Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Basic Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy - Classical Southern Cooking
2 young fryers, preferably less than 2 pounds, but not more than 2 1/2 - 3 pounds each, cleaned, disjointed, and cut up
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil for frying (recipe calls for lard)
1 1/2 cups light cream or half and half
Put the chickens in a basin of cold water and soak them for a few minutes. Drain well and pat dry with a clean towel. Season them liberally with salt and pepper and set aside.
Put the flour in a medium-sized brown paper bag, fold over the top, and give it a quick shake to loosely dust the inside of the bag with the flour.
Put enough oil to come up no more than halfway up the sides into a large deep cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven that will hold both chickens in one layer without crowding. You can cook in batches if need be. Heat over medium high heat until the vegetable oil is 325-350 degrees.
Beginning with the legs, thighs, and wings and finishing with the breasts, drop 2-3 pieces at a time into the bag, fold over the top, and shake until it's well coated. You may need to add a little more flour after the first few batches - check after each batch. Shake off the excess and slip them into the hot fat, beginning with the dark meat, which takes longer to cook. Repeat until all the chicken is coated and in the pan. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture.
Fry slowly until the bottom is a rich golden brown about 12 minutes. Carefully turn and fry until golden brown on all sides and just cooked through, about 12 minutes longer. The juices of a punctured piece should run clear, but try not test it this way more than you can help or you'll dry the chicken out. Remove the chicken with tongs, letting it drain well, blot briefly on absorbent paper, and transfer to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. If you are serving hot, keep warm.
When all the chicken is cooked, carefully pour or spoon off all but 2 tablespoons of cooking fat into a heatproof bowl. Put the pan back over the heat and add 1 tablespoon of flour left over from coating the chicken. Cook scraping the bottom to prevent scorching and loosen any bits of cooking residue, until it is lightly browned. Slowly stir in the cream and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly thickened. Let it simmer gently 3-4 minutes, but don't let it get too thick. If that happens, thin it will a little milk (not more cream). Season to taste with salt and pepper and pour into a sauceboat without straining it: The little bits of crust are an essential part of the flavor. Put the chicken on a serving platter and serve at once.