Today, July 6, 2010, is National Fried Chicken Day (here’s a link: … which is just so amazing it’s beyond words.  I did not actually *make* fried chicken today, because I’d made fried chicken yesterday and I didn’t want to eat the same thing two days in a row but I figured writing about it is just as good a way to celebrate =)

So… say that you have a recipe (buttermilk waffles, perhaps?) that calls for a certain amount of buttermilk, which is far less than the smallest amount of buttermilk you can actually buy at the store.  Say you’re scouring your brain for ways to use up that extra buttermilk, but you don’t want to bake any more biscuits or pancakes, you don’t want to make buttermilk mashed potatoes, and your fiance doesn’t particularly like ranch dressing, so no point in making any buttermilk ranch.  What do you do?

Well, if you’re like me, you’ve seen lots of people on various cooking shows soak chicken in buttermilk before frying those bad boys.  And you think… oh man, that’s brilliant!  (disclaimer: this is not a new recipe for me; I learned the buttermilk trick at least 5 years ago.)

The amounts here are approximate, as always, and I play a little fast and loose with the whole “frying” concept, mostly due to lack of appropriate frying oil and vessel.  BUT – by the end of this, you will have 8 VERY DELICIOUS pieces of gorgeous looking fried chicken, so how can you go wrong?

The goods:
1 whole chicken, cut up (You can get it pre-cut up at the store, but make sure it’s bone-in and skin-on.  Trust me.  It tastes much better this way.) ((If you’re doing it yourself, make sure you end up with 2 each of breast, thigh, drumstick, and wing pieces))
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
Salt, Pepper, and your spice blend (dry rub, Essence, whatever) of choice
Vegetable Oil (If you have shortening or lard, go with a 50/50 mix of solid fat and vegetable oil)

The method:
1. Cover your chicken with the buttermilk.  The absolute best way I’ve found (and I use this method to marinate EVERYTHING) is to stick the meat in a big (gallon-sized) zip-top bag, and pour in the wet stuff.  Then get as much air out of the bag as you can, seal it, and you’re good to go.  Let your chicken soak for at least 2 hours.
2. Start heating your oil in a big deep frying pan.  You want enough oil to go at least an inch up the side of your frying pan. (You can also use a good-sized Dutch Oven or cooking pot, in which case you’re more deep-frying than pan-frying, and you want a heck of a lot more oil.  Or if you’re lucky enough to own a real deep-fryer, get the oil to about 350 degrees)
3. Drain your chicken.  Drain it well.
4. Season your flour with several pinches of salt, pepper, and what-have-you.
5. Dredge your chicken in your flour mixture.  Get it nice and covered, but don’t just pack on the flour.  Shake off the excess.
6. Once your oil is roughly 350 degrees, get fryin’!

– Here’s where I start changing things up.   I really don’t have the resources or the patience to cook the chicken completely by frying it in oil.  I find that by the time the chicken is done on the inside, it’s too dark on the outside.  I don’t particularly like that.  So what I do is just cook the chicken til it’s a lovely golden brown on all sides, then throw it on a baking sheet and bake it in a 350 degree (preheated!) oven for about 20 minutes or so until it’s finished cooking.  How do I know when it’s done?  I stick a meat thermometer in right next to the bone and make sure it’s 165 degrees.  If you don’t have a meat thermometer (get one! you can find them for nice and cheap at any good housewares store) then cut one open and make sure that all the juices are running clear and there’s no trace of pink.

There you have it!  You are now in possession of some seriously tasty, tangy, crispy, gorgeous fried chicken.  Hey, remember those waffles I mentioned way back at the beginning of this post?  They go great together.  I’m serious!

Or, you know, you could be boring and just have this fried chicken with potatoes and gravy, or picnic-style with corn and coleslaw.  =)  At any rate, I don’t make this often because it’s not all that healthy, but if you’re going to have fried chicken, you might as well make yourself the good stuff.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!