Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Bathing chicken in buttermilk is an old Southern trick that dates back to the early French and English practice of marinating chicken in a tenderizing acid. It accomplishes several things at once. Not only does it tenderize the bird, it enhances the flavor and reacts with the flour coating to make an exceptionally crispy breading. This is an ideal chicken for picnics or family gatherings where you will be serving everything cold, because the outer skin stays crisp long after the bird cools to room temperature.
1 frying chicken, weighing no more than 3 pounds, cut up for frying
2 cups buttermilk or plain all-natural yogurt, stirred until creamy
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Lard, peanut or vegetable oil, for frying
- Wash the chicken and pat dry. Put the chicken pieces in a large nonreactive glass or stainless steel bowl. Pour the buttermilk or yogurt over the chicken and turn the pieces until all are coated and submerged in the liquid. Let marinate for 1 hour, refrigerated.
- Combine the flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne, if using, in a paper or large zip-lock plastic bag. Close the top and shake until the seasonings are well distributed.
- If you plan to serve the chicken hot, preheat the oven to 150°F (65°C) or warm setting. Fit a wire cooling rack on a cookie sheet and set aside. Fill a 14-inch diameter, deep cast-iron skillet with enough lard or oil to come halfway up the sides. Over medium-high heat, bring the fat to 375°F (190°C), hot but not smoking.
- Beginning with the dark meat, lift the chicken out of the marinade, allowing the excess to flow back into the bowl and drop them into the bag with the seasoned flour. Close the top and shake until the chicken is well coated. Lift them out of the flour, shake off the excess, and slip them into the pan. Repeat until all the pieces are coated and in the pan. Fry until the outside is well sealed and beginning to brown, turning the chicken once, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue frying, maintaining the fat temperature at 325°F (160°C), until the chicken is just cooked through and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes for the thighs and drumsticks, 15 to 20 minutes for the breast meat and wings turning it halfway.
- Remove the pieces as they are done, drain them well and transfer to the wire rack. If you want to serve it hot, keep the finished chicken in the warm oven.
Makes 4 servings.