It's called "Independence Day Through Food" , and it's about my tradition of serving Edna Lewis' Fried Chicken every July 4th. Interested chicken fryers can scroll down to read the recipe. Over 24 hours to prepare, but trust me, it is so worth the effort.
Praise the Lord and pass the Lard!
(Adapted by Tamara Reynolds)
One 4.5 lb whole chicken, cut into 8-10 parts, or 3-4 packs of thigh parts, skin ON
Salt Water Brine** see below
1 Quart Buttermilk
1/8 tsp Cayenne -- more if you like it spicy!
1 lb lard (Fresh is best-- see your local bodega)
1 stick butter
1 good sized hunk of country ham
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbs Cornstarch
Salt and Pepper to taste.
** Salt water brine: The ratio is: 1/4 cup Kosher salt for each quart of water. Dissolve salt in water.
Start 24 hours before you want the chicken to be ready. Cover chicken with brine mixture in a non reactive pot or bowl, refrigerate. DO NOT use table salt: disaster will ensue. Brine chicken in saltwater for between 9 to 13 hours.
Remove chicken from brine. In another pot or bowl, combine the buttermilk and cayenne, add brined chicken, mix with your hands until coated, cover and refrigerate for another 12 hours. Wash your hands thoroughly, since raw chicken is like napalm!
Remove bowl from refrigerator, and let mixture sit until it nears room temperature. Remove chicken from buttermilk brine.
Heat lard and butter together in a deep skillet (ideally cast iron) to 375 degrees. Slice the country ham into a few slices, and fry pieces for about 10 minutes, until crispy. You may be tempted to skip this step, but don't. It is so worth it. The ham deepens the lard flavor.
While the ham is sizzling away, prepare your flour and cornstarch mixture in a wide shallow pan (I use a cake pan, but you get the idea.) Also, set up a large plate with wadded sheets of paper towel to drain cooked chicken pieces.
When the ham is crispy, remove from lard, drain, and share with the first person who comes into the kitchen and offers to help you... Dredge buttermilk coated chicken parts in the flour/cornstarch mixture. Add pepper. Dredge each piece twice, so that it is heavily battered.
Drop each piece into 375 degree fat. Do not overcrowd skillet, or the temperature will drop, and the chicken will not cook properly. Two pieces at once is ideal, or you can use multiple pans, if you're cooking for a crowd. Turn each piece after about 6-8 minutes per side. Watch your temperature! Parts are done when they float to the top of the lard, and are crisp and golden brown.
Drain on wadded up paper towels. Salt, and serve.
This is so good, it will make you cry.