Great Grandmothers Fried Cornbread Chicken
by Karen Kuebler
(Dallas, TX, USA)
Generations of my people farmed the southern soil, and our ways and our food were the ways and food of all the plain, honest folks who gave the South its soul. Cornbread was a staple in good times and a means of survival in hard times. A slice of cornbread, fried in fat and called "corn-pone," could be a blessed stand-in for any meal of the day.
My own grandmother, transplanted to the Big City by marriage, continued to honor the tradition of her roots by invariably ushering in bedtime each evening with a square of cornbread crumbled into a glass of "sweet milk" until her passing at the illustrious age of ninety-eight.
But it was my great-grandmother, Anna, who was singularly inspired to batter her frying hen with day-old cornbread. Her forebears and her descendants, my cornbread-believer grandmother included, abided by Dixieland's Fried Chicken Protocol and resolutely dredged their birds in conventional seasoned flour.
I have personally straddled this culinary divide, and I must admit I come down on the side of cornbread. Breading my chicken with cornbread is one of my ways of sharing my heritage with my own family. They listen over a delicious dinner to my stories about our proud people: the men who drew sustenance from the earth, and the women who cooked, canned, and preserved the bounty, and their children who grew tall and strong beneath blue southern skies.
Great-Grandmother's Fried Cornbread Chicken Recipe
(Serves 6 to 8)
1 frying hen, cut up
8-inch square pan of day-old cornbread, crushed to crumbs
Cold buttermilk to cover (approximately 4 cups)
Vegetable oil for frying (approximately 1/2 cup, with more as needed)
1. Arrange chicken pieces in single layer in shallow dish. Pour cold buttermilk over all and let stand 30 minutes. Remove chicken from milk and dredge in cornbread crumbs to coat thoroughly.
2. Fry breaded chicken pieces in oil in large skillet over medium-high heat about 10 minutes, turning frequently to brown evenly. Chicken is done when the meat is fork-tender all the way to the bone. Drain on paper towels and serve.
In the interest of healthy cooking, I substitute 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half, for the fryer. And, instead of frying, I drizzle the breaded breasts with 1 stick melted butter and bake them in a 375-degree oven for 45 minutes.)