When’s the last time you made fried chicken?
Not a boneless, skinless chicken breast, dipped into some bread crumbs and baked in the oven, but real fried chicken — the kind with bones, the kind that is actually fried in oil in a cast iron skillet the way Aunt Bea would have done it?
Chances are if you’ve had fried chicken recently, it came from a carryout.
But now is the perfect time of year to take a step back in time and fry up a chicken the old-fashioned way. Fried chicken is the perfect picnic food because it tastes just as good when served cold as it does hot out of the frying pan.
Try out this recipe from Canal House Cooks Every Day by Christopher Hersheimer and Melissa Hamilton ($45, hardcover, Andrews McMeel 2012), which calls for soaking the chicken in brine before frying to keep it moist and tender.
THE FRY QUEEN’S
1 whole chicken
1 cup kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
½ cup sugar
1½ cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. pepper
Cut the chicken, separating the thighs, drumsticks and wings. Cut each breast in half. There will be 10 pieces. Set them aside.
Put the salt, sugar and 4 cups of cold water in a large bowl and stir until completely dissolved. Put the chicken pieces into the brine and transfer to the refrigerator to let them soak for 2 hours. Drain, rinse and pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, and the pepper in a large bowl. Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour one piece at a time, making sure each piece is well coated. For an extra crunchy coating, double dip the chicken: Dredge the pieces, then dredge them again 10 minutes later or so.
Pour enough oil into a large cast-iron skillet to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat until it registers 350 degrees on a candy thermometer, or dip a wooden chopstick into the hot oil until the tip touches the bottom of the skillet; if bubbles form right away around the tip — lots of bubbles, like Champagne — the oil is ready for frying.
Fry the chicken in the hot oil, larger pieces first, skin side down, working in batches if all the pieces don’t fit at the same time. Turn once, and fry until golden and crispy, about 8 minutes per side. Transfer the fried chicken to a wire rack set on top of paper towels to drain. Season to taste with salt while still hot.
Makes 4 servings.