I will eat fried chicken hot, cold and anywhere in between. Although I’ve had some delicious bites of it when dining out, it is, admittedly, never as good as when we make it at home. That’s probably because of the buttermilk and paprika brine we place the chicken in overnight. It results in the most moist, smoky, flavorful chicken.
My husband, Glenn, is a bona fide fried chicken master and knows the perfect way to achieve that gorgeous mahogany brown skin I so crave. Now you can impress your friends and loved ones just like he wows me with the recipe on this page, served alongside some fresh, homemade buttermilk biscuits (recipe on page 68).
Smoky Paprika Fried Chicken
4 to 6
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons smoked or plain sea salt
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- dash of hot sauce
- 3 pounds chicken drumsticks
- 3 cups peanut oil for frying
- 1 egg
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
- freshly ground black pepper
- Whisk the buttermilk, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon of the salt, paprika and hot sauce in a bowl until fully combined.
- Place the chicken in a sealable food storage bag, or an appropriate size dish, and pour the buttermilk brine over it. Seal the bag or cover the dish and leave to soak in the refrigerator for 6 to 12 hours (longer is better), turning occasionally.
- Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and separate the chicken from the buttermilk, reserving the buttermilk in a mixing bowl.
- Let the chicken sit at room temperature on a large plate or platter for about 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place a metal cooling rack over a large rimmed baking pan. Lay the chicken pieces on the rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and set aside until cool to the touch, about 15 minutes.
- When the chicken is cool enough to handle, heat about ¾ inch of peanut oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet to about 310 degrees F.
- While the oil heats, whisk the egg into the reserved buttermilk mixture until fully combined.
- Mix the flour, the remaining 1 tablespoon salt, garlic and a dozen generous grinds of pepper in a shallow baking pan.
- Holding the handle on a drumstick, dip it into the buttermilk mixture, then dredge it in the flour, and set it aside on a clean plate or platter. Repeat with all the pieces. If you like a thick crust, repeat the process.
- Cook the chicken in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Turn the pieces every 2 minutes using long metal tongs, for about 12 minutes, until they are a deep, rich, reddish brown.
- Set aside to cool on a wire rack for several minutes before serving.
Biscuits have been consumed in the South for centuries. Early iterations, according to Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart in their book Southern Biscuits, were made solely of flour and water, essentially hardtack, able to withstand long travel. Over time, fats—such as lard, butter and, later, vegetable shortening or oil—and baking powder, a creation of the 1800s, were added to the mix.
These days, you won’t find any hard-and-fast, definitive recipe for biscuit-making. There exist as many ways to make biscuits as there are means of consuming them. Some rise high from the pan while others are short little things. Some are ultra-crispy on the outside, while others are moist throughout. Cut biscuits, drop biscuits, tiny biscuits—there is a biscuit for every need, persuasion and inclination.
This biscuit recipe was born out of a deep desire to create my ideal specimen. I prefer a biscuit that is cut (as opposed to dropped), with sharp edges providing crispiness as well as evidence of flaky layers inside. I want my biscuits covered in melted butter just before baking, producing a top that is golden brown and offering a hit of fat and salt. The recipe makes a dozen smaller biscuits. If you want half as many large ones that you can fill with a fried egg, use a 3½-inch cutter.
about 1 dozen
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 8 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted, for biscuit tops
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl until fully incorporated.
- Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in the cold butter until the mixture begins to look crumbly but some pea-size chunks of butter remain.
- Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Slowly add the buttermilk. Stir with a large spoon just until the liquid has been absorbed into the flour.
- Dump the shaggy dough onto a lightly floured countertop. Knead the dough with your hands, pressing it over and onto itself about three times. (This helps create the flaky layers that form inside biscuits.)
- Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough to about ¾-inch thickness. With a 2½-inch biscuit cutter, cut out about 12 biscuits, re-rolling scraps of dough as necessary.
- Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, distribute the melted butter evenly over the tops of the biscuits.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool the biscuits on the sheet for 5 minutes before serving.
After eating your biscuits with your fried chicken, consume the leftovers in one of these ways. (Recipes for sausage gravy, butter, muscadine jelly, potpie, breakfast sausage patties and hot pepper jelly are all in Southern from Scratch .)
- The sour tang of buttermilk biscuits marries well with the rich unctuousness of gravies. Cover one or two with sausage gravy for a rousing breakfast.
- Slather with butter and muscadine jelly.
- Use as a topping for a chicken potpie.
- Fry breakfast sausage patties, and use as a filling for a sausage biscuit. Spread on a little hot pepper jelly for some heat.
Excerpted with permission from Southern from Scratch by Ashley English. ©2018 by Ashley English. Photographs by Johnny Autry. ©2018 by Johnny Autry. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc. Boulder, Colorado.
This story originally appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of Chickens magazine.