Every other week, we’re unearthing Heirloom Recipes -- dishes that have made their way from one generation's kitchen to the next.
My Big Mama's (grandmother) recipes are the epitome of timeless. While growing up, I would watch in awe of everything she would prepare in her small rustic kitchen in Mississippi. From the prep work of dicing and slicing to her impressive dinner table display, there was always such an electric energy pulsing in that space that transferred to everyone around it. The charming Southern cooking and laughter from our "back in the day" conversations with my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles are the memories I cherish. Each recipe on that dining room table inspired creativity in my own cooking and baking. Each memory became part of the fabric of who I am and was the catalyst for starting Grandbaby Cakes. Even today, in her late 80's, my Big Mama is still creating the most inspired and remarkable recipes which I am proud to have in my cooking arsenal.
Left: My grandparents with my mom and uncle; Right: Big Mama with my brother and me
One of those recipes is my Big Mama’s fried chicken. Whenever we visited my grandparents down South, this ended up on the dinner table. It was always a fresh bird, perfectly seasoned with a juicy inside and golden brown crunchy crust on the outside.
The “back in the day” story of Big Mama’s fried chicken is equally fetching. According to my mom, Big Mama fried chicken at least once a week when she was growing up. She would buy chickens from her neighbor Ms. Barnett’s hatchery, then they would load the chicken crates into the back of Big Daddy's pickup truck. My mom would shudder as the chicken crates were unloaded at home because she knew the inevitable was coming for these poor chickens. Big Mama would wring the chickens' necks, then drop them in scalding water so she could then pluck all of their feathers. By the time Big Daddy got home from work, a beautiful fried chicken was on the table for supper.
Big Mama’s approach to frying chicken was quite minimalist: the chicken was coated with plain salt, pepper, and flour in a brown paper bag, then fried in a worn cast iron skillet with lard. As time went on and more ingredients became available, she would sometimes dip the chicken in eggs or buttermilk for a crispier crust texture or add different spices to her flour to vary the taste. By the time I learned to fry chicken from my mom and Big Mama, the recipe had evolved quite a bit from the original.
This recipe honors that classic while embracing newer techniques picked up along the way. Passed down from my grandmother to my mother and aunt and eventually to me, we have all taken this recipe and created our own unique spin on it. Now I am delighted to pass this family heirloom down to you.
Big Mama’s Fried Chicken
8-10 chicken pieces
3 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons seasoned salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon onion powder