(USA Today) – Ask a Southerner for their favorite fried chicken place, and you’ll get one of two reactions: Either they’ll immediately fire back one name and address (always memorized) or they’ll give you a list three pages long with notes.
“There are no favorite fried chicken recipes; they all have their own special characteristics,” says Adeena Sussman, recipe developer and subscriber to the latter school of thought. Sussman ate her way through America’s best fried chicken joints while researching new cookbook Fried & True (co-authored with Lee Brian Schrager, founder/director of South Beach Wine & Food Festival). If fried chicken is about to enter the media spotlight as burgers and BBQ did before, the whole South will have just one question: What took so long?
Fried chicken is one of America’s oldest traditional recipes, dating back to two distinct cultures: Slaves would cook it for themselves during the pre-Civil War era, and after they were freed, some of them opened small restaurants using their home recipes. Meanwhile, Scotch immigrants had their own delicious frying traditions – what’s good for the Scotch egg worked just as well for the chicken. Today you see some cultural crossover, like landmark Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans’ Fifth Ward.
“Willie Mae’s almost didn’t survive Hurricane Katrina,” says Sussman. “The rebuilding of this institution was symbolic of the rebirth of New Orleans after Katrina.”