On a beautiful Sunday, I wanted to serve up a real Southern meal – perfectly fried chicken, a mountain of fluffy mashed potatoes smothered in down-home pan gravy, sweet corn on the cob and fresh from the oven buttermilk biscuits. This was a supper that would make my Okie ancestors proud!
I remember growing up with Dad’s fried chicken. He learned how to fry chicken from his older sister, who learned from their mother. The only problem was, I am not known for fried chicken. Oven baked, no problem. But fried – as in cooked in hot oil in a big cast iron skillet – nope. Maybe it’s because I have an electric stove, making it nearly impossible to regulate the temperature of the cooking oil. Too high, and the skins are burnt (and I do mean burnt, not just a deeper shade of brown) Yeah, burnt long before the meat is finished frying. Too low, and the oil begins to seep into my chicken, making it a golden, greasy mess. The problem with an electric stove is that adjusting the temperature takes time. By the time the coil has adjusted, it’s too late. Either the chicken is burnt or soggy. An electric skillet would better regulate the temperature, but let’s face it chicken cooked in a cast iron skillet is special.
I tried to use two burners, sliding the hot pan between the two settings. While the two-burner approach does work, it ties up two burners, one of which is just sitting there, heating up the room, wasting electricity and the whole process is a royal pain. I had just about given up on the idea of “fried” fried chicken. My oven baked chicken is darn good, and it would just have to do. That is until I came across a recipe that actually used both methods – first pan frying the chicken for that yummy skin only frying can achieve, then baking the chicken until cooked through.
Now I know what you are thinking, baked chicken isn’t crisp chicken. Oh, but there’s a trick to baking crisp chicken. It’s the same method I use for my oven “fried” chicken. Using a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet elevates the chicken, allowing heat to circulate all around the chicken. The oils and fats drip below, leaving the chicken skin nice and crisp.
I’m here to tell you, this is the best darn chicken to come out of my kitchen. The skin is beautiful, the meat flavorful – moist and oh so good.
Buttermilk Pan-Fried Baked Chicken with Pan Gravy
Buttermilk Pan-Fried Baked Chicken
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons salt
2 cups Buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon pepper
5 to 6 lb. Chicken Fryer, cut into pieces (see note)
4 cups self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Canola oil, for frying
Note: Cut chicken into frying pieces. Cut into thighs, legs, breasts and wings. Cut breast pieces in half to keep pieces uniform in size. This recipe can also be used for bone-in thighs or all breast meat with rib bone, cut in half. I prefer 8 to 10 large chicken thighs.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the salt and water until dissolved. Whisk in buttermilk, eggs, onion, garlic, and pepper. Add chicken, one piece at a time and turn to coat. Remove each piece of dipped chicken and place chicken into a gallon storage bag.
Pour buttermilk mixture over chicken. Seal storage bag and lay flat on a large dinner plate. Refrigerate, turning occasionally, 8 hours or up to overnight.
In an 8 x 8 casserole dish, whisk together the self-rising flour, cayenne powder and smoked paprika. Set aside until ready to use.
Place a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside until read to use.
Line a second rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place another wire rack inside the foil rimmed baking sheet. Set second rack aside.
Drain buttermilk mixture from storage bag and discard. Remove chicken from the bag one piece at a time, shaking off any excess buttermilk mixture.
Toss chicken in flour mixture, one piece at a time, until evenly coated. Place the flour-coated chicken on the first wire rack and let sit for 15 minutes. This will allow flour to adhere to the chicken.
Meanwhile, head 1 1/2 inches of oil to 350 degrees in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. (If you don’t have an oil thermometer, snip off a little piece of chicken skin – if the skin fries up golden without burning when tossed into the pan, it should be about right).
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Fry chicken, skin side down, in batches for about 4 minutes or until golden brown. Turn and continue to fry 3 to 4 minutes, then transfer to the rack in the foil lined baking sheet. Repeat until all the chicken has been fried.
Place fried chicken into the preheated oven and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.
Transfer chicken to serving platter. Serve with mashed potatoes and pan gravy.
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
While chicken is finishing in the oven, drain oil from skillet, leaving behind the browned bits at the bottom of the pan.
Add 3 tablespoons of butter to the pan. Over low heat, melt butter until just beginning to bubble. Add 3 tablespoon all-purpose flour, mixing into the butter to create a roux.
Increase heat to medium-low and continue to cook for 5 minutes, scraping the browned bits into the flour mixture.
Add 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until gravy thickens to desired consistency.
Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Serve with your favorite mashed potatoes. Or try mine.
Classic Mashed Potatoes
5 lb. Russet Potatoes
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt, plus more, to taste
1 1/4 cups Half-and-Half
1 stick Butter
Freshly ground White Pepper, to taste
Peeled and cut potatoes into 2-inch pieces. Place the cut potatoes into a large pot, cover with 3-inches of water and season with 2 teaspoons of salt. Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently cook the potatoes until they are tender when pierced with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well in a colander.
Return the potatoes to the pot, and “dry” for a few minutes over low heat.
While the potatoes are cooking, gently heat the half-and-half in a small sauce pan until ready to use. Cut the butter into small pieces and set aside until ready to use.
Once the potatoes are cooked and “dried”, mash them with a potato masher or pass them through a potato ricer in batches back into the warm pot.
Add the butter and gradually add the half-and-half, beating constantly with a large spoon, until the potatoes are smooth and creamy. Season with salt and white pepper and transfer to a warmed serving dish. Serve immediately for best texture.