Edna Lewis, known as both the Grande Dame and Grande Doyenne of southern cooking, she was among the first African American women from the south to write a cookbook that did not hide the author’s true name, gender or race.
She was born and grew up in rural Virginia in an area called Freetown. She learned to cook from an extended family that included grandparents who had been enslaved. They didn’t have measuring spoons or scales, so instead, they used coins by piling baking powder on pennies, salt on dimes, and baking soda on nickels. This ensured the right amount was used in each dish. Interesting little tidbit: Lewis is said to have been able to tell when a cake was finished baking by listening to the sound it was making.
She loved to use fresh, in season ingredients and characterized Southern food as fried chicken (pan, not deep-fried), pork, and fresh vegetables – most especially greens. She is a beacon of fried chicken perfection. Inspired by her pan-fried chicken, below is my pan-fried chicken recipe.
She wrote and co-wrote four books which covered Southern cooking and life in a small community of freed slaves and their descendants.
Dr. Edna Lewis passed away from cancer in 2006, at the age of 89. In 2014, she was honored by the United State Postal Service with her very own postal stamp.
I encourage you to continue my research on Edna Lewis. She was an interesting lady with many talents! She actually made a dress for Marilyn Monroe!
- 4 lbs. Chicken, drumsticks and thighs
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- Canola oil, for frying
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
In a bowl or resealable plastic bag, place the chicken, garlic powder, paprika, red pepper flakes and dried Italian seasoning and shake to coat the chicken. Cover or seal and refrigerate 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
Pour 1/2 to 1 inch of oil into a deep 12-inch cast-iron skillet and heat until a pinch of flour sizzles upon contact (about 360 degrees F).
Set a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs.
Place the flour, a pinch of salt and 1 ½ teaspoon ground pepper in a separate bowl. Whisk to combine.
Dip the chicken in the egg and milk mixture, drain off the excess, then dredge in the flour, shaking off the excess.
Working in batches, place the chicken skin-side down in the skillet and fry for 3 minutes without moving. Continue to fry, turning the chicken every 1 to 2 minutes to ensure even browning and cooking, until the chicken is cooked through, 11 to 15 minutes.
Drain on the rack and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.