1 3-4 pound broiler/fryer chicken, cut into 8, 9, or 10 pieces, as desired
1 quart buttermilk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp ground smoky red bell pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tbsp fresh milled black pepper
2 tbsp kosher salt
Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying
1. Place chicken pieces into a plastic container and cover with buttermilk and refrigerate for 12 hours.
2. Turn the pieces over and return the container to the refrigerator. Refrigerate another 12 hours.
3. Drain the chicken thoroughly in a colander.
4. Combine paprika, bell pepper, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in a bowl or a spare shaker.
5. Place the chicken pieces on a cooling rack and season both sides liberally with the seasoning
6. Place the flour, in a large, shallow container suitable for dredging.
7. Dredge the chicken pieces, one at a time, in the unseasoned flour. Shake off the excess flour and place each dredged piece on a cooling rack to allow the flour to set. This step will help form a firmer crust and infuse the flavors. This also keeps the seasoning from burning in the skillet, since the flour forms a protective coat. (Cook’s Note: If desired, you can dip them a second time to make a thicker crust; dip in beaten eggs, then dredge in flour again). Shake off all the excess flour.
7. Melt enough shortening over low heat to come just 1/2 inch up the side of your cast iron skillet or heavy fry pan. Once shortening is completely melted, raise heat to 325-350 degrees F.
8. Place chicken skin side down into the pan. Put thighs in the center, surrounded by the legs and wings, with the breasts around the edge of the pan. The oil should now come about half way up the chicken.
9. Cook chicken until golden brown on each side, approximately 10 to 12 minutes per side. Temperature at the center of each piece should be 170 degrees F.
10. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer to a rack over
a sheet pan to drain. Cover loosely with foil and let rest until drained. Serve while hot.
This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown’s technique, with apologies to my Grandmother Vaughn, who fried chicken for our family gatherings each Sunday (as I recall) after church. I still remember the tantalizing fragrances coming from her kitchen each weekend as she prepared homemade “soda” biscuits, which she served with apple butter, green beans, mashed potatoes with white gravy, and her delicious fried chicken, followed by Dutch apple or peach pie. This remains my favorite meal today.