Virginia Ali's Catch-a-Man Fried Chicken 4.000
Aug 22, 2008

The owners of Ben's Chili Bowl won't divulge the family recipe for their restaurant's namesake chili, but in a new book celebrating the landmark's 50th anniversary, they give out this recipe for matriarch Virginia Ali's fried chicken.

Servings: 4
  • 2 cups regular or low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sage
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco (optional)
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 1/2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken pieces
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening, such as Crisco


Combine the buttermilk, paprika, sage, cayenne pepper, hot pepper sauce, if desired, shallot and salt (about 1 teaspoon) and pepper to taste in a large mixing bowl. Add the chicken pieces, turning to coat evenly. Cover loosely and let them sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.

Combine the flours in a resealable plastic food storage bag, adding salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon). Working in batches, add the chicken pieces to the bag, shaking off any excess liquid. Seal; shake to coat evenly.

Line a baking sheet with layers of paper towels; if you have one, place a wire cooling rack over the paper towels.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, then add the shortening. Once the shortening has melted, add just enough chicken without crowding the skillet, shaking off any excess flour from the pieces. Fry for 10 to 12 minutes, until the pieces are crisp and golden brown. Use tongs to turn the pieces over and fry for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through; its juices will run clear. Transfer to the paper towel-lined baking sheet or rack.

VARIATION: To bake the chicken, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the flour-coated chicken pieces on a rimmed baking sheet, or preferably on a wire rack set on the baking sheet (make sure the rack is metal). Do not overcrowd. Drizzle with a small amount of melted butter; this will help to brown the chicken. Bake for 30 minutes, then use tongs to turn the pieces over and bake for 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and its juices run clear.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "Ben's Chili Bowl: 50 Years of a Washington, D.C. Landmark," by Tracey Gold Bennett, Nizam B. Ali (Arcadia Publishing, 2008).

Tested by Julia Beizer.

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