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What makes a comfort food a comfort food? Usually it’s something enjoyed from childhood, that makes it a comfort food. Or something that makes you feel all warm on the inside, that’s comfort food too. A taste, a smell, a texture.
My comfort food is going to start with this recipe for Simply the Best Fried Chicken. This isn’t just any fried chicken recipe, with years of tweaking, I think, humbly, it’s simply one of the best. It’s good hot, warm or cold, perfect to take to a tailgate party, on a summer picnic, or for Sunday night dinner.
Cooking the chicken at a steady, fairly low temperature is also key
There are a couple of tricks to making a really good fried chicken, but one of the most important ones is to soak the chicken in buttermilk for at least a couple of hours. This gives the meat great flavor and a slightly softer texture. The second thing is to season the meat well, I don’t season just the flour, I put seasonings directly on the chicken pieces to insure tall the meat is properly seasoned and tasty even if you decide to remove the coating.
Cooking the chicken at a steady, fairly low temperature is also key. You don’t want to burn the outside and have raw chicken inside. That’s just not good.
Finally, draining the chicken. Drain it by setting the cooked pieces of chicken on a wire rack set over a cookie sheet (the cookie sheet is there to catch the oil but if you don’t mind cleaning counters, you can skip it ). Setting the pieces on paper towels or brown paper bags will soften the coating. (And quite frankly, why would anyone want to put their food on something that was in a public market, touched by how many hands? YIKES). While either method will render a chicken that tastes just fine, the coating won’t have the same crunch. Granted, if you refrigerate it to eat it cold, you will still loose the crunchiness of the coating, so if that is your purpose, to eat it cold, then go ahead and use any method to drain it. Putting it in the oven to keep warm? The moisture generated by the oven heat will also soften the crust. So it’s best, if you want it crunchy, to eat it as soon as you can after finishing it.
Place the chicken pieces in a bowl or plastic container and pour buttermilk over, the chicken should be covered in buttermilk, if not, add more. Cover and refrigerate for 8 - 12 hours. (but at least 2)
Pour oil in a large skillet (electric is good to maintain even heat) to a depth of 1/2 inch. Heat to 325º F.
Drain the chicken in a colander. Combine the salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper. Reserve 1 tablespoon. Season the chicken well on all sides. Add the reserved tablespoon spice mix to the flour, mix well. Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off any excess.
Place the chicken skin side down into the pan. The oil should come to about half-way up the pan, maintain a temperature of 325°F. Cook the chicken until golden brown on each side, about 10 - 12 minutes per side. Remove the chicken when it is well browned and has reached an internal temperature of 180 degrees (juices run clear).
Drain the chicken on a rack over a sheet pan. Do not put the chicken on paper towels or paper bags as this will soften the coating, do not keep the chicken warm in the oven as this too will soften the coating. The chicken is good hot, or even at room temperature.
LindySez - you can remove the skin prior to marinating and cooking if desired
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