Fried chicken has been a regular feature on the junk food scene, as well as a guilty pleasure for many of us whether it is an occasional decadent treat or the manifestation of the munchies during or after a bender of some sort. From bargain buckets to meal deals the fried chicken outlets will cater for all your trans-fat induced, intensively farmed, dirty fried chicken desires.
Of course the concept of eating fried chicken goes back well before the colonels’ heyday, as do the numerous methods and seasonings used to prepare and cook it. Frying meats & fritters in hot oil or lard were cooking techniques used since ancient times in form or another. Fritters have been known to have existed in Europe since medieval times.
The Scots were particularly well know for deep-frying chicken in fat, and later Scottish immigrants carried this tradition over to the Southern United States. As a by-product of hog production, lard was abundant, as well as an inexpensive means of converting waste food as calories by rendering the fat into lard used for most cooking.
Fried chicken soon became a common staple, as it was relatively inexpensive, compared to other meats, kept well for several days in hot weather and was often taken on long journeys. Africans who arrived to work on plantations reared chickens as a food source, the cooks incorporated various spices and seasonings that were not really used in Scottish or European cooking, evolving the fried chicken culture further.
Unfortunately prejudice attitudes since the American civil war and so-called traditional ‘slave foods’, like Southern fried chicken, have suffered a strong association with Afro-American stereotypes. This was even commercialised in restaurants in the early part of the 20th century. However attitudes are changing and the notion of fried chicken being an ‘ethnic food’ is fading out.
I have been cooking and preparing southern fried style chicken for some time now, for both business and pleasure, but have never really got that ‘KFC effect’ on my chicken pieces (see ‘Ricky’s top ten hints & tips for cooking fried chicken’). It was only after working on a Soul Food menu and having to research countless versions of this classic recipe that I was able to make it finger lickin’ good!
Here’s my take on this Soul Food classic, with the secret mix of herbs used by KFC to deliver that special ‘taste of your life’….
8 Pieces of chicken on the bone – 4 drumsticks & 4 thighs, skin removed
Corn oil or peanut oil for deep fat frying the chicken pieces
For the brine “813”
40g of Kosher salt
1tsp Celery salt
1tsp Black peppercorns( crushed)
1 tsp Coriander seeds (crushed)
1tsp Cayenne Pepper powder
1tsp Hot paprika powder
1 Clove of garlic – peeled & crushed
For the batter:
2 Egg whites well beaten
For the coating:
150g All purpose flour
50g Herb & spice blend – click here for ingredients
1 Pack of tomato soup
1) Place all the ingredients for the brine in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer until the salt and the sugar has dissolved. Let the brine cool, then strain. Soak the chicken pieces in the brine “813” solution using a non-reactive container for 3 – 6 hours.
2) Remove the chicken from the brine “813” solution, pat it dry with paper towels, and let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator for 4 – 6 hours. This allows some moisture to evaporate from the surface, so it will to brown better.
3) Combine the buttermilk and egg whites thoroughly, and immerse the chicken pieces in it, preferably overnight (for about 10 – 12 hours) or as long as possible.
4) Combine the flour, tomato soup with the herb and spice blend. Remove each of the chicken pieces from the buttermilk and coat in the seasoned flour blend. When buttermilk absorbs all the flour mixture, coat again in seasoned flour. To make the coating stick better, refrigerate the coated chicken (uncovered) for 30 to 60 minutes before frying.
5) Deep fry the chicken pieces in batches, in hot oil at 180°C for 15- 20 minutes, turning occasionally until it turns golden brown. Drain on a wire rack and let the chicken rest. Allow the oil to to return to 180°C before frying the next batch. The chicken can be kept in a warm oven until you are ready to serve.