Story last updated at 5/1/2013 - 3:12 pm
A funny thing about being from the South, which by geographical standards is the combination of states south of the Mason-Dixon Line and east of the Mississippi River, is that everyone I meet automatically assumes I can cook and that my IQ is less than adequate because I say y’all.
Southern dialect is all in the phrasing, not necessarily the accent. For example, if it’s an unusually hot day in Georgia, one might hear that it is hotter than Georgia asphalt, which I can tell you is quite hot.
Therefore, I take no offense at these stereotypes because I do know how to cook, I do say y’all and when the need arises I’ll throw in an “ain’t” into the conversation to tease people.
When one thinks of Southern food the first thing that comes to mind is chicken. The Sunday after church, dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy has been served in households since the beginning of time and most certainly before the “War of Northern Aggression.” I say this with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
There are about as many fried chicken recipes in the South as there are salmon dip/spread recipes in Alaska. Each cook will have his/her own way of preparing the chicken, frying it and serving it. I stay true to my roots and to my desire to have it on a week night, so I keep it simple. I do not marinate it in buttermilk over night, I don’t brine, I don’t wrap it in anything special and I don’t use any kind of fancy breadcrumbs. Fried chicken is a simple dish with simple ingredients. That’s what makes it so good.
The main thing to really focus on is the heat of the oil and timing of cooking. When you fry chicken the oil must be 375 degrees. I have tried it at 350 degrees. and it didn’t get quite crispy enough for me. The goal is for a crispy outside and the inside to be juicy and cooked completely.
I also stick with legs and thighs for frying. I prefer the dark meat, as it has more flavor and the smaller pieces cook faster. It is wonderful served warm, but my girls and I really enjoy it the next day served warm or cold. It’s a great picnic food.
This week I present a dish that goes back generations in my family. Keeping it simple and tasty for a Tuesday night meal: Southern Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy.
Until next time…
Eat and enjoy,
Southern Fried Chicken
3-4 pounds chicken legs or thighs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon garlic powder
½ tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon sea salt
½ tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
1 additional teaspoon sea salt
1 additional teaspoon cracked black pepper
1-2 cups canola or vegetable oil
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, largely diced
2 tablespoons butter
1-3 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons drippings from chicken
2 tablespoons flour from dredge
¼ cup cream
1-2 cups chicken broth
Preheat oil to 375 degrees in large skillet. There should be enough oil to fill about 1-1½ inches of the pan. Combine flour, salt, pepper and dried spices to create dredge. Season chicken directly with additional salt and pepper. Don’t forget this step, it does make a difference. Dredge chicken in flour mixture and place in hot oil. Leave room in the pan so that the heat doesn’t go down too much. Cover and cook about 7-10 minutes. Turn chicken and cook additional 5 minutes on each side, cover pan after turning chicken (total of 25 minutes cooking). Juices should run clear when thoroughly cooked. Remove chicken from heat and drain on paper towels, cover to keep warm.
Place chopped potatoes in medium pot and cover with cold water. Bring to boil, and salt liberally. Cook 10-12 minutes, until fork tender. Drain water. Mash with hand masher, and add butter, stir in milk 1 tablespoon at a time until well incorporated and potatoes are soft mixture. They will be roughly mashed, as they still have the skins. Salt and pepper to taste.
Drain off most of drippings except for 2 tablespoons. Reduce heat to 350o. Add in 2 tablespoons flour from dredge. Whisk thoroughly until smooth and cook 1-2 minutes to cook off raw flour taste. Add chicken broth ½ cup at a time until desired consistency. Add cream last and whisk until smooth. Taste for flavor, add salt and pepper as desired. Gravy is a subjective dish. Add more chicken broth if you think it’s too thick and simmer a bit longer if you think it’s too thin. If it tastes like flour add more broth. The beauty of gravy is that you can add broth and thicken it until it’s the right consistency.
Kelly Moore, a.k.a. Midgi, writes and cooks from Juneau. Visit her blog, www.mealswithmidgi.com, for additional stories and recipes. She may be reached at midgi@