Southern fried chicken with green tomato gravy

Southern fried chicken with green tomato gravy

Deep South
Andy Sewell

I wasn’t always the fan of fried chicken that I am today. Sure, I loved it and I ate a ton of it. But there is a lot of mediocre yardbird out there, particularly when it comes to Southern-style versions, where your dredge and frying fat are the only items that separate you from the naked bird and deliciousness. I prefer a light crumb that is extra-crisp and has a hint of spice.

Over the years, I’ve refined my recipe based on favourite variations. Small adjustments have a big impact on f lavour and texture. Techniques such as a Virginia-style approach of seasoning the cooking fat with butter and bacon or country ham, or a shake-in-the-bag method for dredging, which allows for more surface area and therefore a better crust, all contribute to a superior final product.

You just can’t get too technical. For instance, it’s important to keep your oil temperature a little lower than normal, around 165°C, in order to find the perfect timing ratio of doneness to gorgeous golden-brown crunch. I prefer deep-frying to shallow-frying, and I often cook large batches at a time, which allows me to up the ante on my frying vessel.

You need to start this dish two days in advance to allow for brining and marinating. Serve with Collard Greens, Dirty Rice, Buttermilk Biscuits and Ranch Dressing.

A few more tips on frying chicken:

Use only the dark-meat cuts of legs and thighs

Shake away any excess dredge before dipping the chicken into the fryer. Otherwise, these particles will drop to the bottom and, if left long enough, will begin to scorch and add a bitter flavour to the oil.

Be sure to keep the chicken off the bottom of the fryer, which can lead to scorching and ruin the whole batch.

Use a meat thermometer and cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 70°C when checked near the bone.

As with any meat, allow the chicken to rest once out of the fryer. This will help with a final even distribution of cooking.


Quantity Ingredient
8 large free-range chicken legs, divided into thighs and drumsticks
1 litre brine (see basics chapter)
500ml buttermilk
1 litre vegetable oil
1kg pork lard
225g unsalted butter
100g streaky bacon
or 100g Rusty’s country ham

For the green tomato gravy:

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon bacon fat
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
6 green tomatoes, chopped
100ml water
1 tablespoon light soft brown sugar
75g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
sea salt
black pepper

For the chicken dredge:

Quantity Ingredient
400g plain flour
200g rice flour
100g cornflour
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
25g salt
1 teaspoon paprika
15g baking powder


  1. Put the chicken in a dish, pour over the brine and leave in the fridge for 24–36 hours. Remove the chicken from the brine, place in a clean container and cover completely with the buttermilk. Leave in the fridge for another 24–36 hours. Meanwhile, season the oil by combining it with the lard, butter and bacon or ham in a deep-fat fryer. Heat slowly until the butter browns slightly and the impurities rise to the top, then strain and set aside.
  2. To make the gravy, heat the bacon fat in a heavy-based pan, add the onion, garlic, Creole seasoning and a pinch of salt and sweat until soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes and water, cover the pan and bring to a simmer. Cook slowly for 15–20 minutes, until all the ingredients have softened and the sauce has taken on a creamy texture. Remove from the heat and season with the sugar and some salt and pepper. Still off the heat, whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time until the sauce has a glossy, silky finish.
  3. Mix together all the ingredients for the chicken dredge and put them in a large plastic bag. Reheat the seasoned oil to 165°C in the deep-fat fryer. Remove the chicken pieces from the buttermilk, letting the excess drain off. Coat the chicken in the dredge by adding it to the bag a couple of pieces at a time and shaking to coat them well. Gently lift them straight into the fryer, cooking in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Fry until the coating is golden brown and the chicken has an internal temperature of 70°C. Drain on kitchen paper, leave to rest for a few minutes, then serve with the green tomato gravy.
Southern cooking
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