There are some things about the South that, as a Northerner, I’m never going to understand. Like all of the different ways you can order hash browns at a Waffle House. Or what it is that makes college football so fascinating. Or why so many of the women seem so beautiful but also kind of like they would be mean to me. Or why the liquor comes in those jugs with big XXXs on them.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned after 36 years on this big blue marble, it’s that you can’t mess with the South when it comes to at least one thing: Breakfast.
While we’re goofing around up here with our berry-filled crepes and our nonfat gluten-free muffins, Southerners are throwing DOWN first thing in the morning. Grits. Country ham. Hush puppies. Chicken fried steak with over-easy eggs. Fried chicken and waffles. Biscuits with sausage and acres of white gravy. Each more likely than the next to bring an end to your day, rather than help start it.
My all-time favorite, though, the Southern dish that seems to most push the boundaries of what is acceptable to eat within moments of waking up is this classic: The fried chicken sandwich, served on a fluffy, still-warm biscuit, with sweet pickles and a swipe of honey butter. Or in our case, Sriracha honey butter.
Start with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs; the dark meat is harder to dry out, and I shouldn’t have to explain deep-fried chicken skin to you. It’s one of the great pleasures of life, and it would be a shame to miss out on it due to the boneless/skinless “convenience” of most grocery stores. De-boning a chicken thigh is easy. Just cut along both sides of the bone, then scoop-cut (a cooking term I just invented) the bone out with the tip of the knife. Even if you mess it up, the flour dredge and the deep-frying will hide any raggedy edges or mistakes.
You can make your own biscuits (which is remarkably easy) or you can use some out of a can. We’re not going to judge you. Top the sandwiches with sweet, crunchy bread-and-butter pickles, then finish the whole thing with creamy, spicy honey butter. The butter melts and runs in rivulets into all the nooks and crannies of the crunchy chicken, before getting absorbed again into the biscuit. It’s magic, and it’s what you deserve to eat for breakfast, at least once in a while.
- 1 cup self-rising flour
- 2 tablespoons cold butter, diced
- ⅓ cup cold milk or buttermilk (plus extra as needed)
- 2 cups peanut oil
- 3 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1½ cups (about 7½ ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 6 tablespoons salted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha
- 12 bread-and-butter pickle chips
- Preheat the oven to 425°.
- In a bowl, combine flour and butter. Work with a spoon or your fingers until the crumbs are the size of peas.
- Add the milk or buttermilk, and stir until the mixture holds together and stops sticking to the sides of the bowl, adding more milk or buttermilk as needed.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface, and fold it over on itself several times, using more flour as needed to prevent sticking.
- Roll the dough out to about ½ inch thickness.
- Cut into six biscuits with a sharp, round 1.5 or 2" cutter, dipping the cutter into flour between cuts to reduce sticking.
- Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet, arranging them so they're barely touching.
- Bake the biscuits for 10 to 14 minutes, or until they're a light golden brown.
- Heat oil in skillet to 350°F. With a sharp knife, cut carefully on each side of the thigh bone, then cut carefully underneath. Remove and discard bone, taking care to check for stray bits of cartilage or bone, then cut thigh in half in the direction the bone used to be.
- Combine buttermilk ans salt in a large bowl. Whisk together flour, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, paprika, and cayenne on a plate.
- One piece at a time, dip chicken in buttermilk, then dredge in flour. Shake off excess, then cook in hot oil, turning occasionally, until crisp and deep golden and an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers at least 165°F, about 8 minutes. Transfer fried pieces to paper towel-lined plate.
- In a small bowl, combine butter, honey, and Sriracha. Stir well, then spread onto split biscuits. Top each biscuit with a piece of fried chicken and two slices of pickle. Serve immediately.