Down Home Southern Fried Fun And The Ultimate Floats and Shakes

Fresh fried chicken from the oven on a white plate, looks delicious.

By Matthew Harvey

Summertime means a lot of things for those here in Texas. The days are longer, the temperatures are hotter, and if you have kids, they are home from school.  Weekends are spent out with friends, or having people over, or even contemplating if the kids can go back to school early this year, because they just seem to need to not be at home.  Regardless of your feelings on that perspective, everyone still wants to have a little fun. If you are planning a vacation and decide to spend the time with your family, you may want to be able to cook something fun.

Summertime can often mean grills.  And for some reason, we seem to wait to light those bad boys up until the outside temperature is somewhere between the surface area of the sun, and the inside of an erupting volcano.

But what if grilling isn’t what you want to do?  What if you want to do something that doesn’t require being outside in the heat of the day or having to wake up to get a smoker going for a 9-hour brisket.

Are you un-Texan?  Are you some “less-than” that needs to hand in their tongs and chef-card and give it a rest? (Yes, I made that chef-card thing up, because I can do that).  No.  It means you want alternatives.  And alternatives are awesome.

So let’s delve a bit into some summer alternatives that you can try and add a little creativity to your repertoire. It’s cooking time!

One of my favorite things to make in the summer is fried chicken.  Why?  Well, first, it’s fun to make.  The prep work is interactive and much more than just sprinkling things and throwing it in the oven.  Secondly, you can involve other people.  Your kids are home, so why not make a memory out of it.  Post it to Tik-Tok or Instagram, or even Facebook. If you don’t have social media, just have some fun. Show the kids (or your friends if you don’t have kids) that cooking and prepping can be a fun thing to do.  And it’s ok to get messy.

Finally, and for the most important reason, it keeps you in the air- conditioning.

Now, what cuts of chicken you use are totally up to you. You can use bone-in, or boneless if you so desire.  The preparation is the same either way.

Now I know what you’re thinking, why not just go out and buy it already made?  Well, inflation for one.  Who wants to spend $30 on chicken?  Secondly, you’re reading this to have some inspiration, not to learn how to use DoorDash or order from a Popeye’s, KFC, Churchs’, etc.

So hear we go.

Crispy And Juicy Southern Fried Chicken

The ingredient list:

  1. Chicken (legs, breasts, thighs, wings, or boneless)

But how much chicken?  I like to say assume 2 pieces per person.

  1. buttermilk
  2. salt
  3. pepper
  4. smoked paprika
  5. eggs
  6. flour
  7. peanut oil

Now for prepping.  First, find a container to put the chicken in.  One you know it will fit in and you can add liquid to it.  Before placing the chicken in, do a quick cold-wash, then place it into the container.  Once all the chicken is in the container, pour over the buttermilk, seal and refrigerate.  I recommend doing this step at least 2 hours or up to a whole day prior to cooking.  Let the chicken soak it in.

Then using plates or small platters, you are going to have three stations set up.  Station 1 will have flour mixed with the salt, pepper, and paprika. Station 2 will have the eggs, whisked well.  Station 3 will have more seasoned flour.  While we’re add it, lets add a fourth area.  Get a sheet pan and place a baking rack on it.  We’ll use this twice throughout this process.

If you have a fryer, add in the peanut oil and turn up to 375.  If you do not have a fryer, get a large skillet, preferably cast iron, and fill it about 1/3 full of peanut oil and turn on.  You’ll need a thermometer to see when it gets to 375.

TIP: If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, put a little water on your finger and flick it into the hot oil.  If you hear it crackling, the oil is ready.  If not, give it more time.

While the oil is heating up, you will need to make a choice with your hands.  You will have one hand that will be the wet stage hand, and another that will be the dry stage hand. This will keep things a bit cleaner.  Take the wet hand, and pick up a piece of the chicken and place it in the flour.  Using the dry hand, coat the chicken thoroughly.  Use the wet hand to then place the chicken in the egg wash and rotate around (yes some of the flour may come off, it’s ok).  Once it’s coated again, place into the final flour and using the dry hand, coat one more time.  Then place this on one half of your sheet pan.  Repeat until all the chicken is coated and ready.

Once your oil is ready, you will need to gently place the chicken in the oil.

This needs to be a slow process as you don’t want a whole lot of splatter.  Once you’ve placed three or four pieces, or however many your skillet or fryer can reasonably hold, then allow it time to cook.  Most fryers have a cheat method that has a basket you place the chicken in then slowly lower it into the oil, and will have a light that when it turns green, means the oil has risen back to temp and the chicken is done.  If you are doing it with a skillet (which you are because you want this memory) let the chicken fry for about 5 minutes and rotate.  For this, use tongs, not your fingers.  This is cooking for fun, not a summer trip to the ER.  Repeat this step once more for chicken breasts (boneless).  For bone-in chicken, do this one more time (so a total of three times) for breast and wings, and twice more (a total of 4 times) for legs and thighs.  If you have a probe thermometer, you will know when it’s done when the internal temperature is 165. If you don’t, use a toothpick and probe the chicken, and if the juice that comes out is clear, you’re good to go.  Place the chicken on the unused half of the sheet pan to rest, and for the excess oil to drip off. Repeat the above until all the chicken is ready to go. It’s going to be worth it. Trust me.

But what if I like fish instead?  Hey just replace the chicken above with the same steps for prepping, and cook a total of about 5 to 7 minutes on each side for boneless filets.  Although when it comes to fish, I prefer basa (also called swai).  It’s an amazing fish that comes from Thaliand and is packed full of amazing flavor (and not the fishy kind).

