Confession time: I have never made fried chicken. It's been worrying me for a while since I'm pretty sure it disqualifies my claims of being southern, so later today Little Sister and I are going to rectify that sitch. Cast iron skillet? Check. Crisco to fry in? Check. (They make it without trans-fats now.) A not-so-secret blend of herbs and spices? Check. Family recipe? Yes indeed-y.
Two days ago, I called my grandmother. I was checking in on my grandfather, who had a stroke a month ago and is about to be transferred from the hospital to a nursing home for what we hope will be a stretch of rehabilitation (the glass is half full, the glass is half full, the glass is half full). Once I had asked after everyone's health, we got down to business. In her own words, here's how to fry up a chicken.
"I'm not the fryer in the family," she started out by saying. "That's M [her sister]. But I've fried a lot of chicken. What you want to do is salt and pepper and flour the chicken. T. [our cousin] says you should soak it in milk before you flour it. He brought us some fried chicken one time and it was mighty good, but I don't know. Then you want to cook it in hot grease. You can use Crisco or you can use the liquid, it doesn't matter. We always used Crisco. But anyway, you want to cook it in enough hot grease to cover the chicken.
"Pawpaw [my great-grandfather] called himself the 'Master Fryer,' and Mother always said, 'I guess you are. All you do is stand there and fry it and I have to do all the rest of it and all the cleaning up.' We had fried chicken every Sunday morning for breakfast with biscuits.
"But anyway. The smaller the chicken the better. It's done when you can stick a fork in easily and no blood appears. Maybe 20 minutes, but watch it. Then just put it on a paper towel to drain."
Right now, my chopped up, local free-range chicken is sitting in a cold bath of buttermilk, skin side down. I'm going to let it sit that way until we fry it tonight. We're also going to have Little Sister's curried deviled eggs, spiced sweet potato fries, cilantro & mint cole slaw and a jelly roll cake with homemade strawberry jam.
Happy Birthday, America!