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Country Fried Chicken, My Way

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Growing up on a ranch as a kid, there was always one sure thing you could count on in the summer and that was fried chicken on Sunday for supper. Along with it we would have chilled watermelon, corn on the cob from the garden and a big helping of potato salad eaten outside under the walnut tree. This tree would shade the front yard under its huge canopy of leaves, a great spot for the wood picnic table covered in a checkered tablecloth. It sounds almost too good to be true!

We didn’t have a lot, but we always had enough. My grandparents lived on the ranch with us in a camper in the yard, and my grandpa would raise a huge garden to make sure we always had fresh food. Dad would raise and butcher the chickens, with help from the rest of us, and Mom would do the frying. Then there were the times when my Uncle Jim, Aunt Nancy, cousins Ward, Rainey, Bryan and Glen would come for dinner and we would have wheelbarrow races, games of tag or kick the can, along with laughing until your sides hurt and practical jokes that never ended. Remembering the fun times growing up always makes me miss the close relationships with family that’s now spread all over this country, but these memories warm my heart. Okay, now I need to call everyone and tell them that I love them.

The tradition of chicken on Sunday has fallen away, but the next generation has embraced the same love of an old family recipe. Granted, we don’t have it a lot, but it’s one of those family favorites that my kids and grandkids love just as much as I did.

This fried chicken is great hot or cold so it’s perfect for dinner, supper or an outside picnic. The great thing is that today you don’t have to butcher your own chicken; you can go to the store and buy picnic packs of chicken. This gives each person in your family the chance to get their favorite pieces. At our house it’s legs, or as my brother called them when we were kids, chicken with a handle, and thighs. Let’s get shakin’; chicken, that is.

Do you wash chicken or use it out of the package? I wash it in a large colander and let it dry. You want the chicken dry so that dipping it into the wet mix and then the flour mixture gives the full flavor that you’re looking for in good fried chicken. I know cooking fried chicken can be mess, so here’s how I do it.

I use a large cast iron skillet for browning, then transfer to a 9 x 13 Pyrex® pan to finish cooking the chicken in the oven. I do this for two reasons. By baking it, you’re guaranteed to have it cooked completely through, and baking will release some of the extra oil from the crust and leave it in the bottom of the pan. I use shortening for frying; it keeps the heat just right to brown the chicken perfectly.

I hope that your Sunday supper with my fried chicken creates new memories for your family. Whether it’s served in the yard under a big walnut tree, on the patio, at the kitchen table or even out of a picnic basket, you will be pleased that you made my fried chicken.

Country Fried Chicken
3 large beaten eggs
1½ cups buttermilk*
4 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
4 tablespoons poultry seasoning
3 cups flour
½ cup cornstarch
6 skin-on thighs
6 skin-on legs
Can of shortening for frying 

In a bowl, beat eggs and buttermilk and set aside. In a 1-gallon plastic bag, combine all the dry ingredients and shake to mix. Dip chicken into milk and egg, then place into the bag and shake to cover. Do only a few pieces at a time so the pieces are evenly coated with the flour mixture. Take each piece out of the bag and place it on a platter until you have covered all the chicken. Let the chicken sit while preparing your skillet. That few minutes of rest time will help the flour to settle on the chicken and will improve the crispness. Heat shortening in your skillet until it reaches 365 degrees F. Slowly add the chicken to the hot oil. Brown the chicken on all sides. When good and brown, pull from the oil and place in a Pyrex dish and then into a 350-degree oven. Cook another 30 minutes to make sure that the chicken will be completely cooked with no blood by the bone. Remove from the Pyrex and you will notice the extra oil has been left behind and you have a wonderful, crispy, homemade fried chicken.

*If you don’t have buttermilk, you can measure out milk and add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar. Let sit for 5 minutes and you have a buttermilk substitute.