Miss Bonnie’s Fried Chicken with Chicken-Fried Biscuits is iconic in our family. We have it for most every family gathering and even for Christmas Eve. It has become more than a memory of my mother, who was affectionately remembered as Miss Bonnie for many years. Her chicken and biscuits was featured in a Ladies Home Journal center spread, and the rest is history, as they say.
It is not so much her simple buttermilk marinade that makes it so tender and special, but leaving it submerged overnight that really makes a difference. I sometimes double dip it back in the buttermilk after the first coat of flour, especially when preparing those skinless pieces of chicken. The chicken is wonderful, but it is the chicken-fried biscuits that get folks’ attention.
The biscuit dough is stirred up without any shortening or butter in the batter, and this keeps the biscuit itself from turning into a sponge as it fries in the oil used to cook the chicken. Its sticky surface attracts all those little particles of fried chicken debris, so you get a real fried chicken-flavored biscuit that is very slightly sweet and soft inside, with its crunchy golden-brown crust on the outside.
My little brothers loved to pretend the biscuits were doughnuts and enjoyed dipping them in cinnamon sugar. We enjoyed fried chicken at least once a week growing up. Mother always said you just make the biscuits like any biscuit but you fry it. I tried that for years, but was never able to make biscuits like hers until I decided I better watch her make them and take the time to measure what she put in the batter.
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Miss Bonnie's Fried Chicken
1 whole fryer cut into pieces, or 6 to 8 chicken parts of choice (boneless and skinless, if desired)
1 cup buttermilk
Flour for coating chicken (about 2 cups)
Crisco oil or canola oil (enough to make 3/4- to 1-inch deep in frying pan)
•Wash chicken pieces, trim away any excess fat and dry pieces with paper towels.
•Marinate chicken in buttermilk in large plastic bag for at least 1 hour or overnight in refrigerator.
•Heat oil in skillet (375 degrees if using electric fry pan).
•Place flour into large brown paper sack and place about half of the chicken parts into the bag and toss to coat. Remove those and add remaining parts, tossing to coat. Place chicken into heated oil one at a time so that oil continues to bubble. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
•Chicken will brown golden in about 10 minutes, then turn to cook other side. Salt and pepper again, and cover to cook for about 10 minutes longer. Larger pieces may need additional time. If necessary, adjust temperature or burner down slightly to keep chicken from getting too brown.
•Transfer golden-brown pieces to nonstick foil and place in a 325-degree oven. Use another piece of foil to tent over the top. Leave uncovered to keep chicken crispy or covered for softer crust.
•Crumpling foil that goes underneath chicken will be like a rack that allows excess oil to drain away as chicken stays hot in the oven for an additional 20 to 30 minutes. Turn oven down to 250 degrees to keep chicken from getting too brown or hold longer while you make the biscuits.
Cook's notes: Using a plastic bag to marinate the chicken and a brown paper sack to dredge the chicken parts in flour makes for easy cleanup. Double dip and dredge in flour for a crustier version.
Miss Bonnie's Original Chicken-Fried Biscuits
This gooey dough makes the best fried biscuits you can imagine. The dough fries in the same oil used to cook the chicken and collects bits of flavor left behind. These are so good, it is difficult to keep from enjoying them as they are cooked. Makes 16-18 biscuits.
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk
•Have all dry ingredients sifted together and milk ready and waiting as chicken fries. Just before removing chicken from oil, add the milk and stir just until mixture comes together. The dough will be sticky. Keep oil at 375 degrees, and drop biscuits by heaping teaspoons into oil. When biscuits brown on one side, turn over to cook on the other side. When brown, remove from oil and test to be sure inside is done. If not, place the biscuits in the oven to finish cooking on the inside. This usually takes an additional 10 minutes. The biscuits are light and crisp. Drain them on paper towels to absorb any excess oil. If you opt to make cream gravy, keep biscuits in a low-temperature oven.
•Serve warm alongside chicken.
Cook’s notes: The chicken and biscuits make wonderful picnic fare.