Exclusive Dish: Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen’s Skillet-Fried Chicken

Nothing beats the savory unpretentiousness of fried chicken. Consider it the quintessential Southern comfort food. It should come as no surprise, then, to find this crackling culinary staple at Cary’s Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen — but only on Tuesdays and Sundays.

“We serve it from 4 p.m. until we run out,” said Executive Chef Jay Pierce, whose concoction represents a rendition of the late chef Austin Leslie’s recipe (featured below) spotlighted in John T. Edge’s book Fried Chicken: An American Story. “He was killed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, so this is my way of paying homage to him.”

Pierce’s recipe calls for buttermilk instead of evaporated milk and also includes smoked paprika. The chicken, which is seasoned and air-dried in a cooler overnight, is sourced from Hopkins Poultry of Browns Summit near Greensboro. It’s cooked in rendered lard from Cane Creek Farms of Snow Camp, N.C.

“We like to think of it as 19th-century fried chicken because we use lard instead of hydrogenated vegetable oil,” Pierce explained. “It’s Carolina on a plate.”

The $17 three-piece dinner features a breast, leg and wing and is served with fatback-enhanced collard greens, skin-on mashed potatoes with giblet gravy and a hunk of cornbread for dipping.

Be sure to pair it with a glass of iced sweet tea.

Skillet-fried chicken recipe

3-3 1/2 pound cut up fryer chicken
11/4 cups oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup evaporated milk (or buttermilk)
1 cup water
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons minced garlic (optional)
4 tablespoons minced parsley (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil in cast-iron skillet to 350 degrees. The oil should come about halfway up the sides of the skillet (adjust amount to skillet size). Combine garlic and parsley in a small mixing bowl and set aside. Wash chicken pieces in cool water, pat dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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 crowd skillet.

Maintain temperature of 350 degrees. Use tongs and fork to turn chicken often for 7-8 minutes. Remove chicken from oil, pierce with fork and squeeze. Return chicken to skillet for 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. Serves 4.

Recipe used by permission of Quaintance-Weaver Inc.


  • Kathleen says:

    Can you please explain the term squeeze, when used as a cooking term for fried chicken? I’ve been frying chicken for 50+ years, but have never seen the term used when preparing fried chicken.

    Thank you!

    • Amber Keister says:

      Kathleen, that is an excellent question! As the recipe was provided by a restaurant, normally I would ask the chef. However, as the restaurant is closed, a reply might be delayed. As a veteran chicken-fryer, can you suggest an alternative phrasing? Perhaps “shake off excess liquid” or “allow juices to drain”?

    • Amber Keister says:

      From Dan Hoskins, Chef de Cuisine at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen:
      “In the recipe, the squeeze, is really to allow the juice to drip off the chicken. After removing the chicken from the egg mixture, hold it above the mixture for a couple of seconds to allow the excess to drip off.”

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