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La Belle Cuisine
Lou’s Fried Chicken
(The Best Darned Fried Chicken
in the Whole Darned Universe)
"If six cooks followed the same
the finished dish would vary six times."
~ Theodora Fitzgibbon
know how it is. Somebody
cooks up something marvelous. The
very thought of it makes your mouth water – not to mention the aroma. To die for. You, of
course, want to re-create this masterpiece.
Finally, you ask for the recipe… You know what’s coming, right?
Try as you might, you simply cannot do it justice.
Why not? That, dear
fellow food aficionado, is among the most difficult questions in the world
Particularly in this case, as there was no recipe to begin with.
Annie Lou, God rest her weary soul, was a jewel in our household
during a time in my life when I needed an angel. My job was extremely
demanding, my schedule was hectic and crazy-making, and I had two young
sons. My prayer was that I could find someone to be there in the afternoon
– primarily for my sons – and incidentally to do some light housework
(if time allowed) and laundry (if time allowed). And there was Annie
A Godsend. Whose gift
(in addition to having been granted the patience of
Job) was the ability
to fry chicken like no other mortal before or since. (I know, I know.
Except your mama, right?)
”Recipe?!?!?! Miz Michele,
you be pullin’ my po’ ole leg, right? You know Annie
Lou ain’t got no recipe. Been fryin’ up dis heah
chicken since I was knee-high to
a grasshopper. Recipe. Harumpf!”
So, like Miss Daisy and Hoke trying to duplicate Idella's fried
chicken, I tried
to conjure up years of watching Annie Lou, did my best to
duplicate what she did,
and came pretty darned close.
But no cigar. I’m still working on it………
2 1/2-3-pound whole chickens,
cut into serving pieces
2 cups buttermilk
teaspoon garlic powder
tablespoon seasoned salt (these days
Essence or Tony
Chachere’s Creole Seasoning)
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning (to taste),
or ground thyme
teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
oil for frying (although Annie Lou
insists lard is best!)
the chicken pieces and place them in a large bowl. Mix together the
buttermilk and 3 tablespoons salt and pour the mixture over the chicken
cover. Let the chicken stand at least 1 hour at room temperature (or
together the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, garlic powder, seasoned salt or
Creole seasoning, poultry seasoning, paprika and pepper.
This is important: You must use a
well-seasoned deep cast iron skillet to fry chicken the Southern way ( is
there really any other way???). It will not be the same if you don’t.
You may as well trust me on this. You
will need at least enough peanut oil (you can use some other oil, but it
won’t be as
good) to come about 1 inch up the side of the skillet. And
please do NOT place the chicken pieces in cold oil!
Heat the oil to about 350-375 degrees
F. If you don’t have a
thermometer, then at least do a test with a small
piece of bread or
Drain the chicken well. Dredge
the chicken pieces in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess flour.
Annie Lou says the ONLY way to do this is
to shake the chicken
pieces in the flour in a brown paper bag. Okay? (I use
a plastic bag because paper bags are not that easy to come
by these days.) You will need to fry the chicken in batches, you so may as
well do your
best to fry the smaller pieces together (legs, thighs, etc.)
and the breasts together so that they will be done at approximately the
same time. Watch
carefully – hot enough to keep the oil bubbling, but not so hot as
burn the chicken.
This is where it gets to be controversial. Some folks swear by covering the skillet for part of the cooking
time, and some folks would rather be caught
at a dog fight by the
preacher. Annie Lou says you
must cover the skillet,
at least partially, for part of the cooking time, but that the skillet
must be uncovered for at least the last few minutes. What can I tell you? Her in-
for this is probably what separates her chicken from mine. That,
fact that in her all-too-short stay on this earth,
she fried hundreds more chickens than I did. Or ever will.
yes, how long to fry the chicken? About
9-10 minutes on each side, depending on the size of the chicken pieces.
That’s about it. You’ll want
to drain the chicken on paper towels on a
big tray. And be sure to
tray far enough back on the kitchen counter so your 6-month-old
Beagle-Bassett puppy won’t come prancing into the living room, proud
peacock, with a chicken leg in his mouth.
have mercy, I almost forgot the gravy! Blasphemy! Well, I
make a BIG batch of gravy, because I like it even better than the
Save about 1/2 cup of oil from frying the chicken. Make a roux using
1/2 cup flour, stirring, stirring, stirring, for
about 3 minutes. If you
cook the roux long enough, the gravy will taste pasty. Yuck.
using a combination of chicken broth and milk like some folks
to put chicken bouillon cubes in milk. You’ll need enough
for 1 quart of milk. (I told you this makes a lot of gravy. If you
don’t want this much, just halve the amounts. No problem.
you might not
have any leftover chicken gravy. Your choice.) It’s best
to heat the milk
and dissolve the bouillon cubes in it,
but you can get
away without heating
it if you must. Just be sure not to neglect the
gravy, as it needs your
attention. Pour the milk in
Eventually the mixture will start to bubble and thicken up.
Be sure to
lots of black pepper. Lots. And if you aren’t going to
biscuits with this meal, (preferably both, and some
cole slaw), I just don’t know what to tell
And maybe some green beans,
too. Squash casserole, butter beans
black-eyed peas... and
greens! You might as well whip up a batch of
cornbread while you're at it,
right? And pecan pie for dessert!
about some chess
pie, for a change? Mercy, mercy, mercy, somebody
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