Happiness is – a platter of homemade fried chicken!

Oh boy I hope this post will not come across as cliché. This has been my thought as I pondered posting my recipe for fried chicken. Yes, at the center of southbyse.com is the food and culture of the American south but do I really want to go there, straight to one of the most stereotypical southern foods of all time?

I don’t think of fried chicken in that way, but most of the world (if they ever come across it) probably does. No one would dare accuse me of being a food snob, however when it comes to a few of my most beloved favorites then I will gladly admit to being biased. This goes for seafood (especially shrimp), tomatoes, peaches and fried chicken.

I like my shrimp wild and local. I like my tomatoes ripened on the vine and local. I like my peaches to smell like peaches (not a vacuum bag) and if they sport a sticker it better be stamped ‘South Carolina’. And I like my fried chicken crisp, with the skin left on and local – preferably from my kitchen… or my Mama’s or someone else’s mama’s kitchen.

Yes, I have eaten fried chicken from the Colonel and even from neighborhood grocery stores over the years, but there has never been any purchased fried chicken to match the chicken that was fried in my (or my mom’s) own cast iron skillet. In childhood, we ate fried chicken about twice a month, maybe a little more during the winter and a little less in the summer. It was on the Sunday dinner (lunch) rotation along with pot roast, roast chicken, and ham. Sometimes we would have it during the week as well, with sides of fresh vegetables, rice or homemade potato salad.

Thinking about delicious homemade fried chicken makes my mouth water, much like the smell of smoking barbeque pork, and it conjures up warm feelings and memories that I associate with that food. Dreaming about biting into that first taste of crispy, juicy chicken transports me back to my Mom’s small kitchen in Columbia, SC, with my Dad watching a baseball game in the den and my mother hollering for my brother to “come in and get washed up, ‘cause dinner was fixin’ to be ready!” It makes me feel good inside…plus it’s just plain delicious.

Truthfully frying chicken can be somewhat messy – sticky chicken pieces, flour covered work surface and cleaning up that grease. If you’re doing it right, then hot oil will splatter across the range top. That fried oil odor may hang on for a while too. However, if you have a good ventilation fan it’s not much of a problem. Be sure to eject all small chicken and pets from the frying area– it can be hazardous for small ones. Used flour bags work great for tossing the chicken pieces and seasoned flour; it keeps any flour dispersion to a minimum too.

Unless I have some kind of insatiable craving for fried chicken, I’ll make it when there’s a crowd to feed – like a potluck picnic or wait for it…tailgating. Today’s tailgater may be expecting something grilled or perhaps smoked, but my traditional football tailgating spread must include fried chicken. Even if you’re traveling for the game, just pack the fresh, hot fried chicken tightly in an insulated container and you’re good. Heck better to serve cold homemade fried chicken than none at all – that would be sad, and probably bad luck. Make people happy… cook up some fried chicken!

I skipped showing the ingredients and mixing up the marinade but it’s a simple task. I highly recommend using homemade ranch dressing, i.e. I use Hidden Valley Ranch mix and fresh low fat buttermilk. Turn the chicken over a couple of times throughout the marinating time so each piece is soaked well.

Having the right equipment is important in frying chicken to ensure good results and safety too. Like the coal miner’s daughter Loretta Lynn (remember those commercials?) I prefer Wesson Oil for frying chicken. Leave ample space between the oil and the top of the pan, but you will need 1/2 inch of oil in the skillet.

I save my used flour bags for frying chicken. One of these bags will work great for 8-10 pieces of chicken, then you may need to use a “new” bag. The flour, salt and pepper goes into the bag.

I test my oil by throwing in a pinch of flour. If it sizzles it is ready for chicken. If it just sinks and/or slowly fizzles it’s not hot enough. If it’s smoking it is too hot so turn down the heat asap.

Here the first 2 pieces (breasts) go into the hot oil. You can see the frying in this image and that the oil is near the top of the pan, but not going over it. That would be incredibly dangerous so be careful. I find that when oil is 1/2 inch deep it is perfect for cooking half way up the largest chicken pieces – you only want to turn the chicken over once.

Here is the next batch and you can see the wing portion. I fry my wings down side first (so the wing tip is down) which allows more even cooking of this piece. If you do the opposite it is impossible to get the whole wing to lay flat and cook evenly.

Here you can see that blood is seeping up from the chicken. This is good – it means the chicken is almost ready to turn over to the other side. For large pieces like this breast, I let it go another two minutes or so after the blood appears before turning.

The chicken has been turned over and is just about ready for the platter!

I guess you can go home again, at least I can, with this meal! This is similar to a meal my own mother would serve when I was child: hot fried chicken, fresh steamed green beans with potatoes and homemade savory muffins.

