Southern hospitality is legendary in itself; however, I cannot help but marvel at the amiability and warmth I am engulfed in when I meet a Southerner. My friend, Mary Case Friedner, a born and bred North Carolina girl, is a true example, always exuding genuine congeniality that takes away all my blues. After college she moved to NYC, following her dreams of becoming a folk singer and developing a very successful career in theater, TV and radio commercials. Love, marriage, a baby boy, and a move to Sleepy Hollow followed. In a few years, Mary Case got her real estate license and she is now one of five founders and owners of the hugely successful Corcoran Legend Realty Group.
When asked what kind of food takes her back to her childhood in North Carolina, Mary Case wistfully says it’s Southern Fried Chicken, which she calls the best comfort food of all. “It takes me back home again,”says Mary Case,“ to my daddy getting me the ‘pulley bones’ which is what I called the ‘wish bones’, to big Sunday dinners after church, with all my family around the table.”
Mary Case says that her mother made the best ever fried chicken , which she can never replicate, try as she may. For one, the chicken was always farm-fresh, either from their chicken coop or from the neighborhood small market, and the pieces were much smaller and tastier than what we find today.
Typically, Mary Case serves her fried chicken as shown in the picture – with white rice with cream gravy made from chicken drippings, and ‘screaming greens” -black-eyed peas, collard greens, mustard and kale – meant to signify prosperity.
Recipe for Southern Fried Chicken:
- About 3 pounds of chicken pieces, whichever parts you prefer, skin-on
- 1 quart of buttermilk
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbspof Kosher Salt
- 1 tbspof freshly ground black pepper
- I tsp each of celery salt, ground thyme or sage, garlic powder, paprika.
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Wesson or Peanut Oil (I far prefer Peanut)
- Put the chicken in a large bowl, pour the buttermilk over the pieces and make sure they are each coated well, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight or for as many hours as possible.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine the flour, salt, pepper, and seasonings in a large bowl. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and dip each piece very thoroughly first in the beaten egg, then coat with the flour and seasonings. Pour about an inch of the oil into a large heavy Dutch Oven, stockpot, or heavy skillet and heat up to about 360 degrees.
- Fry the chicken, a few pieces at a time, carefully, in batches, not crowding them, for about 3 minutes or so on each side, until light golden brown. Remove from the oil and place on a metal baking rack set on a large sheet pan. Once the oil is back up to 360 degrees, carefully start the next batch. Once all the pieces are on the baking rack, bake for 30-40 minutes until it’s done. Voila!
“Best Un-Fried Fried Chicken ever”, says Mary Case. “It always turns out delicious and fingerlickin’ good! I know my mother understands I am doing the best I can, but she will forever be my Fried Chicken Hero!”
Mary Case and her fried chicken.
Served with rice, gravy, black-eyed peas and “screaming greens”.
Renu Rao is a long-time River Towns resident who finds cooking therapeutic for the soul and believes eating right is the pathway to wellness.