Southern fried chicken is a classic American dish, cooked in a thousand ways worldwide. Its origin goes back to the 18th century when African slaves arrived in America and used to cook fried chicken in their barracks, just like they did in their homeland. From a poor dish, cooked in palm oil, Southern fried chicken has become one of the most popular finger foods, served on picnics and at informal dinner parties or as a chip dish. Here is a simple Southern fried chicken recipe, based on yogurt marinade.
1. For 4 servings you need about one and a half kilos of chicken pieces. Though the original recipe suggests to cook the pieces of a whole chicken, including breast and whole legs, wings and thighs are usually the most suitable parts, since they roast faster and perfectly inside. Skin removing is optional, but advisable if you like a lighter Southern fried chicken. Other ingridients include 250 ml plain yogurt, 250 ml milk, juice from 2 lemons, 250g flour, a little salt and black pepper, 1 level teaspoon of ground mild paprika.
2. To prepare the marinade, pour the yogurt into a large bowl and gradually combine with milk and lemon juice, alternating both ingredients, until you have a liquid mixture. Add 1 teaspoon paprika, a bit pepper and mix well again. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes. Do not use a metal bowl, since acid mixtures can react with metal.
3. Put the chicken pieces into the mixture, ensuring that they are evenly coated, and let them sit for 15 minutes.
4. Fill a plastic bag with flour and after you have put the chicken inside, close it, leaving enough space to let air in and shake it vigorously. For a crunchier coating, repeat the step twice by removing the chicken pieces from the flour and shaking them in the plastic bag again.
5. Pour vegetable oil into a large medium-height pan and test frying temperature by dipping the handle of a long wooden spoon into the oil. If small bubbles form around the bottom of the handle, it is the right time to put the chicken pieces into the pan.
6. Cook at least 20 minutes, turning the parts over until they are overall golden brown and crispy. To avoid excessive browning during cooking, you can reduce heat and increase it again after a while.
7. When the chicken pieces are well roasted, both inside and outside, remove them from the pan and drain well on towel paper. Add salt to taste and serve with green salad or potatoes.
Many other variations of Southern fried chicken exist. Some of them suggest a longer marinade that can last a few hours, adding fresh herbs such as thyme, oregano, parsley, garlic and onion powder. Up to 12 spices are used, for instance, to flavor Kentucky fried chicken. Beyond each variation, suggested by local cooking habits and personal taste, an appetizing Southern fried chicken must be evenly golden brown, crispy and crunchy to be defined as such.