FRIED CHICKEN can probably be made in millions of ways, each with its own proponent. This version is designed to give maximum flavor and lots of cripsy coating. Soaking the chicken in buttermilk and spices ahead of time adds another layer of flavor and keeps the chicken moist
2 tablespoons ground paprika
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
¼ cup salt
2 quarts buttermilk
4 pounds assorted chicken pieces
4 cups-all purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 cups vegetable shortening or vegetable oil (or lard)
1 In a small bowl, stir together the paprika, black pepper, and cayenne.
2 Four to six hours before you want to fry the chicken, combine the salt and half of the spice mix in a large container. (Reserve the rest of the spice mix for step 4.) Add all but 1 cup of the buttermilk and stir to combine. Add the chicken pieces, cover, and refrigerate.
3 Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 to 40 minutes prior to frying. Drain the chicken in a colander. Discard the buttermilk
4 Measure 1 cup of the flour into a shallow dish. In another large dish, whisk togeher the eggs, the remaining 1 cup buttermilk, and the remaining spice mix. In a third dish, combine the remaining 3 cups flour and the cornstarch
5 Meanwhile, heat the shortening to 425°F/220°C over medium high heat in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet.
6 Dredge each piece of chicken first in the plain flour, shaking off any excess. Next, dip in the buttermilk. Remove from the buttermilk and coat heavily in the flour and cornstarch mix.
7 Carefully arrange half of the chicken pieces skin side down in the pan and fry, turning twice, until deep golden brown on all sides and an instant-read thermometer reads 150°F/65°C for white meat and 165°F/75°C for dark meat, 8 to 10 minutes. Continue to monitor the oil temperature, which should stay at 425°F/220°C. Place the cooked chicken on the wire rack and let cool before serving.