Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Classic Meals: Esther's Fried Chicken

I've been sitting here trying to put words together for two hours and thinking how I use to complain about writer's block all the time. It was my ultimate excuse. Writer's block meant I didn't have to query work on my assignments or my fiction. I could go out for a walk or get a pedicure or clean the bathtub. Nowadays, ever since baby girl was born to be exact, I just don't have time for writer's block and I've found the a** in chair approach really is best (except for when the Internet and email beckons.) But really, now that I have a babysitter to come while I'm working, I feel like she's babysitting me too and ensures I work!

Ahh, I needed to say that. Now I can write to you about more important things: Esther's Fried Chicken. Esther is my grandmother's cook. She's a tall, soft-spoken women of my grandmother's generation. And she's been frying chicken since my mother was in diapers.

Until last Thursday when I went to my grandmother's for dinner, I always thought of fried chicken as a breaded affair. Some thick and crumbly. Delicious, but not for the faint of heart. Esther has changed all that and I'm starting to think that all the breaded chickies we see isn't what fried chicken was originally. Esther is of the old Southern tradition and I'm going to believe her when she says "season the chicken first, shake it in a bag with a little flour and fry it up slow."

That's it. That's all Esther did and lemme tell you everyone from baby girl to my grandmother ate in silent ecstasy. The outside is crispy and crunchy all around with an extra special crunch around the skin. And, with every bite there is actually moist chicken. I'm use to eating the breading first, but this version is all about the chicken. Esther's recommendation to season the chicken first also means that the chicken is bright and spiced.

I was so inspired that I decided to make it this weekend for the hubby since he wasn't down in Virginia with us last week. I picked up a whole chicken cut into parts from Dickson's Farmstand, I seasoned it with some sweet paprika, salt and pepper and then shook it in a plastic bag (rather than the paper one I'm sure Esther used) with just a touch of flour. Frying chicken doesn't mean submerging it in oil - well not entirely anyway. I cooked it in vegetable oil slowly like Esther said. The results? AMAZING!!! I was worried since it looked like all the flour was going to wash off in the oil, but instead it provide a light coating so that the chicken could get crunchy all around without weighing it down.

Esther's Fried Chicken
(This is a great every-so-often Sunday dinner. While it doesn't taste at all greasy, I still wouldn't recommend frying anything too often:) And in the great Southern tradition, my grandmother recommends making this for a picnic with some potato salad and deviled eggs.)

What You'll Need:
1 Whole Chicken cut into breasts, thighs and drumsticks (reserve the backs, wings and neck for stock)
Sweet Paprika

Set a large frying pan over a medium heat and add enough vegetable oil to cover a third of the chicken's height. Bring to a shimmer. 

Pat the chicken pieces dry and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper all around. Then sprinkle lightly with paprika. 

Add about three tablespoons of flour to a plastic freezer bag and, working one piece at a time, shake the chicken in the bag until it's well coated. Remove the chicken from the bag and tap it lightly to remove any excess flour. 

Test the oil with one piece of chicken. There should be a nice sizzle. Add all the pieces skin-side down and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook another 10 minutes. Keep flipping the chicken until a thermometer reads 180. It took me about 35-40 minutes. If the chicken browns too quickly turn the heat down a bit. You want a nice steady cook and golden brown chicken. Remove the chicken to a plate of paper towels.

To serve, place the chicken on a platter and serve it family style. That night, we had baked beans and a lovely green salad. Enjoy!!

Approximate Cost:
Groceries: $20
Cost per Meal: Expect four to five servings from this one.

Bookmark and Share


  1. Really enjoyed reading your fried chicken post. This technique is quite similar to the way I prepare fried chicken (http://www.lanascooking.com/2009/05/26/real-simple-fried-chicken/)

    Just a simple coating of seasoning and flour, nothing more, is all that's needed for the authentic southern style.

  2. Oh! I'm so glad to hear from a fellow flour follower:) Will definitely check out your post!

  3. Do you hear me moaning? I love fried chicken. I usually use Paula Deen's recipe - she says to season your chicken first as well. She uses self-rising flour as a coating though. I think fried chicken tastes best about four hours after it's been made, at room temp, so I agree with your grandma about taking it on a picnic!

  4. Great minds think alike: We both write about fried chicken on the same day. And now you've shown me how easy it is to make...I'm in trouble!

  5. wow....the picture looks divine. The ingredients are amazingly simple!

  6. Oh, my. You have my mouth watering. It's almost dinner time and I chicken is not on the menu at our house .... sigh!

  7. Definitely sounds like the fried chicken I used to have in Mississippi as a child. Want!

  8. Wow, who knew this could be so easy? Looks wonderful. Must have it.

  9. Thanks everyone!! Sheryl, I had no idea fried chicken could be had in under and hour. I'm sort of scared now that I know I can have it any time I want!

  10. My mom's from the south (though moved to Michigan to marry my dad), so we ate a lot of fried chicken growing up. Love it, and that sounds like a wonderfully simple recipe.

    And Peggy, I could eat that photo in your post.

  11. Sounds really simple and delicious, Peggy! Might have to make this for the boyfriend sometime. (He loves chicken but usually buys it precooked and preseasoned.)

  12. this is how my grandmother made fried chicken too... and something I've discovered as an adult, this method also works to make great crispy onion rings (which I bake in the oven rather than fry, but works with frying as well).

  13. Wow, so many fellow Southerners and/or children of...

    Kerry - I have to try this with onion rings!! Great idea! I think I might have to try this with all sorts of veggies now that you've inspired me.

  14. I'm not even American but I do make fried chicken! And I only use seasoning - paprika, mixed herbs and turmeric (proven to reduce heart disease, which I think balances the fat in this dish!!). I also use shortening instead of oil.

    Love this blog, another great recipe!! Please give us a recipe for baked onion rings - nom nom nom...

  15. Oops, meant I only use seasoned flour!!

  16. Ooops, I meant I only use seasoned flour!!

  17. This recipe looks so good. I love Vicky's idea of adding turmeric as well!

  18. Oh I do too! Now that I think of it, the beauty of this recipe is you can use almost any spice you like: cumin, cayenne, etc. Thanks, Vicky!

  19. Yummy...I shouldn't be reading this so close to lunch when all i have to eat is a sandwich. :)

    I'll have to make this one Sunday soon! Thanks for the great post

  20. Oh man, that looks yum. Simply yum. I thought all chicken was breaded, too.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin