Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cookbook Thursday: 'The Southerner's Cookbook'

David DiBenedetto and the editors of Garden and Gun magazine have created a homage to Southern food with the beautiful “The Southerner’s Cookbook: Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories.”
            The 125 recipes accompanied by stories and color photographs range from Texas beef to Maryland crab cakes, from New Orleans oysters Bienville to Nashville hot fried chicken, from Florida smoked fish dip to Natchitoches meat pies.
            There’s also information on roasting a whole hog and cooking a low country boil. But don’t think it’s all traditional Southern cooking. A few cultures are represented here, including yakamein, Greek-style flounder and Cubanos with marinated pork.
            Just don’t forget the hoppin’ John for New Year’s.

Classic Fried Chicken
From The Southerner’s Cookbook
Serves 4 to 6
1 (3 1/2-to 4-pound) whole chicken, with neck, liver, and gizzard removed, cut into 10 pieces (wings, legs, thighs, and quarter breasts)

For the Brine
1 gallon water
            3/4 cup kosher salt
            1 tablespoon herbs or spices, such as poultry seasoning (optional)

For the Dip
1 quart buttermilk
            2 tablespoons hot sauce

For the Dredge
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
            1 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
            1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Peanut oil for frying
            2 tablespoons bacon grease (optional, for flavor)
Directions: To make the brine, in a stockpot, bring 4 cups of the water to a boil over high heat and whisk in the salt until dissolved and herbs, if using. Remove the pan from the heat, add the remaining water, and let cool to room temperature. Place the chicken pieces in the stockpot or divide the chicken and brine between large zip-top bags and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you’re ready to fry, drain and rinse the chicken pieces thoroughly, then pat them dry with paper towels.
To dredge the chicken, set a wire rack over a baking sheet. Combine the buttermilk and hot sauce in a shallow pan or bowl. Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a second shallow pan or bowl. Dip the chicken pieces into the buttermilk mixture, then into the seasoned flour, shaking off excess. Set the breaded chicken pieces on the rack, transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator, and let the chicken rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour to set the crust.
To fry the chicken, fill a Dutch oven or a large, deep-sided cast-iron skillet with 1 inch of oil and the bacon grease, if using. Clip a frying thermometer to the side of the pot, place over medium-high heat, and bring the oil to 350˚F. (The temperature will drop considerably when the chicken is added; you’ll want to regulate the heat to maintain a temperature of about 325˚F as you fry the chicken.) Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and fry skin-side down in batches of no more than 4 pieces at a time for 8 minutes per side, until the meat registers 165˚F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the chicken with tongs to a wire rack set over a paper towel–lined baking sheet. Repeat until all the chicken is fried. Let the chicken cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Cheré Dastugue Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She also writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire, “A Cajun Dream” and “The Letter.” Write her at