by Chef Jeff
From Chef Jeff Cooks: In the Kitchen with America’s Inspirational New Culinary Star (Simon & Schuster). Used with permission.
The great debate over fried chicken always has to do with how best to get that crispy, flavorful outside—oh, and okay, which part of the chicken tastes best fried. Well, these days we know that fried foods are not good for your health, so I recommend you don’t eat this dish too often. But every once in a while it’s okay to dust off that cast-iron skillet and fry up some good ol’ chicken. This was one of the first recipes I learned, thanks to my former mentor in prison, Friendly Womack Jr. What makes it so great is that the chicken gets seasoned three times, and the meat is pierced with a fork to let the flavors permeate. I am not going to say this anymore. Get your skillet out and follow this recipe to a tee. Oh, and also do this: Fry one wing first to make sure the oil is hot enough and the flavor is what you want before you do the whole batch. Read the story, folks!
Serves 4 to 6
What You’ll Need
3/4 cup ground black pepper
2/3 cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons onion powder
4 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
16 chicken wings
1/4 cup buttermilk
5 cups canola oil
What To Do
- To make the Friendly spice mix, stir the pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne together. Divide it in half and add one-half to the flour. Mix well with a fork and set aside.
- Rinse the chicken wings and pat dry with paper towels. Place the wings on a flat surface. Using a fork, pierce the chicken wings to allow the spices to permeate.
- Tuck the chicken wings at the joint and season them with the second half of the spice mix. Place them in a medium bowl and coat them with the buttermilk. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
- When ready to fry, remove the chicken from refrigerator and dust it well with the seasoned flour. Hit two pieces together to shake off the excess flour.
- Heat the oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet to about 375 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, test the heat by dipping the end of one wing in the hot oil. If the oil starts boiling heavily, it’s too hot. The oil should have a medium boil when the chicken is dropped in.
- Gently drop the wings in the oil and fry, turning two or three times, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the skillet to a large plate lined with paper towels.
- Serve with Buttermilk Waffles (page 211) and maple syrup.
What’s the Story
Some thirteen years ago Friendly Womack and I had a little chicken business at Club Fed. We sold fried chicken to a select clientele in the yard who would often trade goods and services for it. After Friendly left prison, I ran our business solo. I played with the recipe (which Friendly wouldn’t have allowed) and began to marinate the chicken in a little buttermilk. Then I added cayenne to make it a bit spicy. That’s the story behind Friendly Fried Chicken. To this day, people love it. When I was executive chef at Café Bellagio, I used this same jailhouse recipe, and it was our number one special next to my braised beef short ribs.