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An All-American 4th of July: Southern Fried Chicken

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I think my favorite holiday may be the 4th of July. It gives me a chance to not only run around grilling to my hearts content without people thinking I am a mad man playing with fire and knives, but it gives me a chance to delve into what is considered to be true-blue (or true red/white and blue) American cooking. It's fun and that really is what cooking should be all about.

In this series called An All-American 4th of July, we will have some fun with some true American cooking. It will be tasty! It will be easy and it will give you a chance to celebrate the birth of the greatest nation on the face of this earth while filling your stomach with delicious morsels of Americana!

You want to know what actual Southern Fried Chicken is all about? Well then don't go to the dens of death known as KFC, Popeye's or any of the other cholesterol chains, simply go to any Sunday night dinner of a family in the South and you will experience Southern Fried Chicken like you have never experienced it before.

To be honest, there is no actual recipe for Southern Fried Chicken. It seems as if each family has their own "secret" recipes but there are a few things most of them have in common. One of these things is the soaking of the chicken before it is fried. When I was traveling throughout the South a few years ago to do research on a project dealing with southern cooking, I learned that to be authentic the chicken had to bathe in buttermilk. Then when I went down into Alabama, a Chef told me it had to be bathed in a mixture of milk and cider vinegar. One little hole-in-the-wall cafe in Tennessee told me, the secret is in the whiskey! Huh? Well, I was in Tennessee and the food at this place was simply unreal!

Anyway, here is my version of Southern Fried Chicken and this one is the way my southern grandma fixed it. Now, as with any southern recipe handed down generation-to-generation, there are no set amounts for the recipe. Add and delete as your tastebuds see fit.

Ingredients for Southern Fried Chicken (it never serves enough):

  • Chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • flour
  • salt
  • and whatever other spices and dried herbs you want to add

Steps:

  1. In a large non-metallic bowl, soak your chicken pieces in the buttermilk at least 2 hours (the acidity of the buttermilk will permeate the chicken and make it very tender).
  2. Into a shallow dish add some flour (enough to dredge/coat the chicken), salt, pepper and whatever spices or dried herbs you prefer. I usually add some cumin powder, paprika and crumbled dried tarragon.
  3. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and do not pat dry. Place the chicken into the flour mixture and dredge (coat) it. Set the dredged chicken aside about 15 minutes.
  4. Into a large saute pan or skillet (to be real southern this would be a cast iron chicken fryer). Add enough corn oil to fry (about 2 1/2 to 3 inches) and bring to 350 on a deep-fry thermometer.
  5. Add the chicken and fry 3 minutes per side.
  6. Lower the heat to low. Turn the chicken over, cover the pan and fry 10 minutes per side.
  7. Remove the chicken to a paper towel lined plate to drain of excess oil.

The new cookbook from Chef Larry Edwards is now available from Amazon.com and bookstores worldwide. One of the most anticipated cookbooks of the year, "Edwardian Cooking: Inspired by Downton Abbey's Elegant Meals."

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