Fried Chicken with Gravy
Recipe courtesy of A Love Affair with Southern Cooking by Jean Anderson
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Arrange the pieces of chicken, not touching and one layer deep, in a shallow baking dish or nonreactive pan. Sprinkle with the salt, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to fry the chicken, drain off all accumulated juices and pat the chicken dry on several thicknesses of paper toweling. Sprinkle the chicken with the pepper, then dredge by shaking a few pieces at a time in the flour in a bag. As you remove the chicken from the dredging flour, shake off the excess flour and place on a wire rack.
Pour the oil into a large iron skillet until about an inch deep, set over moderate heat, and as soon as steam begins to rise from the oil, add the pieces of chicken, skin side down. Fry slowly for 30 minutes, keeping the heat at moderate or moderately low so that the chicken doesn't overbrown; turn and fry 30 minutes more. Add the tablespoon of water (the oil will spit and sputter; take care), cover the skillet, and let stand until the spitting stops.
Remove the chicken to several thicknesses of paper toweling to drain, arranging so the pieces don't touch one another. Also lay a sheet of paper toweling on top.
For the gravy: Pour the oil and drippings from the skillet into a clean heat-proof container, then spoon 4 tablespoons back into the skillet. Blend in the flour, and cook, stirring, over moderately low heat for about 5 minutes or until a nice rich brown. Whisk in the water, salt, and pepper, then cook, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes or until thickened, smooth, and no raw starch taste lingers. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed. Pour the gravy into a heated gravy boat.
Pile the chicken onto a heated platter and serve. Pass the gravy along with a basket of fresh-baked biscuits, or a bowl of hot rice.