NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
We don’t eat fried foods that often, but every once in a while I get a craving for something crispy and crunchy. So I set out to make a gluten-free, Paleo-friendly Southern Fried Chicken. Bear in mind that this isn’t a smart choice for your everyday meals, but it’s a great way to change things up every once in a while.
The creation of Southern Fried Chicken is the result of several different influences: fried chicken was a West African delicacy brought over to the US by slaves, the mass-production of pork in the South made lard readily available, and the popularity of cast iron cookware in the 19th century created the fried chicken we now associate with the South. I kept my recipe true to those historical precedents, including the use of buttermilk as a marinade. If you’re dairy-free, omitting the buttermilk marinade will still leave you with a pretty tasty fried chicken.
2.5 lbs bone-in chicken thighs, breasts, wings or drumsticks
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup potato starch
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper
2 or 3 cups lard
Gently rinse the chicken parts with cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Place the pieces in a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag, and add the buttermilk. Put the bag in the fridge and marinate overnight.
The next day, place the pieces in a colander and allow them to drain for 20 minutes. Move the pieces around every few minutes so they properly drain. This process will help bring the pieces to room temperature, which is a crucial part of getting this dish right. Meanwhile, warm the lard in a cast iron skillet on medium heat for about 10 minutes.
In a shallow pan, mix the potato starch, salt, paprika, and black pepper. Coat the chicken pieces with the potato starch mixture, then place them in the skillet. You only need to coat the pieces that you’re going to fry immediately.
Fry the pieces for ten minutes on one side, reducing the heat if the lard starts to smoke. Flip the pieces over and fry for another ten minutes. The internal temperature should be around 165 degrees.
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Drain the chicken pieces on paper towels for a few minutes, then place them in the oven (on a cooling rack if you have one, otherwise a plate or cookie sheet is fine) while you fry the rest of the pieces. Before adding new chicken pieces, check your lard and add more as needed.
That’s it! Season with a little salt and pepper right before serving, if you’d like.