This is a taste of my childhood, as it was a taste of my father’s childhood.
Nonna Perkins fried up chickens that wandered her own land, as I do now, and it really makes a difference. If you can’t get farm-fresh organic free-range chicken (what are Grandma’s just called “chicken”…), a good organic bird at the grocery store (preferably whole, and cut up just before brining) and it will still be pretty darn awesome.
It’s so good, and I love it so much, that I pulled my poor old dad out of a well-earned retirement to cook up a huge batch for our wedding rehearsal dinner.
It was, of course, a smashing success (she still said “yes” the next day…)
This one goes out to my Facebook pal, long-time dear friend, and fellow foodie Carol, who asked for it.
Dad Perkins’ Southern Fried Chicken
1/2 gallon cold water
2 cups hot water
1/2 cup fine sea-salt
1/4 cup brown sugar, or dark molasses
2 bay leaves, crushed
Combine spices and sugar in a 4-cup microwave safe bowl. Add 2 cups of hot water. Microwave 2-3 minutes until VERY hot. Whisk to combine.
Pour 1/2 gallon of cold water into your brining container, add the spiced hot water, and stir well. Add cut up chicken (and more cold water to cover, if needed), cover, and refrigerate 24 hours.
4 hours before cooking, remove the chicken from the brine, pat each piece dry, and set on a plate (single level) and refrigerate 2 hours, uncovered. This allows the skin to dry back out a bit, so it gets good and crunchy.
2 hours before cooking, move the chicken to the counter to take the chill off.
2 whole chickens, cut and brined
2 cups cake flour
1 cup rice flour
1/4 cup seasoned salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons black pepper
4 cups lard (you can use shortening, or veggie oil, but I promise…it won’t be as good!)
Melt the lard in large cast iron skillet over medium heat
Place flour and all spices in a paper grocery bag and shake well to mix.
Add chicken, a few pieces at a time, to bag and shake well to coat evenly, let sit 5 minutes, then shake again. Set aside.
Fry chicken, turning to brown evenly 12-15 minutes. Be sure to leave some space between the pieces, or the resulting steam will keep the skin soggy.
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Chef Tip: You should be cooking this much chicken in batches, so start with the breasts, so they have the most time to finish in the oven.
Place chicken on a wire rack in a baking dish, as they come out of the oil. Place in oven, pre-heated on lowest heat to stay warm. I crack the door just a bit so it won’t hold in the moisture and soften the skin.
Serving Ideas: Serve with garlic mashed potatoes, chicken gravy, and my favorite corn dish: Southern Maque Choux.
Oh, and if you want to save this recipe, without all the pesky pictures, click here, for the print-friendly version!
PS – If you like chicken livers (and any southerner worth their grits LOVES chicken livers) this is probably the best version of them I’ve ever had. Personally, I feel that the Good Lord skimped a bit, only giving up one liver per bird, so I always buy extras so I have a little somethin’ somethin’ to snack on while finishing dinner.
I married a dern yankee, so I don’t even have to share!
PPS – Don’t throw away all of that lovely chicken-laden lard either! It’s perfect for frying up a batch of hush-puppies, or making some lovely chicken gravy for those mashed taters!