Fried Chicken with Black Pepper Gravy — Down-Home Comfort

Fried Chicken with Black Pepper Gravy

Fried chicken is as Southern as sweet tea and kudzu. It is so iconic, in fact, that it has nearly become a stereotype. Fried chicken was once called Gospel Bird. This phrase isn’t another wispy bit of food myth shrouded in fiction and perpetuated by the Internet. I remember very well my own grandfather calling it Gospel Bird when I was a little girl. It was called that because it was most often served on Sundays, once a week.

Once upon a time, there weren't fried chicken drive-through lanes on every other corner and overflowing hotel pans of fried chicken always at the ready under a heat lamp at the local grocery store. There certainly wasn't fried chicken at the local gas station, which is unbelievably prevalent in the rural South, or boxes decorated with fictitious twinkly eyed grandmothers containing flash-frozen fried chicken parked between the vanilla ice cream and deep-dish pizza. Fried chicken was special. Fried chicken was homemade.

Fried Chicken

Real fried chicken still is special and means down-home comfort for many folks like no other dish. It is the cast-iron Holy Grail of Southern comfort food. Ah, but chicken without gravy and rice is like heaven without the angels: really, really great, but not quite the ticket. Gravy is a salve to the soul. Gravy marries the chicken to the rice and is the deep brown pool for baptizing the biscuit.

Chicken with rice and gravy is the comfort food holy trinity.

Fried Chicken Process

Once the chicken is fried, most of the fat is poured off. Flour is added to make a roux, then water or stock is added. Keep in mind that almost all cooks who make fried chicken have their own variation on the dish — and many people will claim that their grandmother's is the best. This one is my grandmother's recipe, and I think that it is the best! I hope you like it.

Bon Appétit, Y'all!

Georgia-born, French-trained Chef Virginia Willis has cooked lapin Normandie with Julia Child in France, prepared lunch for President Clinton and harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. A Southern food authority, she is the author of Bon Appétit, Y’all and Basic to Brilliant, Y'all , among others. Follow her continuing exploits at VirginiaWillis.com.

Next Up

Cheesy Summer Squash Casserole — Down-Home Comfort

This recipe is just cheesy and rich enough to let the delicate flavor of the squash shine through.

White Pepper Versus Black Pepper: What’s the Difference?

Tiny white flowers are pollinated by raindrops, and each flower grows into a single peppercorn. From there, the peppercorns are processed into one of several varieties.

KFC Brings Back Its Mind-Boggling Bunless Chicken Sandwich, The Double Down

People have been clamoring for its return after its decade-long absence.

At Last, KFC Brings Its Fried Chicken Nuggets Nationwide

The item, which was first tested in 2022, will be available beginning March 27.

At Last, KFC Is Bringing Plant-Based Fried Chicken to Its Menus Nationwide

The chain’s Beyond Fried Chicken is coming January 10.

Country-Fried Steak — Down-Home Comfort

Country-fried steak is called chicken-fried steak in Texas and pan-fried steak, cube steak or smothered steak in other regions; but frankly, once you taste this dish of down-home comfort, you're not going to care what it's called.

Buttermilk Biscuits with Sausage Gravy — Down-Home Comfort

Biscuits with sausage gravy are a rib-sticking way to start the day. They are a no-nonsense breakfast, the he-man of down-home comfort.

Grilled Apple Cider Chicken — Down-Home Comfort

I love to grill throughout the year, but in the summer it’s just practical to keep the heat out of the kitchen. Burgers and brats are brilliant, and steaks and seafood are stupendous, but my absolute favorite is cheap and cheerful chicken.

Blueberry Delight — Down-Home Comfort

Blueberries are the Disney version of summer fruit, round and gentle like a bouncing sing-along ball. They bring to mind fingers stained purple-blue, fruity tarts, pies and cobblers, and warm, fresh-from-the-oven muffins.