By: Cory Bahr
If I could choose a final meal on this earth, it would without a doubt be my grandmother’s fried chicken. Growing up in the South, fried chicken was what brought the family together. And it wasn’t just a meal that was thrown together on a whim—it was a well-planned, special occasion kind of dish.
Fried chicken is so seemingly simple and customary to Southern cuisine that many don’t realize it’s actually very complex. Preparing a moist, crunchy, well-seasoned bird is the ultimate goal of every cook, but if you’ve ever tried making it yourself, you know this goal isn’t always easily achieved.
When I was young, I’d watch my grandmother work tirelessly all day in the kitchen to prepare not only the perfect chicken, but all of the requisite sides like mustard greens, black-eyed peas, and golden-brown cornbread to go along with it. At the end of the day, there was something so special about gathering around the table and sharing a family meal that was prepared with so much meaning and purpose.
I learned that our relationship to food is so much more than just nutrients; it connects to our personal, cultural, and familial identity. I always like to say that I went to the Culinary School of Grandmother’s Kitchen because of the way her cooking has influenced my cuisine. Family tradition is always at the root of all of my recipes along with influences from our hometown in the Mississippi Delta.
To this day, my grandmother’s fried chicken is the best thing I’ve ever eaten anywhere. Each crispy, juicy bite was a testament to her immense dedication and countless years of practice. For years, I tried to replicate it but nothing could ever hold a candle to her recipe.
So, I finally decided to take my own spin on the classic. Adding white wine to my brine gives the perfect kick when mixed with buttermilk, and although my grandmother never used wine in her recipe, I think it’s an essential ingredient to my rendition. I also season the bird directly after it leaves the hot, bubbling oil for mouthwatering caramelization and delicious taste. It’s these simple changes that have allowed me to combine two generations of family cuisine, making the dish that much more special. Although I’ve implemented my own techniques to create a new favorite around my family kitchen table, Grandma’s will always be at the top of my list!
- 2 cups whole buttermilk
- 1 cup white wine
- ½ cup hot sauce
- 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornstarch
- Chicken Spice (recipe follows), to taste
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- ½ tablespoon cayenne pepper
- In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, wine, and hot sauce. Add chicken, tossing to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours.
- In a Dutch oven, pour oil to fill halfway. Heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350°. Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet.
- Let chicken stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. In a shallow dish, whisk together flour and cornstarch. Working in batches, remove chicken pieces from brine, letting excess drip off. Dredge in flour mixture.
- Fry until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 165°, 16 to 20 minutes for breast pieces, 10 to 12 minutes for thighs and legs, and 6 to 8 minutes for wings. Let drain on prepared rack. Immediately season to taste with Chicken Spice.
- In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.