Fried chicken is a true Southern American classic - a mashup of West African and European styles of preparing tough chicken quickly while keeping it from drying out. Believe it or not, the story of fried chicken is a darling of American food historians, and the precise history of the dish is still the subject of debate. (Mention Colonel Sanders in some circles and near fist-to-cuffs will ensue.) No matter where you stand, the Colonel's chicken comes no where near my Granny's, or that of countless other church matriarchs, roadside diners, Willie Mae's, or Gus', and I could go on and on.
Now, traditional fried chicken is kind of a health quagmire. But as compared to the lard and bacon fat used back in the day, there are cleaner ,heart-healthier fats like sunflower and canola which can also produce a perfect crust. The key to not having your crust slide of in these thinner oils is to marinade your chicken long enough and keep very cold right up until frying. I like to use fresh aromatics instead of dry for my marinade, and I keep the sodium low. That being said, if you decide to make fried chicken the centerpiece of your meal, balance it with a fresh salad or slaw and drink lots of water. But worry not about the health of anything other than your soul and spirit when you sink your teeth into a perfectly crunchy, juicy piece of buttermilk soaked fried chicken.
1 organic whole fryer chicken, cut up
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 small yellow onion, peeled and grated
2 large cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 teaspoon fresh turmeric root, grated
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon ground paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups organic, unbleached flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
Fine sea salt, ground black pepper, and ground paprika to taste
4 cups Canola or sunflower oil
1. Beat together the egg and buttermilk until just combined in a large bowl. Stir in the onion, garlic, thyme, turmeric, paprika, and cayenne. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat, then dump everything in a gallon-size ziplock bag. Seal and let marinade in the fridge for at least two hours, but preferably overnight.
2. In a deep wide dish or bowl combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and pepper.
3. Remove the chicken from the fridge. Drop the chicken into the flour one piece at a time and toss to coat. Do this until all of the chicken pieces are in the flour. Toss to make sure each piece is thoroughly coated. Place the bowl in the fridge while you heat the oil.
4. Heat the oil in a deep cast iron fryer or steel frying pan over medium high heat. Test by dropping a cube of white bread in the oil and it browns nicely, or the temperature of the oil reaches 425F degrees.
5. Lower the chicken piece into the hot oil one at a time, Skin side down. Do not crowd the pan - you will have to do 2-3 batches. When all the pan is full, lower the temperature to medium.
6. Fry chicken until a nice golden brown, turning from time to time to prevent scorching. Remember that dark meat takes longer to cook than white, so even though the breast pieces are larger they may cook faster that the thighs. Expect to need about 20 minutes per batch. When in doubt, let it fry longer. If the pieces seem to be browning too quickly, turn the heat down to medium-low. Remove with tongs and drain on paper towels. Serve with hot sauce or honey.