Serves 4 to 6
Why This Recipe Works: In Maryland, fried chicken is marked by a thin, crisp crust, standout seasoning, and a dribble of peppery cream gravy. To get our version of this chicken on the right track, we injected a kick of spicy flavor with a generous dose of dry mustard, salt, and garlic powder. Dredging in flour and baking powder, then refrigerating the seasoned chicken before frying in peanut oil, made for an extra-crisp coating. A sprinkling of Old Bay on the just-fried pieces reinforced the chicken’s bold seasoning. With chicken this crisp and flavorful, we wanted a traditional cream gravy. Using some of the remaining frying oil in our pot, we browned flour and whisked in chicken broth, heavy cream, and pepper. After the mixture thickened for about 5 minutes, our Maryland fried chicken had an equally authentic gravy to match.
Be sure to use peanut oil or vegetable shortening in this recipe, as vegetable oil can break down and impart off-flavors to the chicken.
4 pounds bone-in chicken pieces, breasts halved crosswise and leg quarters separated into drumsticks and thighs, trimmed
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups peanut oil or vegetable shortening
Old Bay seasoning
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pepper
1. FOR THE FRIED CHICKEN: Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Combine mustard, garlic powder, and salt in small bowl and sprinkle mixture evenly over chicken. Combine flour and baking powder in shallow dish. Working with 1 piece at a time, dredge chicken in flour mixture until well coated, shaking off excess. Transfer to plate and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. Place half of chicken skin side down in pot, cover, and fry until well browned, about 5 minutes per side. Reduce heat to medium, adjusting burner, if necessary, to maintain oil temperature between 300 and 325 degrees. Cook, uncovered and turning chicken as needed, until breasts register 160 degrees and drumsticks/thighs register 175 degrees, about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to prepared wire rack, season with Old Bay, and keep warm in oven. Return oil to 375 degrees and repeat with remaining chicken.
3. FOR THE CREAM GRAVY: Pour off all but 1/4 cup oil from pot. Stir in flour and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in broth, cream, and pepper and simmer gravy until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Serve chicken with gravy.
While we were developing this fried chicken recipe, batch after batch of the chicken was marred by an odd “fishy” flavor. To find the culprit, we tried adjusting every variable in the recipe, but nothing worked. As a last resort, we switched from vegetable oil (our usual frying medium) to peanut oil (another commonly used frying oil), and the problem was solved. As it turns out, after a total frying time of roughly 30 minutes, the vegetable oil was beginning to break down and impart a spoiled, fishy flavor to the chicken. Peanut oil (which has a higher smoke point) fared better and didn’t break down, resulting in no off-flavors in the chicken. We also tried safflower oil, canola oil, and vegetable shortening. The peanut oil was still best, but the vegetable shortening was the runner-up, winning praise for its “clean” flavor.
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