The chicken sat there on the platter shedding its skin like some evil snake, daring me to put it on the table. After all, I had made a great deal about its preparation: buying buttermilk, doing a 24-hour soak, mixing up a special coating. What was I gonna do now? Say it was a disaster or suck it up and serve?

I sucked it up. I served. I watched everyone as they ate. Compliments abounded. I was not at all pleased. Besides the molting crust, the bird on my plate was dry, not juicy and full of flavor. If I were a Top Chef contestant Padma would be telling me to pack my knives and go home. Instead, I chewed….not sitting up proud basking in success but slumped in my chair wondering what I had done to displease the elusive Fried Chicken God.

It all started innocently enough while The Visit was being planned. The expected phone call had come. The expected question was asked, “What was I planning to cook while I was there?” I gave the usual answer, “What do you want me to make?”

It’s a tradition we have, Best Friend’s Husband and I. He likes to eat. I like to cook. We know that about each other. He throws out menus. I get excited. I happily pack my knives. For aside from the fact that I enjoy time with Best Friend, I also relish Husband’s culinary challenge. “What will he want me to prepare this time? Can I pull it off?” I was smug. Of course!

Best Friend? Well, she usually just looks on; she frequently seems amused. She wisely leaves us alone.

Southern Fried Chicken was the first night’s order (with a double crusty crust). I skewed up my courage and cooked.   The Gods weren’t with me. You know the sad results. My smug had melted away.

So what is the key to yummy fried fowl?  

“The Key to Fried Chicken”, I am being told, “is in the oil, the pan that you use and a bird that is DRY before it goes in to fry.”  “Aha”, I answer, still feeling confused. “I did use hot oil, I floured my fowl and the pan was brand new non stick.”

“You don’t understand.” My friend explains with great patience. “Do flour your fowl, but then let it rest. Fifteen minutes should do it. But not too much more. The fat should start solid, use the stuff from a can. Let it melt slowly, then raise the heat. And please, fry with a pan that’s heavy. The best is cast iron….well seasoned, well used.” 

Did someone once sing about dawn’s early light and wow, was I ever there. I learned…again, Basic Cooking 101. Read directions, follow directions, do not think you know it all. Learn from errors. Move On.

Very Good Fried Green Tomatoes

(use a cast iron skillet, start with the fat that comes in a can, melt it slowly to a depth of 1”, bring heat up to 350° before frying)

  • 4 large green tomatoes, cored and sliced ½ inch thick
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup of butter milk seasoned with hot sauce (to taste), S&P
  • 1 TBS garlic powder
  • ½ Tsp dried thyme
  • Dash of cayenne
  • S&P to taste


  • Combine cornmeal, flour, garlic powder, thyme, cayenne, S&P in a shallow dish. Using a fork, mix well
  • Pour buttermilk/hot sauce, S&P mix into another shallow dish
  • Dip tomato slices in buttermilk mix, then into cornmeal-flour mix
  • Make sure slices are well coated
  • Fry until golden, about 3-4 minutes per side
  • Do not crowd the pan
  • Drain on paper towels
  • Serve with more hot sauce on the side

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