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'Fried & True' Hill Country Buttermilk Fried Chicken recipe

This is fried chicken 'Grandma-style,' made in a big old cast iron skillet. Even with the buttermilk brine,it's less work than it looks like, and there's simply no way to describe how delicious it is.
This is fried chicken 'Grandma-style,' made in a big old cast iron skillet. Even with the buttermilk brine,it's less work than it looks like, and there's simply no way to describe how delicious it is.
all photos by K. Yencich

Fried & True: More than 50 recipes for America’s Best Fried Chicken and Sides, by Lee Brian Schrager with Adeena Sussman, is either the best fried chicken book ever, or the best road trip book ever. Possibly both.

With over 50 recipes for fried chicken - not counting sides - it's hard to know where to begin. But since they're all 'Fried & True, any place is a good place to start.'
K. Yencich

You have to wonder how much fried chicken Schrager ate – regional variations, Cuban-style, Asian, Mediterranean, Israeli iterations, sandwiches, wings, and schnitzel -- before he settled on just 50 recipes. And that doesn’t even begin to address the sides, which are plentiful and heavy hitters in their own right.

Fried & True inspires two quests – the road trip -- you could retrace Schrager’s steps, eating each as it was meant to be eaten, on site.

Or, you could save the gas money and cook your way through the book in your own kitchen.

The home option is almost as good because the stories and the photography evoke a real sense of place and the people who live there. Nobody’s shy about the particulars that make their chicken unique – brine, no brine; buttermilk, eggs, or none of the above; White Lily flour or cornmeal, dredge or batter – if you can’t find your heart’s desire in this book, you have no heart.

And speaking of your heart, it will skip a beat (with delight, what were you thinking?) when you see the sides. Biscuits! Coleslaw! Yams! Baked beans, macaroni and cheese, grits. Salads of every shape and description. Waffles. And you will not believe what these people do to cauliflower -- but it involves whole milk, a pint of heavy cream, and cream cheese. Draw your own conclusions.

So, where to start. You could scour the book for a recipe that reinforces your own prejudices about fried chicken, or you could choose by the level of commitment preparing a particular recipes requires.

Or, you could jump for the photo that looks the most delicious – which is what happened here. Elizabeth Karmel’s Hill Country Buttermilk Fried Chicken is said to serve four, which it does so generously that is was unnecessary to make the Cheesey Garlic Grits and Candied Country Ham that go with it. Bonus: the Sweet and Spicy Chicken Shake seasoning that finishes the dish makes way more than you need; try it on eggs, grilled meats, vegetables and fish. Go nuts.


Reprinted with permission from Fried & True: More than 50 recipes for America's Best Fried Chicken and Sides by Lee Brian Schrager with Adeena Sussman. Copyright (c) 2014 by Lee Schrager. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, LLC.”

Serves 4

For the Buttermilk Brine

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 3 large sprigs of fresh rosemary, or 2 tablespoons dried
  • 1 generous teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
  • 2 cups ice cubes
  • 4 cups cold buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 whole chicken, washed, patted dry, cut into 8 pieces, and trimmed of excess fat

For the Seasoned Flour:

  • 2 -1/2-cups White Lily flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika

For the Sweet and Spicy Chicken Shake Seasoning:

  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Peanut oil, for frying

Make the Brine: In a large saucepan, bring the salt, sugar, rosemary, peppercorns and 3 cups hot water to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes. Add the ice cubes, buttermilk and cayenne pepper; whisk to incorporate , and let rest until the brine is cool to the touch. Transfer the brine to a heavy-duty brining bag or a nonreactive food-safe container with a lid. Submerge the chicken in the brine; cover and refrigerate for two hours – no more, or the chicken will be too salty.

Make the Seasoned Flour: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika

Make the Chicken Shake Seasoning: In a medium bowl, whisk all the ingredients together.

Fry the Chicken: Fill a large (12-inch) cast-iron skillet with a tight-fitting lid with about 1-1/2-inches of oil and heat to 325°F. Arrange two racks over two rimmed baking sheets and set aside. Remove the chicken the brine; shake of excess liquid and coat evenly in the flour mixture. Let sit for 5 minutes on a rack, coat again with the flour mixture, and immediately place the chicken, bone side down, in the skillet. Cover and fry until the bottom is golden brown and the top is beginning to cook, about 10 minutes. Remove the lid, flip the chicken, and then cover the skillet and let cook until the chicken is almost done, an additional 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fry uncovered until the skin is crisp, an additional 3 to 4 minutes. (It will take a total of 15 to 20 minutes to cook, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. If you turn only once, larger pieces may take longer.)

To Serve: Drain the chicken on the second rack, sprinkle with the Chicken Shake seasoning to taste, and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

  • Extra Chicken Shake seasoning can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
  • If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can gauge the oil’s readiness by dropping a cube of bread in the oil. If it floats and immediately starts to bubble and brown on the edges, then the oil is the right temperature.
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