway through. Chicken will be deep brown and should be cooked all the way through. Season with salt and pepper if needed (I didn’t feel like mine needed additional seasoning, maybe b/c of the brining). I had to add more shortening between batches to make sure that the fat comes halfway up the chicken.

Turned out delicious! I served it with steamed broccoli, macaroni and cheese, and tomato gravy.

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