I left Kentucky half my life ago, but two things have stuck with me all these years. One is an ineradicable Southern drawl. The other is a Pavlovian response to good fried chicken.
Fried chicken seems so simple, but it’s not. Done right, it’s a true delicacy. Of the many contentions between my mom and my late grandma, the most bitter was over fried chicken. Grandma’s rocked, though it’s hard to say what kind of damage her use of Crisco did to our arteries. Mom’s chicken never quite matched up, and my siblings and I made that a particular sticking point when we were mad at her.
During a trip to Atlanta, I decided that the peak chicken experience was at Watershed in Decatur, a restaurant that is owned in part by Emily Sayers of the Indigo Girls and where Scott Peacock is the chef. Scott’s recipe came out of a collaboration with Edna Lewis, the venerable authority on Southern cooking, who died in February 2006 at the age of 89 but whose longevity debunks some of the presumed evils associated with Southern cuisine in general and fried chicken in particular. Scott brines his chicken in salt water, soaks it in buttermilk, and throws in a slice of country ham during frying for extra flavor. He dusts it in what he refers to as a “rumor of flour.” The result is even better than my grandma’s, and that’s saying something. Just don’t tell my mom I said so.
By Martin Booe, a freelance writer from Kentucky living in Los Angeles, Calif.