This month, I'm joining a new link-up, hosted by Can't Believe We Ate. It's one that has been on my radar for quite some time, but the timing just never worked out. This month is my inaugural Food-n-Flix post and I couldn't be more excited by this month's movie than I am with The Help. I loved this book. I loved the movie! In fact, I just re-watched it on Netflix not so long ago!
For those who have yet to read or watch this gem: go do it! Rent, borrow, buy (don't steal!) a copy now! Set in Jackson, MS in the 60s, The Help is about a young (female) college graduate, Skeeter, who aspires to be a novelist. She's given the opportunity to write a domestic advise column for her local newspaper, while on the side she works on a rather controversial project she'll submit for publication in New York. Skeeter wants to turn Gone With the Wind on its head and write about life in the South from the point of view of the help. Shunning the idea that Southern women should move from Daddy's house to the Sorority house to their husband's house, he ostracizes herself from her Southern Charm-Junior League friends and puts more than a few people at risk during a volatile time in the heat of the Equal Rights Movement.
When I saw this month's movie assignment, I knew just what I wanted to make! My favorite scene in the movie is where Minny is teaching Celia how to cook, specifically fry chicken. I successfully fried chicken for the first time this year myself, so I could relate! As a Southern Lady myself, it was almost a sin that I'd waited 29 years before learning how to make this Dixieland staple! So, without further adeiu, enjoy what my husband has deemed better than Chick-Fil-A fried chicken!
“Crisco ain't just for frying. You ever get a sticky something stuck in your hair, like gum?...That's right, Crisco. Spread this on a baby's bottom, you won't even know what diaper rash is...shoot, I seen ladies rub it under they eyes and on they husband's scaly feet...Clean the goo from a price tag, take the squeak out a door hinge. Lights get cut off, stick a wick in it and burn it like a candle....And after all that, it'll still fry your chicken.”
4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into large strips (or use a whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces)
3 tablespoons salt, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 bay leaves
2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1-2 tablespoons garlic powder
pinch (or two!) cayenne
Crisco (or canola oil), for frying
Place the chicken in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Add 2 tablespoons salt, plus the sugar, vinegar, and bay leaves and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to cook, place the buttermilk in a shallow bowl and transfer the chicken from the brine to the buttermilk. Let it soak there for a while. Like an hour, or more. Place a cookie sheet with a cooling rack attached in oven and preheat the oven to 200.
In a large bowl, or zip-lock bag (or, as in the movie, a large paper grocery sack), mix the remaining tablespoon salt, pepper, garlic, and cayenne and stir (or shake) to mix.
Melt the shortening about 1/2-inch deep in a large cast-iron skillet, or heat the same depth oil, until the temperature reaches 350-375 degrees. The melted Crisco or oil should be deep enough to submerge the chicken about half-way, so adjust accordingly.
Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and dredge in the flour mixture (or shake in the bag filled with the flour mixture). Ensure each piece is coated evenly on all sides, and shake off the excess.
Place the chicken (skin side down, if you used skin-on chicken), in the hot shortening, reduce the heat to medium, and fry until golden, about 15 minutes. Check to make sure the chicken isn't browning too quickly. If that happens, either turn down the heat or flip the chicken! Turn the chicken and cook the other side about 15 minutes more, for a total of 30-35 minutes cook time. The chicken is done when the thickest portion of meat is pierced with a knife and the juices run clear (internal temp around 165). Place the chicken in the preheated oven to keep warm while you fry any additional batches or chicken. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
-Only turn the chicken once or twice or the crust'll fall off, and that's the best part!
-Use a meat fork to turn the chicken; tongs will also make that crispy goodness fall off!
-Add bacon drippings to the Crisco for added flavor, just a tablespoon or two will do it!
-You can also drain the chicken on a brown paper bag to retain some crispiness...
“Frying chicken always makes me feel a little better about life.”
Fried chicken is the traditional main course for Fourth of July around here. I serve it up with Mama's Baked Beans, Macaroni and Cheese, and Mamaw's Banana Pudding...and plenty of Sweet Southern Tea and Lemonade! Sorry, if the recipe's not linked, it's a closely-held family secret!
And, since I'm a nice person, ya know, Southern Hospitality and all, I thought I'd share a few more recipes with y'all. These are the ones that also remind me of The Help and which were runners up to this fabulous chicken...but in the end, you just can't get much more South of the Mason-Dixon than fried chicken, can you?!? I'm gonna go watch Paula Deen now! Enjoy!