Betsy’s Fried Chicken

  • 1 cut-up chicken (2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings or a combination of 8 pieces)
  • ½ cup buttermilk dressing, preferably homemade
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp. Grill Mates Montreal Chicken flavor seasoning
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour plus scant 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. black pepper
  • Vegetable oil

Mix dressing, milk and Montreal chicken seasoning in a bowl. Wash and dry chicken pieces careful to not contaminate surfaces. Place chicken in a large container or resealable jumbo-size bag and pour the dressing mixture over. Be sure it coats all the chicken. Place in refrigerator to marinate at least 4 hours and up to 8 hours. You may want to flip the bag or mixture over a couple of times throughout this marinating time.

When ready to fry the chicken, prepare a paper towel covered platter and have tongs available. Take chicken out of the refrigerator and set aside. Heat oil in a deep, heavy frying pan, preferably a seasoned cast iron pan. Pour oil ½ inch deep (or deeper) just so that there is at least 1 inch of space between the oil and the top of the pan. This is very important in keeping the pan from overflowing.

In a large bag or shallow bowl, stir the flour with salt and pepper. Begin heating oil until it is very hot but not smoking. Test with a pinch of flour – if it sizzles immediately, then the oil is hot enough. Dredge 2 or 3 pieces of chicken in the flour mixture so they are well coated, shaking off any excess flour. Carefully lay each piece of chicken in the hot oil. Do not crowd the chicken in the pan.

The chicken will be ready to turn over in 5-8 minutes depending on which pieces you are frying. If blood is beginning to draw from the bone and you can see it, it is almost ready to turn over. Allow to fry a minute or two more and turn over. Fry on the other side and remove to the prepared platter. Allow the oil in the pan to reach the proper heat again before adding the next batch of chicken. Repeat & then eat!

Serves 4. Double or triple this recipe as desired.

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Livin’ on grilling time with Moroccan-style chicken

I grill a lot. You may have noticed this by reading southbyse.com. It is just easy since we live in such a temperate climate here in the Lowcountry. I also like the fact that with the gas grill it’s an easy cleanup and we keep the heat out of the house, especially this time of year.

Grilled chicken is a family favorite, but it can get boring – it’s chicken after all. I’m always on the lookout for new recipes and I found a great one with this Moroccan chicken. It is based on a Bon Appetite recipe from 2003 and honestly, it is almost the same. Here are the few differences and tips I have incorporated after making this many, many times:

• The original recipe calls for only olive oil but I have found that using mostly canola oil (or safflower or grape oil) is better since olive oil has a lower burn temperature.

• I also like this with drumsticks and thighs as I find grilled chicken breasts seems to dry out – plus I like the rich flavor of ‘dark meat” chicken. Oh, thighs and legs are less expensive too.

• Use bone-in chicken not boneless. The bones add flavor and give the meat something to hang on to… boneless thighs tend shrink up to nothing. By the same measure I prefer leaving the skin on as it helps keep the meat moist and makes for a prettier presentation too with a nice grill-mark sear on the grill.

This grilled chicken is a superb entrée for a crowd and since should soak awhile, it’s mostly a do-ahead recipe. You can easily double or triple this recipe. If you want to go authentic Moroccan serve with a couscous salad, grilled eggplant and mint tea. Or go Southern-style with homemade potato salad, grilled zucchini squash and Vidalia onions and iced tea (or a fairly full-bodied Chardonnay or Saint-Véran Burgundy).

Ingredients include lots of spices, fresh citrus fruits and chicken, of course.

A close up of the pretty limes, oranges and lemon. Smells divine!

This is an easy recipe. the most time consuming part is getting all the ingredients together – here is everything but the sliced fruit in a bowl. Just mix it together.

Place the chicken pieces in the bag , add the marinade and the sliced fruit. Make sure the marinade is coating the chicken and place the closed bag ( or covered bowl) in the refrigerator. During the marinade time flip the bag over a time or two.

After marinating all day this is how the chicken looks. You can discard the fruit and excess marinade. Get your grill ready!

The chicken goes onto the grill. Be sure to watch it carefully as both the oil-infused marinade and the chicken itself can cause flare-ups and burning.

Another shot of the grilled chicken. Moist and flavorful!

Grilled Chicken, Moroccan-style

  • Chicken pieces: mixed thighs and drumsticks, 12 pieces in total. Do NOT use boneless.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup canola oil (or safflower or grape oil)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar – mild such as rice wine vinegar
  • 2 oranges, 1 squeezed (reserve juice) and 1 sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 2 limes, sliced
  • 3 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 3 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar (Demera or light brown)
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

Wash and dry chicken pieces and set aside. In a bowl mix the oils, vinegar, spices and salt. Add in the juice from 1 orange. Add sliced fruits. In a large zippered plastic bag or shallow container add chicken and pour the marinade and fruit over the chicken. Cover or secure the bag and place in the refrigerator to marinate at  8-12 hours. Turn the mixture over a few times throughout the marinating time.

Prepare your grill. When ready, sear chicken pieces on the grill, careful that they do not burn. Since the marinade contains a lot of oil (and if the skin is left on the chicken) it will easily catch on fire. Grill until cooked through. Serve immediately. Serves 6.