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Barbara Chisholm's favorite fried-chicken recipe


I make chicken once a year. It's not that it's not good enough to eat more often. It's just that it's sinful enough with its fat and crust and fat that I cannot rationalize serving it up more than once a year. It's so damn good, though, I cannot give it up altogether. In addition to its caloric sins, it's time-consuming and messy to make. But hell, if you're making fried chicken, make great fried chicken. This recipe is based on Ruth Reichl's from Tender at the Bone.

Serves eight or so chicken piece.s (Our family likes a mixture of breasts and wings and thighs. Others like to cut up a whole chicken and get a couple of drumsticks in the bargain. Whatever.)

½ cup plus 1½ teaspoons kosher salt

3 cups well-shaken buttermilk

2 onions, thinly sliced

1 cup flour

½ teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

2 cups vegetable shortening

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter

The day before you want to eat the chicken: Put the chicken in a baking dish and sprinkle with a half-cup of kosher salt. Cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour. Combine buttermilk and onions in a large bowl. Rinse chicken well, and add to buttermilk. Marinate, cover, and refrigerate for at least eight hours. (This is your overnight job.)

Put flour, cayenne, black pepper, and remaining salt into a plastic or paper bag, and shake to combine. Remove one piece of chicken from buttermilk, shake off excess liquid, place in bag with flour, and shake to coat well. Transfer to a sheet of wax paper. Do the same with all the chicken pieces, one at a time. Allow chicken to air-dry 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Heat shortening and butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Fried-chicken aficionados love a cast-iron skillet, and I bet they're right, but I don't have one, and I don't want to buy one for chicken for fear that I'll make it more often. I use my big ole heavy stainless steel skillet. Add two or three chicken pieces skin side down, however many can fit in the pan while still leaving room between pieces. Cover pan, reduce heat to low, and cook for 10 minutes. Turn chicken over and cook, covered, until juices run clear. (Breasts usually are eight minutes, legs more like 12). Transfer chicken to paper bag or paper-towel lined platter and keep warm in oven while you fry up the rest. Eat the skin. Really. It's the only time I eat chicken skin. Well, almost.

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