Southern fried chicken

There’s a mysterious colonel down our street who sells this by the bucketful. Given the complexity of the Deep South of the US, there are many variations of this much-loved regional dish. Here’s a beginner’s version to try out.

To make southern fried chicken for six hungry diners, you will need:

  • 12 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground paprika
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground dried chillies
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 3 cups sunflower or canola oil
  • ½ cup bacon fat
  • Red Tabasco on demand for each diner 

The big deal here is learning how to deep-fry. Use a cast iron Dutch oven with a lid as your basic equipment and buy a cooking thermometer that reads up to 200°C. Be alert and careful – hot oil is dangerous. We begin with the preparation of the chicken thighs. Pour the flour and all the dried seasoning ingredients into a large Ziploc bag. Seal it and shake to evenly distribute the contents. Add the thighs, reseal the bag and shake again to lightly coat the raw chicken with the seasoned flour.

Now for the high heat and drama. Pour the sunflower or canola oil (never extra virgin olive oil), as well as the bacon fat, into the Dutch oven. If bacon fat is not what you want, replace it with an equivalent volume of sunflower or canola oil. However, think twice before doing this, as bacon fat adds splendid complexity to the final outcome.

Clip the thermometer to the side of the pot and, on medium heat, carefully bring the oil temperature up to 180°C. Be vigilant during the entire process and do not let the oil get hotter than this.

Use long-handled braai tongs to add three thighs to the oil. You will need to cook in batches to maintain the right temperature. Cook each side for four minutes, turning the thighs four times. The last time, do this with the lid on. Remove from the pot and let them drain on fresh paper towels. Continue cooking in batches until the thighs are done. Switch off the heat and let the chicken pieces cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Side-order time! Well folks, what have we got that’s better than the colonel’s? Let me suggest mashed sweet potato mixed with butter and a teaspoon of coarse Dijon-style mustard.

For greens, lightly boiled beans dressed with a little hot butter add their own special magic to the mix, as does a fresh green salad. Instead of lettuce, try a combination of watercress, baby spinach leaves and rocket. Add a cup or two of tiny tomatoes (the size of marbles), chopped spring onion tops and radishes for colour and crunch.

A hearty, satisfying meal. Keep the recipe your secret!