I’ve always been in awe of southern American cooking – both high & low country, born of rustic beginnings and absolutely delicious! There’s corn bread, macaroni & cheese, biscuits, meatloaf, hush puppies, ribs, roast ham and one of my favourites, fried chicken. My very first fried chicken came out of a bucket by way of Col. Sanders and I’ve tried the odd Popeye’s and I’ve even made my own fried chicken at home with mixed results.
My approach to cooking to seek genuine recipes that come from folks who know about a particular cuisine and in this instance I’m the wisdom of Art Smith, one-time chef to Oprah Winfrey. At Table 52, Art Smith’s restaurant in Chicago, he serves his fried chicken only on Sunday’s for his Southern Brunch.
Art Smith’s Fried Chicken is first placed in a brine solution over night then place in a buttermilk/Tabasco for a day then, it’s dredged in flour and buttermilk twice, giving you lots of that delicious crispy skin and juicy, succulent chicken meat underneath. This isn’t health food but it’s delicious and everyone should make and offer it on occasion for family or friends.
Brining is a method of making meat (often poultry or pork) moister by soaking it in a basic solution of water and salt (sugar and other flavourings may be added) then the meat is cooked. I was first introduced to brining when I heard about how this method will guarantee my roast turkey will turn out moist & juicy each and every time. Chicken is moister than turkey so you know how the results are going to be here!
The second step in Art Smith’s Fried Chicken is to allow the brined chicken to then soak in buttermilk that’s been spiked with some Tabasco sauce. I used my favoured hot sauce, Sriracha and I got the heat I wanted plus more flavour. The enzymes in buttermilk tenderize meat and don’t think that the buttermilk is going to get dumped – no, NO! You see, during the third step in making the best fried chicken ever is to remove the chicken pieces from the buttermilk then dredge it in an Old Bay seasoned flour then dunk the chicken once more in the reserved buttermilk and finally dredge one more time in the flour.
My previous attempts at homemade fried chicken failed because they were dredged in flour just once and what I ended up getting was either a fried chicken with a coating that looked unappetizing and burnt or just golden but the chicken meat inside was not fully cooked. I’m convinced the double coating of buttermilk and seasoned flour protects allow the coating and chicken meat to endure the 12 minutes cooking time in the fry pan.
The flour here is seasoned with Old Bay seasoning, a mixture that’s often used for seafood boils in the South and now very popular throughout Canada and the US. Old Bay is named after Chesapeake Bay where this seasoning mix was born. Many fish mongers now sell it, many grocery stores and high-end food shops will also sell it. There’s always mail-order and you could always mix your own batch of Old Bay seasoning. Everyone should add Old Bay into their pantry and everyone should make Art Smith’s Fried Chicken.
On the day I first sunk my teeth into this dish from the heavens, I collaborated with Paula of Dragon’s Kitchen to make a southern-style dinner. We settled on the fried chicken, some macaroni & cheese, cheddar & chive biscuits and collard greens with smoked turkey or ham hocks. Collards are a loose large leafed plant with long stalks that belong to the broccoli and cabbage family. The collard greens were a dish I thought of including after having this delicious side dish while having lunch in Harlem, New York at Sylvia’s, Queen of Soul Food.
Collard greens are not difficult to prepare but they do require some time: cut the stalks off (I discarded them) then soak and rinse them free of any dirt/grit then add them into a large pot with some diced onions, garlic, stock (or bouillon cubes with hot water) plus a leg or thigh or smoked turkey or a smoked ham hock. The collards are then simmered until tender, taking on the flavours of the melting onions, garlic and smoked meat. A fantastic side dish that/s perfect for fried chicken.
The other key to perfect fried chicken is to shallow-fry them. I used a heavy-bottom Dutch oven to fry them and when one says shallow-fry, you’re talking about frying in about 1-inch of oil. The chicken is fried in batches and for about 6 minutes /side. You’ll see the flour coating turn a lovely golden-brown and after making this fried chicken a few times, I can say with confidence that the chicken is also cooked through! Don’t you feel like fried chicken tonight?
Art Smith’s Fried Chicken
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces (thighs, legs, wings, backs), trimmed of any excess skin
1/2 cup salt
enough water to cover chicken by 1 inch
enough buttermilk to just cover chicken (approx. 4 cups)
2 tablespoons Tobasco (I used Sriracha sauce)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
- In a pot, dissolve 1/2 cup of the salt in the water. Submerge the chicken in the brine; refrigerate overnight.
- Drain and rinse the chicken. Rinse out the pot. Add the buttermilk and hot sauce (to taste), submerge the chicken in the buttermilk and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
- In a shallow bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, garlic powder, Old Bay, cayenne, black pepper and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Run your fingers down each piece of chicken to remove excess buttermilk then dredge in the flour. Dip the chicken back into the buttermilk and coat again in the flour.
- Meanwhile, in a large cast-iron skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil to 350-365°. Fry the chicken in batches until golden and cooked through, about 6 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a pre-heated 250F oven until ready to serve.
1 bunch of collard greens
2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
1 large onion, peeled & sliced
2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 smoked turkey leg or ham hock
chicken stock (or 1/2 tsp. of chicken bouillon (cube) + hot water)
- Lop-off the stalks from the collard greens and discard then place the leafy greens in a your sink and fill with water. Allow to soak for a few minutes then drain. Repeat until sand/grit is removed.
- Now add the olive oil/butter into a large pot and add the onions, garlic, smoked meat sweat for 6-7 minutes. Slice/chop your collards and add into the pot and cover. The steam will render the water in the collards and after about 5 minutes, stir and cover and steam for another 5 minutes. Now add enough stock (or water plus seasoning) to just cover the collard greens and simmer on medium heat with the lid ajar for about 30-40 minutes or until fork tender. Remove the smoked meat and cut up and stir-in. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and serve as a side with your fried chicken along with some macaroni & cheese and biscuits.
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