It was reading this article in The Scotsman that made me get my fried chicken recipe out again. Apparently, the Scots, with our penchant for deep frying may have been responsible for inspiring the quintessentially American classic, fried chicken. I knew we’d taken our music to West Virginia (Dolly Parton et al), but it never occurred to me we could have taken our food too.
I’d not made my Fried Chicken for ages, somehow, I forgot about it. Originally I came up with the recipe after a trip to Savannah in the USA a few years ago. I’d been every so slightly obsessed about Southern food, soul food since childhood, reading about it in books and seeing people eat it in films for years. Although it looked pretty simple, like all folk food does, I never tried to make it because I’d never tasted it. I like to taste first, so I know what I’m aiming for. And I went for the best, eating it for the first time at the very famous Mrs. Wilkes. Not that I’m comparing my limited exposure or my recipe to her lifetime of experience, but I think I did a decent job.
Simple to make and great for a crowd, good picnic food too. Not for every day, a bit of a treat.
Fried Chicken – The Recipe
Marinating Time: Up to 8 hours
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Serves 4 to 6
1.2kg / 2.6 lb. chicken legs and thighs. This weight usually gives me 4 legs and 4 thighs.
500ml / 1 pt. buttermilk
1 x tsp salt
150gr / 5 oz. plain flour
½ tsp salt
2 x heaped tsps of spicy smoked paprika powder (you can also use the mild version, but I like spice)
2 x tsps dried thyme
1 x tsp freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil to fry the chicken (I like to use rapeseed oil or sunflower oil)
- Pour the buttermilk into a tray or bowl add one teaspoon of salt, mix through and place the chicken pieces into the buttermilk. Depending on the size and shape of your bowl you may need a little bit more buttermilk in order that the chicken is covered. Cover with some cling film and place in the fridge for up to 8 hours. Remove before frying to give enough time to bring the meat up to room temperature.
- In a dish or bowl combine the flour, half teaspoon of salt, smoked paprika, thyme and pepper. Combine with your fingers or a fork.
- Remove the chicken from the buttermilk marinade and dispose of the marinade. Shake off most of the drips and then dredge the chicken in your flour mix making sure each piece is covered completely.
- Heat about 1.5cm / 0.5 in. of oil in a heavy bottomed wide pan. While this is heating up you can get a wire rack ready to drain the chicken. I do this by placing kitchen paper over the rack.
- The oil temperature should be about 170°C / 340°F for frying. I don’t check with a thermometer but by putting a piece of bread in the oil and it is ready when it fizzes and turns brown quickly. The time the oil takes to heat up will depend on the thickness of the metal of your pan, your stove top and the quantity of oil you have used.
- You will probably have to cook in batches so as not to over load the pan. I start with the thighs which need a little bit more time than the legs. Place each one carefully in the pan and fry, covered, on a good strong simmer for anywhere between 8 to 12 minutes on each side. The heat needs to be high enough to give you a nice brown colour and a crisp finish. Remove and set on the rack to drain. Then do the same with the legs, giving them a couple of minutes less than the thighs.
Tips and Variations
It is not necessary to marinate the chicken. I like to do it if at all possible because I feel that it gives a very slight background flavor and the buttermilk helps the flour and spice mix stick to the chicken. If you don’t have time to marinate the meat, I would still dip it in the buttermilk to give it that little coating.
The marinating time can be much longer than 8 hours if you wish, perhaps you may want to leave it overnight and fry off the next evening, that’s fine, but just be aware of the use by date of your meat.
The chicken is best eaten straight away as it loses its crunch if you leave it too long.
I like to serve it with Savannah red rice and some green beans or spinach.