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Basil Buttermilk Fried Chicken

2 cups buttermilk
3 Tbsp dried basil, crumbled
2 tsp hot pepper sauce
2 chickens (3 1/2 lbs each) cut into serving pieces
2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs solid vegetable shortening, for frying (about)
Fresh basil sprigs, for garnish

In a large nonreactive bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, 1
tablespoon of the dried basil, and the hot pepper sauce. Add the
chicken pieces, turn to coat, and marinate, covered, at room
temperature, stirring once or twice, for 2 hours. In a wide, seep
plate (like a pie plate), combine the flour, the remaining 2
tablespoons dried basil, the salt and the pepper. One at a time,
lift the chicken pieces from the marinade, letting most of the
excess drip back into the bowl. Dredge the chicken pieces in the
seasoned flour. Transfer the chicken to a rack and let stand for
30 minutes to firm the coating. In 2 large skillets over medium-high
heat, melt enough shortening to come 1/2-inch up the sides. Heat
the shortening until very hot (almost smoking), then carefully add
the chicken pieces skin side down. Cook, uncovered, for 12 minutes.
Turn the chicken and cook another 12 to 15 minutes, until done.
Drain the chicken on paper towels. [To use less paper towels, drain
on a pile of newspaper covered with one layer of paper towels.]
Arrange the chicken on a platter, garnish with fresh basil sprigs
and serve hot, warm or cool. Serves 8.


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