In June of 1920, John Welles travels with his Aunt Prudence to her house in Baltimore. It is the first time he has been away from his home on the farm. As much as he loves his family, John is desperate to escape the two tragedies that haunt him, leaving him with a painful secret.
John’s stepmother, Collie, packs a picnic lunch for him and Prudence. Buttermilk fried chicken is sure to ease the sadness John feels at his departure. Her gesture will also soften the heartbreak she experiences when her youngest child leaves home for good.
The fried chicken I imagined when I wrote this scene tastes like what my mother made during my childhood. Unfortunately, by the time I became a homemaker, frying had long since been replaced with baked or grilled skinless chicken. To make matters worse, Mom didn’t really remember how she prepared the chicken.
I called my sister-in-law because her parents host fish fries, but I discovered that she, too, possessed no talent for frying. After a good laugh, we collaborated on the following recipe. I took responsibility for the marinade, and she handled the coating. Together we monitored the frying process like a new mother watching over a sleeping baby. What we created was juicy, delicious, and not too bad for a couple of chicks learning to fry!
I hope you enjoy our recipe.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Chicken – 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs, 2 wings
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons hot sauce
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ teaspoons dried thyme
House of Autry Chicken Breader (I highly recommend this product; it is seasoned perfectly and deliciously)
32 oz. bottle peanut oil
Rinse and trim the chicken pieces for excess fat, pat dry with a paper towel. Place the pieces in a baking dish and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate about an hour.
Mix the buttermilk, hot sauce, garlic, and thyme in a gallon-sized, re-sealable plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces, making sure all pieces are submerged, seal and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours, turning the bag every hour.
Remove chicken from the bag and gently shake off excess marinade. Place half of the chicken in another gallon-sized, re-sealable bag with two cups of chicken breading. Seal and shake thoroughly to coat the pieces. Remove from the bag and shake off any excess breading, set aside. Repeat with remaining pieces, adding more breading if necessary.
Fill an electric skillet with all of the peanut oil and two large spoonsful of vegetable shortening. Heat to 350° F, making sure the shortening melts completely. When the skillet reaches desired temperature, a bead of water dropped in the oil should dance across the surface.
I suggest cooking the thickest pieces first (breasts and thighs). Use tongs to carefully lower the coated chicken into the hot oil. The temperature will drop, so adjust the skillet heat as needed to maintain the correct cooking temperature.
The following indicates the number of minutes per side for each piece, with flipping in between, to ensure doneness without burning. The first five minutes per side sets the breading:
Breasts – 5, 5, 3, 3, 3
Thighs – 5, 5, 3, 3
Legs & Wings – 5, 5, 2, 2
Remove the chicken to a cooling rack lined with paper towels to drain, sprinkle with salt, and let rest a few minutes. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Serve with favorite side dishes.