Francine Helton, owner of Flavors Soul Food restaurant in Falls Church, will not go public about how to make the fried chicken she serves. But she did offer this all-purpose recipe with the following tips: Brine the chicken to keep the meat juicy. Season the chicken and let it rest (refrigerated) long enough for some flavor to develop in the meat. Coat the chicken sparingly; it should get just a dusting. And don't be afraid to fry.
Make Ahead: The chicken needs to be brined for at least 15 minutes, then seasoned and refrigerated overnight.
Servings: 4 - 8
- For the brine
- 1 3- to 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- For the chicken
- 1/4 cup seasoning blend, such as McCormick Season-All Seasoned Salt
- For the coating
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon seasoning blend, such as McCormick Season-All Seasoned Salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- For frying
- Corn oil
For the brine: Fill a large pot halfway with water. Add salt and stir to dissolve; there should be enough to make the water taste as salty as seawater. Add the chicken pieces and make sure they are completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly and pat dry (discarding the brine).
Use the 2 tablespoons of seasoning blend to rub all over the chicken. Place the chicken in large resealable plastic food storage bags; seal and refrigerate overnight.
For the coating: Combine the flour, paprika, onion powder, the 1 teaspoon seasoning blend and salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste in a wide bowl; mix well. Dip the chicken pieces in the mixture so they are lightly coated all over; shake off any excess. (Discard the remaining flour mixture after dusting all the chicken.)
To fry: Fill a large, deep cast-iron skillet with enough oil to come halfway up the sides of the chicken when it's placed in the skillet (at least 3/4 inches of oil). Heat the oil to 325 degrees (over medium to medium-high heat). If you don't have a thermometer to measure the oil temperature, sprinkle a few drops of water into the oil; they should sizzle vigorously. Line a large platter with several layers of paper towel.
Add about half of the chicken pieces and cook for about 20 minutes, turning the chicken over or moving it around the skillet as needed to keep it from getting browned too quickly. To check for doneness, use a sharp knife to make a small slit at a joint, or insert an instant-read thermometer at that spot (about 170 degrees for white meat, 180 degrees for dark meat). Use tongs to transfer the chicken to the paper-towel-lined platter. Let the oil return to 350 degrees, if needed, then repeat to cook the remaining chicken.
Serve hot, at room temperature or cold.
From Francine Helton, owner of Flavors Soul Food in Falls Church.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.