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Spicy Fried Chicken
From Down Home with the Neelys, by Patrick and Gina Neely

Pat: When I was growing up in the South, there were "soul food" restaurants on every corner. I mean every corner. And there was one entree served in all those restaurants, and that, of course, was fried chicken.

Gina: To this day, in spite of our occasional diets, fried chicken is one menu item that is hard to resist. It has been and always will be one of our weaknesses. But it's one we can live with.

When you've had a bad day at work, there's something about coming home to a good piece of fried chicken. It's a Southern tonic: a feel-good, make-it-all-better food.

Pat: We coat the chicken in dry spices first. This allows an incredible flavor to penetrate and permeate the meat. Then the chicken is double-dipped in buttermilk and seasoned flour to create a crispy, flavorful crunch. I promise you lip-smackin' good fried chicken with this Neely favorite. It's one of those dishes that partygoers love and are still talking about the next day.

Ingredients:

Two 3- to 4-pound chickens, each cut into 8 pieces
3 tablespoons hot sauce
1/4 cup Neely's Barbecue Seasoning
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
4 cups all-purpose flour
Peanut oil, for frying

Instructions:

Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl. Pour the hot sauce over the chicken. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the Neely's Barbecue Seasoning with the salt, black pepper, cayenne, white pepper, and garlic powder. Add the spice mixture to the chicken and massage all the ingredients into the pieces with your hands. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and marinate for at least 1 hour, or for up to 1 day in the refrigerator (the longer the better, to allow the seasonings to permeate the chicken).

Pour the buttermilk over the chicken pieces and toss to coat. Pour the flour into a large bowl.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or a large cast-iron skillet to 350F (177C), or until a pinch of flour sizzles when it is dropped in the fat. As the oil heats, remove the chicken pieces from the buttermilk, allowing the excess buttermilk to drip off. Transfer the chicken, several pieces at a time, to the bowl with the flour. Toss to coat. Remove the chicken pieces from the flour, shaking off any excess, and place the chicken, one piece at a time, in the Dutch oven. Fry the chicken in several batches. For the crispiest results, do not overcrowd the Dutch oven. One of the secrets to deep-frying is maintaining a constant cooking temperature (the oil in the oven or skillet should be somewhat lively, having a mellow sizzle but not a raging boil). Fry the chicken for 16 to 18 minutes, using tongs as necessary to turn the pieces. When the chicken bobs, it's done. That's right (another Neely secret): your chicken will float to the top of the Dutch oven when she's done!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

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