Now, what are we going to serve it with?  I thought you’d never ask.  Nothing.  Just enjoy the chicken. I mean come on.  No, no, I’m kidding.  I wouldn’t do that to you.  Personally, I am not a big fan of potato salad or coleslaw.   They are just sides I’ve never been a huge fan of.  And what if you want a healthy side, I mean you’ve made this fried entry, maybe you want to balance it out, but also don’t want a salad.  Then how about some roasted brussels sprouts?


Roasted Brussels Sprouts

For this, get a bag or bunch of sprouts, fresh not frozen.  Give them a good wash and dry.  Then cut each into quarters and place in a large mixing bowl.  Once all of them have been washed, dried, and bowled (I think that’s a word we can use) then coat with a small amount of Greek extra virgin olive oil.  Why Greek?  It’s the best.  They wouldn’t have made three movies about Greek weddings if Greek things weren’t amazing.  Also mix in minced garlic, salt, and pepper.  Once they are thoroughly coated, place into a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, grab a spatula, flip them, and give them another 10 minutes.  You know they are done when you can easily stick a fork in them.  And I mean that literally, not just figuratively.


Ultimate Fresh Fries

Now if you don’t want that oil to go to waste, and you want something good and starchy, how about some homemade (not frozen) fries.  I mean you can use frozen, but again, you’re reading this for fun ideas, not for the freezer section of the grocery store.  For fresh fries, I like to use either Yukon gold or red russet potatoes.  I just like them better than the traditional brown bakers potatoes.  Wash the potatoes, but do NOT peel them.  Leave the skin on.  Cut them into ANY shapes you want, discs, cubes, long fries. This is your time to shine and be creative.

TIP: After you’ve cut up the potatoes, put them in a bowl of cold water for about 15 minutes.  This will ensure they stay fluffy on the inside and hold their shape.

After 15 minutes, pull them from the water and pat them dry.  You don’t want to leave excess water, especially when frying.  This is going to be a two-frying system.  That’s right, you are frying them twice.  For the first fry, have your oil ay 300 degrees.  Place the fries into the oil and allow them to cook for about 4 minutes and remove from the oil.  I would recommend placing them on a plate or sheet pan covered with a paper towel.  Spread them out to allow for the grease to drip off, and air dry.  While this is going on, raise the temperature to 350 degrees.  Once there, place the first back in for another 5 minutes.  Once again, remove them from the oil onto the pan and allow them to dry while adding seasoning.  Traditionally you can do salt or salt and pepper.  There are times we’ll have fun and use salt, a pinch of garlic powder, and parmesan cheese.  It just adds a great layer of flavor.

And look at that, a fun summertime meal your friends or family can enjoy and enjoy making.

Lets finish this with something cool, refreshing, and honestly, without a care towards healthy.  It’s summer, we need the sweet.  And I don’t mean sweet tea.  There’s too much to cover there regarding the type of tea, the correct sugar or sugar alternative to use, and everyone has that granny that has the best recipe, and we’re not about to get into that argument here.  It’s just too much and too emotional.  No, no, we’re doing a great dessert, easy to make, fun to make, and using something new for the summer.

Ice-Cold Floats, And Crazy Shakes

Did someone say floats or crazy shakes? What the heck is a crazy or freak shake? It’s a milkshake topped with….(you fill in the blank). Look at the image here and you’ll get the idea!

It’s summer.  It’s hot.  You’ve made hot food.  You want something easy and amazing for dessert.  Well, I’ve got just the thing.  A float.  Now disclaimer if you don’t like ice cream or soda, just stop reading here, I don’t honestly have an alternative way to do that, and seriously, that’s just not normal to not like one or the other.  Come on now. While you could use any ice cream and soda you want for this, we are going with two ice cream options, and 3 soda options.  Why?  Well, as I tell my kids, because I said so, that’s why.  The two ice cream options are both from Bluebell.  The Dr. Pepper float ice cream and the new A&W rootbeer float ice cream.  Oh yea, it’s on now.

Find some mugs, if you don’t have any, go buy some, they are essential for proper float making.  Why?  Well, again, because I said so. (You can pick some up at the Dollar Store.)  Place the mugs into the freezer for no less than an hour.  It’s best if it were a half to a full day, but hey, maybe you’ve picked this up to read and say I can do this tonight.  That’s ok.  While the mugs are freezing get 2-liter bottles of root beer (obviously A&W) or cream soda, or even some Dr. Pepper and get them in the fridge to get them nice and cold.  Remove the mugs from the freezer and place 1 or 2 scoops of either of the two ice creams in the mug (or heck even a scoop of each).  From there, slowly pour in your soda.  You don’t want to go too fast as it will overflow before you know it.  Now why did we freeze the mugs?  Well, once the cold soda hits the frozen mug and frozen ice cream, it will form small crystals and just make it better.  And there you have it.

As always, don’t hesitate to put your own spin on things.  Make it your own. Try the Brussels sprouts with your seasoning of choice, or heck try a different vegetable.  It’s your kitchen.  Do it your way (except on the floats).  The more interactive making the food can be, the more enjoyable the evening is going to turn out.  Don’t be afraid to add or remove ingredients and seasonings to fit your style.  And share them, share them with me at, or if you have something you’ve made that you want to see what I’d do with it, let me know.  I’m always up for a culinary adventure.