When people think of Sunday dinner in the South, the first thing that comes to mind is a Fried Chicken dinner with all the trimmings. Umm….Crunchy fried chicken with pan gravy, creamy mashed potatoes, and hot, fluffy buttermilk biscuits with sweet butter and local honey. And let’s not forget, a cold pitcher of iced tea.
How wonderful it is to gather at Grandma’s house after church and sit down to a lovely table set with a crisply starched tablecloth, Grandma’s wedding china and silver, Crystal pitchers of iced tea and Bread trays lined with crocheted edged linens filled with hot buttermilk biscuits just waiting to be slathered with butter and drizzled with fresh honey.
Well, as lovely as those days were…..Sunday dinners have become a more casual affair and in the fall the dinner usually revolves around the Saint’s Game in New Orleans. Oh it might well include fried chicken but it usually comes from Popeye’s and is collected at a drive-up window on the way home from church! But this past Sunday I had such a yearning for my Mama’s fried chicken and homemade biscuits that I decided to recreate the entire meal even though no one was coming for dinner…..well, not at first anyway. Surely you are familiar with that famous saying, “If you cook it, they will come!’ Oh, instead of the dining room….Sunday dinner was served on the “veranda” otherwise known as the back deck..Ha!
Ok, let’s start with the biscuits……I admit that for many years I was happy to make biscuits using Bisquick Buttermilk Baking Mix. It was fast, easy and they tasted really good. But the more serious I became about cooking the more “from scratch” my cooking became. This recipe is very basic and not difficult to make and oh what a difference “from scratch” makes! Notice, not a rolling pin in sight.
This classic recipe produces biscuits with a lovely light texture.
3 cups all purpose flour, (White Lily preferred) plus a little extra for rolling dough
2 scant tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder, aluminum free
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 cup buttermilk , plus more
Preheat oven to 425°F. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Using fingertips or a pastry blender, rub 3/4 cup chilled butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir gently until evenly moistened. Gently pat out the dough into a rectangle approximately 6”x14”on a floured surface to one inch thick. Fold dough into thirds like you would fold a business letter. (One third of the dough folded onto the center third and repeat with other third.) Turn dough over, seam side down and pat into another rectangle. Repeat folding method one more time. Turn dough over, seam side down again and lightly pat out into a 1 inch thick rectangle. Using a floured knife or pizza cutter, cut dough in thirds the long side of the rectangle. Then divide the long strips into 1 ½ “ wide biscuits. (See picture above). Place the biscuits 1” apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. **Biscuits will be rectangular!! Not round. Brush the biscuits with a little more buttermilk or heavy cream. Place the biscuits on the center oven rack.
Bake until biscuits are golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly. Brush with melted butter. Serve warm with local honey or your favorite jelly or jam.
Yields about 12-14 biscuits. Chiqui Note: If I really want to get fancy, I will fold in a little fresh herbs into the flour mixture. Example: Fresh thyme leaves, chopped fresh Rosemary, fresh chopped sage leaves, etc.
Southern Fried Chicken
3 lb chicken cut-up (best results are with small, never frozen chickens).
Place chicken in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Add 2 tablespoons salt. Stir well. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours if possible, but at least 30 minutes.
Drain and rinse well. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Season chicken pieces with Lemon-pepper, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt without MSG, granulated garlic, and 1/2 cup of Crystal hot sauce if desired. Place in a clean bowl and cover with buttermilk. Chill for at least 2 hours or more if possible.
Place 3 cups all-purpose flour in a large brown paper bag. Add to the flour:
1 Teaspoon Lemon-Pepper Seasoning
1/2 Teaspoon granulated garlic
1 Teaspoon Low Salt Creole Seasoning (or more if desired) I use Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Magic (Optional)
1-2 Teaspoons Lawry’s Seasoned salt (no MSG)
or To Your Taste
And anything else you might like! Mix well.
Shake off any excess buttermilk from the chicken pieces and drop, one by one into the seasoned flour three or four pieces at a time. Close the bag and shake well. Place floured chicken on a cake cooling rack that is placed over a sheet of waxed paper and allow to air dry while you are heating up the skillet!
1-1/2 – 2 Cups Peanut or Vegetable Oil (Should be 1 1/2 inches deep in skillet)
4-6 Slices good quality smoked bacon
Heat a large iron skillet (if you have one) or any heavy-bottomed skillet with 1 1/ 2” deep of vegetable oil and add about 4-6 slices of a good smoked bacon to the oil. When bacon if fully cooked and crispy, remove bacon and drain well on paper towels. Set aside. Make sure oil is 360*-370*.
Starting with the dark meat, carefully add chicken, meaty side down in the skillet, making sure you do not crowd them. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook about 6 minutes. Uncover and turn each piece over. Cover again. (You can omit the covering of the pan if you choose to deep fry the chicken in 4 or more inches of oil). Cook for about 6 minutes and uncover again. Remove chicken when it reaches a nice brown color. Place cooked chicken on a cake cooling rack placed over a sheet pan and keep it in a 250*oven until all the chicken is finished frying. Repeat the process using the same method with the rest of the chicken. (You can test for doneness by using an instant read thermometer…it should read 160* if it is not fully cooked, raise oven temp to 350* until done).
To make the gravy:
Drain all but 4 tablespoons of the oil from the skillet. (Leave in crusty bits of flour.) Add four heaping tablespoons of the seasoned flour from the bag to the skillet and make a light brown roux. You just want to cook it long enough to get the raw taste out of the flour.
Add enough milk, about 3 cups, to make a nice gravy. Crumble the reserved bacon and add it to the gravy. Taste and correct seasoning. Here in the south we tend to put a lot of black pepper in our gravy.
Gravy can be served over fresh mashed potatoes or just passed at the table. We don’t really pour it over the chicken as much as we just put a “pool” of it on the plate to dip pieces of chicken!! Enjoy!Serve with homemade buttermilk biscuits and apple jelly.
Garlic Smashed Potatoes
3 pounds small red potatoes, scrubbed and rinsed well, do not peel
8 quart pot of water with 2 tablespoons Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh garlic
Place all ingredients in the 8 qt. pot and bring to a rolling boil. Continue to cook until the potatoes can be easily be pierced with a fork. Drain all but 3/4 cup of the water. Return potatoes to the pot along with the 3/4 cup reserved water. Add one stick unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt, 1/2 teaspoon Lemon-pepper, and 1 cup half and half cream or heavy cream or whole milk. Combine all ingredients. Taste and correct seasoning.
Homemade Thousand Island Dressing Pg. 14.
Coffee Toffee Pie Pg. 39
My best friend Robyn came over to share this wonderful meal with me. We ate outside because of the glorious weather and the dinner was definitely as good as when I was a child. Besides talking about the lovely meal, we discussed the merits and the problems plaguing our beloved Saints. I sent dinner over to my son Jason and his wife Ashley who were trying to put their two babies to sleep for the night. And this evening I beckoned my sister Doria to come join me for leftovers. I caught her just as she was leaving her house to go pick up something for dinner. The dinner was just as good as yesterday and both of us decided not to re-heat our chicken because it is heavenly right out of the fridge cold! After the meal we both agreed, everything was really good but our favorite was the salad with the Homemade Thousand Island Dressing!
Until next time……Bon Appetit,