I was very lucky to grow up in a big family of farm-house cooks. My maternal Grandpa had 9 brothers and sisters. They were all born and raised in and around Washington wheat country, in Whitman County. Many of them had farms, leased farms, worked on farms; wheat, cattle, hogs, chickens. My Grandma and my Mom, and all the other women folk in the county, spent hundreds of hours making enormous Sunday style suppers; everyday, during wheat harvest. No dishwasher, limited refrigeration, and a wood fired stove…can you even imagine?
By the time the 9 brothers and sisters married and had kids, and their kids had kids; we totaled over 100. About half of the original 9 brothers and sisters and their spouses, moved off the farms. They did not, however, give up “farm style” cooking. Fresh cream, fresh butter, vegetable, chickens, pork and beef were bought from their previous neighbors or raised on their own farm! These great cooks and farm raised food led to some pretty spectacular grub, at our family reunions! Cakes, pies, salads (long before we worried about potato salad sitting out too long), home-made bread, rolls, cookies and FRIED CHICKEN! I remember the chicken, and I am lucky enough to have watched my Grandma and Mom make it 100’s of times. My recipe is my own, and I don’t shake it in a brown paper bag, mostly because I don’t have any! While this was a frequent Sunday supper as a kid, it is now a one or two time a year treat!
For the Fried Chicken
1 fresh chicken, preferably organic, cut into 8 pieces (cut each breast half in 2 pieces)
1 quart of buttermilk
3 Tablespoons of Mrs. Dash
1 Teaspoon Garlic Pepper
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Poultry Seasoning
1 dash Paprika
Place the chicken pieces in a large glass bowl. Add enough buttermilk to cover all the chicken. (You may not need the whole quart.) Add the seasonings. Toss the chicken to distribute evenly. Cover with plastic wrap, and marinate overnight.
Remove the chicken from the buttermilk. Place in a colander in the sink and let the extra buttermilk drip off. Meanwhile, add a cup of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper to a sturdy plastic bag. (You made need to add flour, salt and pepper a couple more times.)
Pour about 2 inches of peanut oil into a large heavy pan – like a Dutch oven. Heat over medium high heat. Place chicken in bag of flour, 2 pieces at a time, and shake to coat evenly. Place chicken in hot oil and fry on all sides until evenly brown. Remove chicken from oil and place on a baking pan with a rack. Repeat until all chicken has been fried. (DO NOT discard the flour, you will need it for the gravy.) If you intend to serve with mashed potatoes, you may want to start those now.
Place the chicken in a 325′ oven for about 20 minutes, or until a thermometer reads a minimum of 165′, in the thickest piece. Start the gravy!
For the Country Gravy
flour from coating chicken
fat from frying chicken
8 ounces chicken stock
1 quart of milk
salt and pepper
Drain all but about 1/4 cup of oil from the pan the chicken has been frying in. (Make sure you retain all the little brown bits!) Heat the oil in the pan over medium heat.
Sprinkle in about 1/2 cup of the seasoned flour you were dredging the chicken in.
Stir with a whisk until flour and oil are incorporated, and a roux is formed. Once the roux is slightly browned, add in the chicken stock. The mixture will be very thick. Lower the heat and continue to mix thoroughly.
When the stock is fully incorporated, turn heat to low and whisk in about 75% of the milk. Continue to stir. Taste for seasoning. Add additional stock or milk if gravy is too thick. Keep warm until ready to serve.
When ready to plate, place chicken, your favorite mashed potatoes, and vegetable on plate. Spoon gravy over potatoes. Garnish with fresh, chopped parsley. Savor every bite…and do not tell your cardiologist about this meal!