Southern fried chicken & carrot slaw

Photo by Keri White

I  had a hankering for fried chicken last week. This happens about once a year.

The chicken is delicious but — like all fried food — is best enjoyed in small doses and on rare occasions.

Oftentimes, a fried chicken dinner is accompanied by biscuits, gravy, mashed potatoes, onion rings — all of which are delicious indulgences. But on top of the fried chicken, these heavy, dense dishes leave me feeling somewhere between stuffed and ill.

I managed to avoid that fate on the Sunday in question when I concocted the idea of serving the chicken with a green salad and some carrot slaw. The carrots were fresh, having been bought that day at the farmers market, and the slaw complemented the chicken nicely.

Southern Fried Chicken

Serves 2-4
The traditional version of this recipe uses buttermilk as the marinade, but for kosher and kosher-style diners, this is a problem. Instead, you can substitute a nondairy milk, mayonnaise mixed with water or oil.

The technique I used to finish cooking the chicken in the oven was a cinch; one of the challenges with frying chicken is ensuring that it is cooked through without cutting it open or piercing it with a meat thermometer. If it’s done, you have let some of the flavor and juice escape; if it’s not, you are putting a cut piece back into the sizzling fat. Neither is a great option.

I used two large bone-in breasts, which I cut into three pieces each for a total of six pieces.

This served two of us generously with two pieces left for lunch the next day. Quantities can be adjusted for your crowd as needed, and you can substitute the cuts that you prefer, such as drumsticks, wings, etc. The cooking time may slightly vary if the pieces are thinner and smaller.

For the chicken
2 large bone-in chicken breasts, cut in 2 or 3 pieces, each about the size of a woman’s fist
½ cup mayonnaise mixed with ½ cup water to achieve a milk-like consistency
1 onion, sliced
½ jalapeno pepper, sliced
1 teaspoon salt

For the coating
⅔ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder

For the frying
6-8 cups canola oil or solid vegetable shortening such as Crisco; it should be about 1½ inches deep in the pan

In a large zip-seal bag, mix all the marinade ingredients and place the chicken in the bag to coat. Marinate it for 2-24 hours. About 2 hours before cooking, remove the bag from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.

Mix the coating ingredients in another large zip-seal bag and shake the bag to mix.

Place a wire rack on a baking tray and, one piece at a time, shake off the marinade and place the chicken in the flour mixture, shake it to coat, remove it and place on the rack.

Heat your oven to 275 degrees. Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet or similarly heavy pan with a lid. When the oil reaches 350 degrees (use a candy thermometer) place several pieces of chicken in the pan. Do not crowd the pan; a large skillet holds 3-4 pieces at most.

Cover and cook the chicken for 6 minutes. At 3 minutes, raise the lid and, using tongs, check that the chicken is not sticking to the bottom. Replace the cover. At 6 minutes, flip the chicken pieces and cook them for another 6 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and place it back on the rack. Repeat this process until all pieces are fried.

Place the chicken on the rack over the pan in the oven and allow it to cook for about 20 minutes. This ensures that the chicken is cooked through without drying it. Serve immediately.

Carrot Slaw

Serves 4 generously
Use the freshest carrots you can find; the flavor and crispness make a big difference.
10 large carrots, unpeeled, ends removed
1 small onion
1 scant handful fresh parsley
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup pickle juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Using a food processor, shred the carrots, onions and parsley. Place them in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Toss to blend, and allow the mixture to sit for several hours for maximum flavor.

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