The Week (US)
Carolina fried chicken: When it has to be done right
“I need to get real here,” said Matthew Raiford in Bress ’n’ Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes From a Sixth-Generation Farmer (Countryman Press). Fried chicken is not typical of the food I cook or that my family cooked when I was growing up on a coastal South Carolina farm that my great-greatgreat grandfather assembled after being freed from slavery. On most nights, I prefer to serve spatchcocked chicken from a castiron pan because it’s quicker to the table and healthier, too.
Fried chicken has always been a specialoccasion dish; “it takes two days to get it right.” But I mastered a method when I returned to Little St. Simons Island to work as a chef and to take ownership of the farm.
One tip: For the best fried chicken, you want to use an older hen. “It will have denser meat that can withstand the high heat of frying.” In any case, make sure you give the project two days. “The time it takes to infuse the chicken with the spices and seasonings and to get that sharp crackle in the crust is so worth it.”
Recipe of the week
Two-day fried chicken
Two 4-lb to 6-lb whole chickens, cut into 8 pieces each
Pink Himalayan salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup smoked paprika
2 quarts heavy cream
1 cup fermented pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
¼ cup lemon juice
2 cups arrowroot or all-purpose flour 1 tbsp garlic powder
Frying oil (peanut, vegetable, avocado, or coconut)
Day 1: Wash and pat dry chicken pieces; set aside. Blend ¼ cup salt and 1 tbsp pepper; combine with paprika in a large sealable plastic bag. Place chicken pieces in bag and shake to coat all over.
In a large glass or ceramic bowl, mix cream, pepper sauce, and lemon juice until just combined. Remove chicken from plastic bag and submerge in cream bath. Cover with plastic wrap and set in refrigerator to marinate for 24 hours.
Day 2: Mix together 1 tbsp salt and pepper. In a large bowl, combine with arrowroot and garlic powder. Set aside.
Place a colander in the sink. Pour in chicken and let drain 15 minutes.
Fill a large, deep cast-iron pan or skillet with oil, at least 3 inches deep but no more than halfway up sides of pan. Turn burner to medium high and heat oil to 375.
Meanwhile, start coating chicken pieces with seasoning blend. Cook in stages, coating and frying all thighs, then all wings, and so on, so you don’t crowd the pan and chicken cooks evenly. Fry pieces until golden brown and crispy all over and internal temperature reaches 165, 13 to 16 minutes for legs, thighs, and wings, 17 to 20 for breasts. Serves 6 to 8.