Adapted from Bon Appetit, Y'all by Virginia Willis
Fried chicken is as deeply rooted in Southern culture as kudzu. It would be my hands–down choice for my last supper. Meme knew how much I loved it and spoiled me. When I lived far away and flew home to visit, it didn't matter what time of the day or night I arrived − 2:00 P.M. or 2:00 A.M. − she would be at the stove frying chicken to welcome me home.
1 (4-pound) chicken, cut into pieces
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound (2 cups) solid vegetable shortening, preferablly Crisco, for frying, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons unsalted parve margarine
2 cups chicken stock or low-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth, or 1 cup parve milk plus 1 cup chicken stock or broth
Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Set aside. Place the flour in a shallow plate and season with cayenne, salt, and pepper. Set aside. Line a baking sheet or large plate with brown paper bags or several layers of paper towels.
Heat the shortening in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat until the temperature measures 375°F on a deep-fat thermometer.
Meanwhile, to fry the chicken, starting with the dark meat (since it takes longer to cook) and working one piece at a time, dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour, turning to coat. Shake to remove excess flour. Reserve any leftover seasoned flour for the gravy.
One piece at a time, slip the chicken into the hot fat without crowding; the fat should not quite cover the chicken. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain the temperature at 375°F. At this stage, a splatter guard (a wire cover laid over the pan) may prove useful to contain the hot grease. The guard lets the steam escape, while allowing the chicken to brown nicely.
Fry the pieces, turning them once or twice, until the coating is a rich, golden brown on all sides, 10 to 14 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cover the skillet. Continue cooking until the chicken is cooked all the way through and the juices run clear when pricked with a knife, an additional 10 to 15 minutes. (An instant-read thermometer inserted into a thigh should register 170°F.) Remove the pieces and drain on the prepared baking sheet. (Do not hold the chicken in a warm oven; it will get soggy.)
To make the gravy, remove the skillet from the heat. Pour off most of the grease, leaving 2 to 3 tablespoons and any browned bits.
Decrease the heat to very low. Add the parve margarine and cook until foaming. Add 4 tablespoons of the reserved seasoned flour and stir to combine. Cook, whisking constantly, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the stock. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring often, until the gravy is smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add more stock or water to achieve the correct consistency. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
Recipes: Poultry, Chicken, Fried, Kosher