For a girl who does most of her grocery shopping at Whole Foods, the idea of buying the requisite can of Crisco to fry chicken was a little out of my comfort zone. But once I scooped the frosting-like white fluff out of the can and heated it in my big Le Creuset, it bubbled up and cooked the chicken to golden brown perfection.
This recipe should be prefaced with my first foray into frying chicken. I was fourteen and set out to fry up two big cast-iron pans of chicken, heating the oil on high and not paying attention to the warning smoke swilling up from the oil. Suddenly both pans burst into flames, chicken and all. Alone in the house, I naively though water would solve my problems (fire should theoretically be extinguished by water, right?). Any savvy person knows that water on an oil or grease fire is a bad idea, and in my case caused the pans, which I had somehow gotten outside onto our brick patio, to explode flames five feet up into the air. It’s a miracle I didn't burn off all my hair and burn the house down in the same stroke. The fire died down, and my mom found me covered in soot, but with two plates of perfectly cooked chicken. That was the second miracle of the day! The patio still has grease stains ten years later, but I'd say the chicken was well worth it.
To avoid a disaster in the making, make sure you have a thermometer set in the oil while it heats slowly over medium low heat. And if anything catches on fire, reach for a pan to cover the fire and cut off its oxygen. But if you proceed slowly, you really shouldn't have any problems.
Heat 24 oz. Crisco (roughly 1/2 of a large can) over medium low heat in a large deep pan. If you absolutely can’t bear the thought of Crisco, opt for vegetable or canola oil. I use my largest Le Creuset. Heat the Crisco until it reaches 365 degrees on a thermometer. While the Crisco is heating, wash a roughly four-pound chicken, cut into eight pieces, and dry it thoroughly with paper towels.
In a large bowl, whisk together two eggs and 2 cups buttermilk. This both tenderizes the chicken and adds a nice tang. Add the chicken to this mix and turn them around so they're covered. In another large bowl, mix together 2 cups all-purpose flour, two tablespoons seasoned salt, two tablespoon seasoned pepper, and one teaspoon Cayenne pepper. Using tongs or your fingers, drain the excess liquid off each chicken piece and dredge them one by one in the flour mix, coating all sides evenly and shaking off any excess. Once you’ve dredged all the pieces, go back again and give them a second coating in the seasoned flour for a nice crispy crust. Let them rest for ten minutes on a sheet rack. Gently lower the pieces into the oil so you don't get splashed!
Once all the chicken is in the pan, increase the heat slightly to keep the temperature of the oil more or less steady. Cook the chicken for fifteen to twenty minutes or so, until a thermometer inserted near the bone reads at 170 degrees. Make sure you turn the chicken pieces often to brown it evenly on all sides. Drain the chicken on paper towels and serve immediately. I like serving mine with honey for dipping, like at the famous Blue Ribbon restaurant in NYC. If you have leftovers, they keep well in the fridge and taste just as good cold the next day.
*Photo Courtesy of Blue Ribbon Brasserie