Felicity Cloake’s Southern fried chicken

Great recipe from her new book Perfect Too

Fried chicken is taking over the world. Or, at least, taking over Britain. Deep-fried, wrapped in seasoned batter, and served in boxes and buckets.

Done well, it can be pretty addictive stuff: juicy meat, served on the bone for flavour, in a crisp, spicy and ever so slightly greasy crust is always going to be finger-licking good. But sadly, if the stuff being eaten on the top deck of the bus is anything to go by, it’s not: flabby batter, stringy, fat-sodden chicken.

Much better to make it yourself. I’d recommend using only thighs and drumsticks: bland breasts takes ages to cook through, by which time the batter is inevitably overcooked, and wings, in my experience, don’t offer a good enough meat to batter ratio. And – controversially – I’d remove the skin: I know any good southern housewife will stop reading at this point, but it doesn’t crisp up under the batter, and chewy skin is not nice.

If, like me, you don’t adore the mess and drama of deep-frying, you’ll be relieved to know that I prefer a shallow-fried version – deep-frying is more difficult to control, and surprisingly, yields a less crisp coating.

Serves 2–3
300ml buttermilk
1½ teaspoons salt
6 pieces of chicken (I use a mixture of legs and thighs)
150g plain flour
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Vegetable oil, for frying

1 Put the buttermilk and 1 teaspoon of salt into a container large enough to hold all the chicken, and then add the meat and toss to coat. Cover and chill for about 8 hours if possible, allowing it to return to room temperature before cooking.

Perfect Too_rgb2 Put the flour, spices and ½ teaspoon of salt into a large, flat dish and whisk to combine. Pour 1.5cm of vegetable oil into a wide, straight-sided pan with a lid, and heat until very hot: a cube of bread dropped in should brown almost immediately (about 170°C).

3 Wipe as much buttermilk off the chicken pieces as you can, then roll them in the seasoned flour until thoroughly coated.

4 Put the chicken in one layer in the pan (you may need to do this in batches, depending on how big your pan is) and put the lid on. Turn the heat right down and fry the chicken for 6 minutes, then turn the pieces over, cover again and cook for another 6 minutes. Prepare a rack, and lots of kitchen paper to drain the chicken.

5 Turn the heat up and fry the chicken until it’s a deep golden colour on all sides. Lift on to the rack and dry with kitchen paper. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Having  tried and tested recipes from all the greats – Elizabeth David and Delia Smith to Nigel Slater and Simon Hopkinson – Felicity Cloake has pulled together the best points from each to create her perfect version of 91 classic dishes. Perfect Too by Felicity Cloake (Fig Tree) is out now

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