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Fried Chicken

Learn about this recipe from our historic foodways staff, then try it at home

Mary Randolph is considered by food historians as one the best cooks to come out of an American kitchen. Her fried chicken recipe is the first to appear in an American cookbook. The use of fried cornmeal mush balls is the first recipe for what will eventually be called “hush puppies.”

18th Century

Cut them up as for the fricassee, dredge them well with flour, sprinkle them with salt, put them into a good quantity of boiling lard, and fry them a light brown, fry small pieces of mush and a quantity of parsley nicely picked to be served in the dish with the chickens, take half a pint of rich milk, add to it a small bit of butter with pepper, salt, and chopped parsley, stew it a little, and pour it over the chickens, and then garnish with the fried parsley.

— Randolph, Mary. “The Virginia Housewife”

21st Century


  • 3 ½ -4 lb. fryer chicken, skin on, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lard or vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 cups chopped parsley plus 2 Tbsp. minced parsley
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp., plus 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cups of cornmeal mush in teaspoon-sized pieces


  1. Season the chicken with salt and dredge through the flour, shaking each piece so the flour evenly coats the pieces. Set the chicken in the refrigerator while the oil heats up to 375 degrees.
  2. Fry the chicken for 15 minutes in a deep fat fryer until nicely browned and the internal temperature equals 165 degrees. Don’t overcrowd the pan or fryer. Continue to monitor the oil temperature. Adjust the heat to maintain 375 degrees. Do not let the fat begin to smoke. Let the finished pieces drain on a rack with paper towels underneath.
  3. When the chicken is finished, fry the pieces of cornmeal mush in the same oil that the chicken was done in.
  4. Prepare the fried parsley and milk gravy. Fry the chopped parsley in a Tbsp. of oil or butter until wilted. Remove from pan. Add another Tbsp of butter and the minced parsley. Stir in the milk but don’t let it boil. Continue to stir until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  5. Plate by ringing the platter around the edge with wilted parsley. Place the chicken in the middle and the sauce over the top or in a sauce boat on the side.

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