For most of us who love to cook, we have one or more signature dishes. These are what I like to call my show-off dishes. I have comfort recipes and others but the show off ones take more time but yield full tummies and blissful smiles. One of my best dishes is my fried chicken.
Contrary to popular myth, Southern women do not pop from the womb with a cast iron skillet in one hand and a chicken recipe in the other. Hard to believe, I know. What is even harder to comprehend is that my mother was not a great cook when I was growing up. Part of this can be laid at the feet of her mother who simply did not enjoy cooking. But I was lucky. My mother, as a single parent, had to hire someone to watch my sister and I after school. So I learned how to make fried chicken not from my mother but from our housekeeper. Or, as I grew up calling her, my second mother.
Thelma is still someone I look forward to seeing when I go home. She is one of the most active people I know. She runs a very successful business taking care of other people’s homes, their animals and children. She is one of my niece’s careproviders as well. It is rare to find her just not doing anything. Because of this, I have always thought of her as the very busy Queen of Wands. She is mentally sharp and a real trickster as well. One of her favorite things to do when I was younger was to hide out in various spots so she could jump out and SCARE me. lol.
I have to admit that my sister and I pranked Thelma right back by hiding rubber spiders etc in various spots. My friends thought I was very weird. When they came home with me, I had to scope out all the rooms I could by sneaking up to the windows. I wanted to know if Thelma was hiding behind any doorways.img removed old link Queen of Wands
So to my beloved friend and second mother, Thelma, I dedicate this Queen of Wands Fried Chicken. I learned the basics from her when I was around 18 years old. I have since tweaked it.
The Queen of Wands Show Off Fried Chicken
1 fryer, cut into parts. with skin
2.5 lbs chicken parts, with skin
3 Cups flour
3-4 TB Seasoning mix (salt, pepper, red pepper, garlic, etc)
Oil (vegetable, canola, peanut)
To fry chicken you need a 2-3″ deep cast-iron skillet with a lid. This is often called a chicken fryer by various cast iron manufacturers. Trust me. You want the cast-iron.
Pour in vegetable or canola or peanut oil. Some people will tell you that peanut oil makes the best fried chicken. 🙂 Turn the flame on to medium-high.
You will want your chicken ready. I just coat mine in seasoned flour (garlic, salt, pepper etc…I love Tony Cachere’s Cajun seasoning). Then set it to the side.
Watch the oil carefully. You do not want it to smoke. This will burn the oil which will make your chicken taste like doggie doo! EWW Ptooey!
I test the oil by making a tiny ball of dough with water and flour (and I mean like the size of a pin head tiny). Then toss it in. If it starts sizzling and springs back up, you can then put your chicken in the oil.
IMPORTANT: If you like your fingers with healthy pink flesh as opposed to oozing blisters, please use tongs for this step.
Place chicken in the pan. Start with the meatiest side down first. I always do the thickest parts first so breasts and thighs should go in.
NOTE: I am assuming you are using bone-in chicken. If you are not, steps are the same but timing will be slightly less.
Put the lid on. Keep a close eye on it. You do not want the oil to boil over onto the gas flame. This causes something we like to call a “BIG RED TRUCK” incident. That’s where the fire department shows up really fast.
Check the chicken in three minutes. If it looks like it is burning or browing really fast, turn the heat down. Now put that lid back on for another five minutes. Then turn the chicken over. It should be all pretty golden brown. You will cover it and leave it there for another eight minutes.
Start your mashed potatoes and sides now. 🙂
If both sides look all pretty and brown, slice into the middle of the thickest piece. If you see pink or red, please flip that chicken and let it cook another five minutes on each side.
At this point it should be done! If not, give it about two more minutes per side.
Now, if you truly want your diners to moan in severe gustatory pleasure, you can go the extra mile like the Queen of Wands would and make gravy.
Gravy is amazingly easy–to screw up. Seriously, I think making good chicken is easier. But here is one way to make a good gravy.
Arwen’s Brown Gravy
Once you have finished frying the chicken, and if you have NOT smoked the grease, pour off all but 2-3 TBS of grease (save it in a jar). Now scrape the pan up with a spoon to loosen up all that goodness. Make sure the flame is on nice and low.
At this point, put in 2 TBS of flour. Stir it up. You want this to be the consistency of peanut butter (add a tiny bit more flour if it is not and more oil if it is too stiff) and about that color too. Do not burn this. This is a roux. The color is very important so do not cheat on this step. When the roux is the right color and consistency, turn the flame off.
Pour in 1 C of cold milk. Stir like your life depends on it. Use a whisk if you like, but stir! If it is very stiff, add another 1/2 C of cold milk. As you stir, it will become creamy. If it is not, add another 1/4 C of milk. Keep adding that 1/4 cup until you have a thick gravy. Do taste this. It will need some of that seasoning mixture most likely.
Homemade gravy will often have lumps. This is a joke in many families but you can die a painful death if you make jokes about the wrong Southern cook’s gravy. Seriously, gravy is no joking matter. 🙂 Once you have determined that your gravy tastes good, put it in a gravy dish and serve.
If your gravy does not taste good to you, do not serve it. Nothing worse than bad gravy on good chicken.