If soul food is found in the heart of the South, fried chicken is found at the heart of soul food.
My mother, born and raised in Arkansas, grew up on fried chicken. Though she did not make it often while I was growing up, it is something ingrained in her memory and even more on her taste buds.
I grew up in a more health-focused household. When it came to homemade food, bits of classic southern, soul food dishes were thrown in here and there. Through my own experiments in the kitchen and devotion to all things healthy and nutritious, I have come to realize that healthier does not mean lacking in flavor.
An Arkansan myself, I am entranced by the aroma of fried chicken. Fried chicken holds memories for many others and me, and I knew this was an area where I’d have to take the subject very seriously. Hence, my determination to create a healthier take on a Southern classic in my own household was born.
This sweet and savory oven-fried chicken is dedicated to my mother. She passed down to me her southern roots, and taste buds that can pick out a genuinely well done fried chicken dish. After tasting a batch of this chicken straight out of the oven, she agreed: the soul is ever present in this healthier version of chicken.
A combination of coconut oil and grass-fed butter are used for the actual frying process.
The addition of whole wheat flour to replace some of the typical all-purpose flour coating for the chicken adds in additional beneficial nutrients, especially fiber. The sweet tea in the brine for this chicken is just another homage to its southern roots. That being said, I chose what is considered a classic and common black tea to use for the concentrate–Lipton tea–although you could use any black tea of your preference.
Honey whiskey was my own personal preference addition to the marinade. I’ve always enjoyed cooking with alcohol and did not want to pass up the chance to pair a honey whiskey with a sweet tea marinade. I used Jack Daniel’s honey bourbon whiskey.
HONEY WHISKEY SWEET TEA OVEN FRIED CHICKEN
- 1 ½-2 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (your choice of thighs, drumsticks, chicken breasts)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ¾ cup sweet tea concentrate*
- 2 tablespoons honey bourbon whiskey
- 1 ½ tablespoons salt
- 5 tablespoons grass-fed butter*
- 3-4 tablespoons coconut oil
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
- In a large glass dish or bowl, add the chicken pieces.
- In another dish, whisk together the sweet tea concentrate, buttermilk, salt, and honey bourbon whiskey until salt is completely dissolved.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight, allowing the chicken to marinate for at least 24 hours.
- When chicken is ready to cook, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Place a large cast iron skillet into the oven on the center rack for 7-8 minutes. Once skillet is well heated, remove it from the oven just to add the butter and oil.
- Place skillet back into oven until butter is completely melted and you are done with the next steps.
- Prepare the dry mixture needed for breading consisting of the flours, salt, and pepper in a medium dish or bowl.
- Remove chicken pieces from marinade, but reserve marinade for battering the chicken.
- One piece at a time, dip the chicken into the flour mixture until well coated. Shake off excess flour. Place chicken back into marinade to completely coat the chicken piece, and then back into the flour mixture again until well-coated. This is the double-batter process.
- Next, arrange all double-battered chicken pieces into hot skillet with sizzling oil and butter.
- Return the skillet to the oven and bake an additional 20 minutes. Flip chicken pieces over halfway through the baking process.
- Return to oven and bake an additional 14-15 minutes or until internal temperature of thickest chicken pieces reach 165 degrees.
- Remove skillet from oven and allow to cool at least 15 minutes.
*To make the sweet tea concentrate: Make 1 ½ cups of sweet tea in a small pot on the stove. Allow the tea to simmer until it reduces to about ¾ cup of liquid. Set aside to cool before adding to marinade.