Fried chicken is one of those dishes that means home to so many people. It reminds them of comfort and family. I don’t think there is a person out there that doesn’t like fried chicken, unless, well, you are a vegetarian or are just lying to yourself.
Recently, I was having a discussion about my family’s Sunday rituals with Mike. I told him that Sundays in the summer were spent outside either working in the garden with my Dziadzia (Polish for Grandpa, pronounced jah-jah) or pretending to work in the garden so you could be near him and hear his stories and him telling my brothers how they don’t know how to shovel the right way.
After the day of working was done, my Dziadzia would sit by the back door, drink a warm Pepsi, and clean out his gardening shoes. My brothers and I would run around like the crazy kids we were, enjoying every ounce of summer while Dziadzia shook his head and called us “kooks.”
While all of that was going on, my mom would be out getting fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, gravy, and coleslaw for dinner. My dad and I would set the table while she was gone and get ready for the mad rush to the table when she got back with the food.
My whole family would sit elbow to elbow around the kitchen table, quietly enjoying the rewards of a fried chicken dinner after a long day of gardening.
After I finished regaling Mike with my stories, he said that they used to have a similar Sunday ritual with his Nana. Mike and his sisters would watch movies all day at their Nana’s house. His Nana would clean, and garden, and just enjoy watching her grandkids all play and maybe get along with each other. When Mike’s parents would come to pick them up they would bring all the fixin’s for a fried chicken dinner plus extra so Nana could have some left-overs. It seemed she was a big fan of extra crispy chicken, too.
This August makes it four years since my lovely Dziadzia passed away. Not a day (especially Sundays) goes by where I don’t think about him and miss his smile or his goofy sarcastic banter. Losing a loved one is hard; sometimes you just never “get over it.” Sharing these memories with Mike after he lost his Nana this year seemed to make it feel a little less painful, like even though they aren’t here anymore, we still hold them and keep them alive in our stories and memories.
Every now and then I like to fry up an entire chicken for those days where we are down about something or needing a little extra reassurance that life isn’t so hard. Mike and I will sit at the kitchen table and quietly eat our dinner. Even though we both don’t say it, I know that memories of our grandparents are both swimming through our minds as we eat, telling us that it’s ok, that they’re ok, and man, isn’t fried chicken so dang good!
Ingredients (Serves 4-6)
1 Whole Chicken with the Skin On, cut into pieces; 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 breasts
¼ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
½ Teaspoon Pepper
1 Teaspoon Paprika
For Dredging and Frying:
1 Quart Vegetable Oil
1 Large Egg
1 Cup Buttermilk
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon Corn Starch
Salt and Pepper
Place the chicken pieces out on a large plate and then pat each piece dry with a paper towel. Add all the seasoning to a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Season both sides of each piece of chicken, use your hand to rub the seasoning into the chicken. Let the chicken sit out at room temperature for at least a half an hour before frying.
Add the oil to a large heavy-bottomed skillet. Fill the skillet about ¾ of the way up with oil. Heat the oil to 320 degrees F.
While the oil is heating up, bread the chicken. Add the buttermilk and large egg to a large mixing bowl along with a dash of salt and pepper, whisk to combine. Add the flour, corn starch, and a dash of salt and pepper to another large mixing bowl, and again, whisk to combine.
Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture and shake off any excess. Then dip the chicken into the buttermilk mixture, letting any excess drip off. Then dredge the chicken back in the flour mixture. Continue this process for all pieces of chicken until all are breaded. Place breaded pieces on a pan lined with a wire rack until they are ready to be fried.
Monitor the temperature closely, because once you drop the chicken in, it will drop. You might need to turn the flame up or down, depending.
Fry the chicken wings first, for six minutes. Turn the wings at least once to make sure each side fries evenly.
Next, fry the wings and thighs, two at a time for about ten minutes. Make sure the internal temperature of the chicken is 165 degrees F. After the chicken is fried, place the cooked pieces onto a clean wire rack with a paper towel underneath to catch any excess oil.
Turn the heat up and raise the temperature of the oil to 340 degrees F.
Fry each breast, one at a time, for about seven to ten minutes until the internal temperature is 165 degrees F. Flip the breasts at least once to make sure each side fries evenly.
Let the chicken slightly cool for a few minutes before serving. Chicken will last seven to ten days, wrapped in foil or in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. The best way to reheat chicken to ensure a crispy crust is in the oven. Place the chicken on a baking sheet lined with a heat-proof wire rack. Bake the chicken at 350 degrees F for about twenty minutes until the internal temperature of the chicken is at least 140 degrees F.