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Don’t be a chicken, fry one

I don’t know many people who don’t like fried chicken, but I also don’t know many people who like to make it at home.

It’s tricky.

If your batter isn’t just right, it will slide off in the oil.

If your oil isn’t just right, it will either torch your chicken or it will come out greasy.

The payoff for doing it right is high – because what’s better than really good fried chicken? – but so is the risk.

You can find millions of recipes for fried chicken, and I actually use several myself.

But, one key component you’ll find in my house is buttermilk.

One thing you won’t find is shortening. Don’t get me wrong, I use shortening in tons of stuff but not as an oil substitute.

Most older recipes call for shortening. That out-of-this-world fried chicken your grandmother used to make? It probably used shortening.

Shortening is high in trans fats. And while fried chicken isn’t remotely healthy to begin with, anything you can do to make it a little better is smart.

Also, I use a whole fryer chicken and cut it into pieces myself. For one thing, it’s cheaper.

For another, everyone in my house likes different cuts of meat. Getting a whole chicken just makes sense for us.

If you’re brave enough to crank up your skillet and try your hand at some Southern Fired Chicken, give this a try.

You’ll need:

About a three pound fryer cut into pieces. You can buy pre-cut breasts, thighs, legs or whatever if you prefer. Make sure it is not skinless.

2 cups buttermilk

1 large onion, sliced

1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (parsley, basil and thyme) or a teaspoon each of the dried herbs

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon onion salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper

2 cups oil. I prefer canola oil but you can use peanut oil or any other oil with a high smoke-point

Soak your chicken for at least eight hours in buttermilk with onions, herbs, paprika and cayenne pepper. It’s best to soak it overnight but a minimum of 8 hours will work.

After the soak, drain but do not rinse your chicken. We want to leave some herbs on there. In a large and sturdy plastic bag, mix your flour with seasonings. Meanwhile, heat two cups oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet on medium high heat until a pinch of flour starts to sizzle when dropped in the hot oil. If your oil starts smoking, it’s too hot.

Place chicken pieces in the bag with your flour mixture and shake vigorously for about a minute. Add the chicken to hot pan and fry on one side for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Turn the pieces over and continue frying for another 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Once you pull your pieces from the oil, let them rest on a wire rack so the excess oil can drain off.

You’ll probably have to play with your heat a little while you’re frying; alternating between high and medium several times. The oil will continuously get hotter as the meat cooks, so you’ll have to adjust accordingly.

 Tiffany Cannon is a field editor for Taste of Home Magazine and owner of 2ate9 Bakery and Catering in Demopolis. She can be reached via email at tiffany@2ate9.com