Austin Leslie was famous for several things. Most notably defining the tastes and flavors of Creole-Soul food, his trademark white captain’s cap, his lamb chop sideburns and oh yeah his fantastic fried chicken. Sadly Austin died shortly after being relocated to Atlanta after hurricane Katrina, but people in New Orleans still say that nobody could fry a chicken like Austin.
To him the technique was just as important as the ingredients when frying chicken. He paid a great deal of attention to the details of the process and this is how he achieved fried chicken perfection. You can see what I mean by reading this passage from Austin in the book "Creole Feast" by Nathaniel Burton over at Nola Cuisine. Austin delves into every aspect of the process from cutting up the chicken to maintaining the oil from batch to batch. The book is great but at least the passage is worth a read if you plan to attempt this recipe.
This recipe is by far the best fried chicken you will ever make as long as you pay attention to the details, which are outlined in the recipe.
Austin used to claim that he could tell when the chicken was done by the way the oil sounded. Well I am not there yet, but I think we did Austin’s legacy a bit of justice. You decide.
Austin Leslie's Fried Chicken
- 1 – 2 cups peanut oil or vegetable oil (fill pan or pot half way)
- 3 lbs chicken parts (you can cut a whole chicken if you like)
- fresh ground black pepper
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup flour
- 4 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons flat leafed parsley, minced
- dill pickle slices
1. Wash and dry the chicken parts. Place them in a large bowl and season liberally with salt and pepper. Let the chicken rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
2. Mix the water, egg and evaporated milk together in a medium sized bowl and season with salt and pepper. Place flour in a separate bowl. Heat the oil to 350ºF in a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven NOTE: Oil should come about halfway up sides of skillet. Adjust amount in accordance with skillet size. Wash chicken pieces in cool water, pat dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk egg, evaporated milk and water. Season with salt and pepper. Place flour in a separate bowl. One piece at a time, starting with heaviest pieces, dip chicken into egg wash, squeeze, dip into flour and place gently in skillet. Do not overcrowd the skillet. Maintain temperature of 350°F. Use tongs and long fork to turn chicken often for 7 – 8 minutes. Remove chicken from oil with tongs, pierce with fork and squeeze. Place chicken back in oil approximately 7 – 8 minutes. Chicken is done when no longer hissing and juices run clear. Remove from oil and place on paper towels to drain. Immediately top with a sprinkle of garlic and parsley mixture. Continue until all the chicken is cooked.
Serves 4 – 6