My Black History Fried Chicken

My Grandmother Rachel Harris Woolard

Just like Dave Chappelle so perfectly joked, “I knew soon as you walked up in here….. You wuz gon’ git the chicken.”

At family gatherings no matter which side of the Mason Dixon you are from, when we as a people gather, there is for sure some fried chicken involved.

The actual history of Fried Chicken is fairly well known. Chicken’s were fried all throughout Europe for centuries and brought to the States by the Scot’s who settled in mostly Southern States (my last name IS Finley after all! My Moms is Woolard and my Grandmothers is Harris btw…all leading back to Scotland or England).  But while Fried Chicken became known as a Southern thing, it became a stereotype for us folks the same way all cheap meats and vegetables did. Slaves were allowed to own chickens cause they were cheap and plentiful and being of African descent where spices were used for centuries, well, we just made it taste better so ….we ate it a lot.

Stereotypes aside, and not getting into the details of minstrel shows and their negative impact, I felt it perfectly fitting to share my Grandmother’s and Mothers, and now proudly my recipe, for fried chicken.

Growing up, my Mother made Fried Chicken a minimum of three times a week and you better not eat the last piece out of the fridge or she will quite literally go ape-shit on you.  I cherished her chicken making skills and hadn’t realized how by watching her so effortlessly cook something so amazing, that I was absorbing a skill myself until I was an adult. Knowing how to get your spices right is key to everything and I’m not just talking chicken.  I can honestly say that Fried Chicken is the foundation of my ability to cook, so when people ask me where did I learn how to cook, I never pause and say, “My Mom” and I think of the smell of chicken frying in the kitchen.

My Grandmother was the original chicken fryer in the family.  No one made chicken like my Granny.  She sadly passed last February and today would have been her 96th birthday.   I hope she is reading over my shoulder because I’m not sure I ever directly told her but, I was in awe the first time I watched her fry chicken. I thought my Mom was the best…but my Grandmother clearly taught her the skill.  It was a sight to see.  Just the way she handled the bird was special.  There was such a familiarity between her and each piece like she knew that chicken personally, she knew its bones and didn’t even seem to be looking at what she was doing.

So, this is part of my Black History and one I am proud of.  Stereotype what you want but I come from a great line of Chicken Fryin’ BEAUTIFUL Black Women genes. Thank you, Mom and Granny, and whoever taught Granny and whoever taught her and the women before that!

Ingredients:

  • Chicken parts (bone in, skin on!)
  • Paper Bag from the grocery store doubled up (Can’t lie I use a Tupperware container most times since paper bags are harder to come by)
  • Lots and lots … and lots of fresh garlic
  • Flour
  • Garlic Powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Good, big frying pan with a fitted lid
  • Vegetable oil

Directions:

  • Soak the chicken in water, salt, and the fresh garlic overnight in the fridge
  • Get your oil in the pan about a little more than halfway full. Don’t fill the oil to the top you’ll have no eyebrows. Turn it on high, you want that oil HOT!
  • While the oil is heating up get your flour ready. Dump a good amount of flour in the bag and smell it. Pour in a load of garlic powder and smell it again….if you can sufficiently smell the garlic, you are good. If not….add more.  Then you want to sprinkle a layer of salt on top of the flour and then a layer of pepper. Shake it up. If you can’t see the pepper….add more. Basically, the flour should smell like you eventually want it to taste.
  • Rinse your chicken off and drip dry a few pieces to put in the flour.  Don’t crowd it and make sure they aren’t dripping with water or you will be making dough in the bag.  Shake it up so it’s all well coated.
  • Wet your pointer and thumb and make a little ball of dough with the flour. Toss it in the oil …if the ball sizzles and floats to the top right away, you are ready to fry!
  • Place the coated chicken in the pan without overcrowding and cover. Lower heat to medium and let the chicken cook. This part I really can’t explain and I hope you can just figure it out. Don’t open the top. You have to listen to know when it’s ready to be turned over. It should sound like a light sizzle so I guess just check it when you think it’s right. If I had to give it a time, I’d say about 20 min or so but really I’m not sure – it varies.

“Minnie don’t burn fried chicken!”

  • Once brown on one side, flip each piece, turn the heat back up to medium-high and let cook uncovered until crispy on the other side.
  • Cover a platter with paper towels put the cooked chicken on that to drain and repeat for the next batch!

Enjoy and thanks, Mom, for allowing me to post this recipe. I love Y’all!

Black History Fried Chicken
Rachel Woolard and my mom, Karen. This was my grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration.
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