1/2 cup kosher salt (regular table salt will make the brine too salty)
1 (3 pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 quart buttermilk
1 pound lard
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup country ham pieces, or 1 thick slice country ham, cut into 1/2-inch strips (see note)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine the water and the salt, stirring until salt is dissolved.
Place the chicken pieces in a bowl and pour the salt water over.
Cover and refrigerate for 8-12 hours.
Drain the chicken and rinse out the bowl it was brined in.
Return the chicken to the bowl, pour the buttermilk over and cover and refrigerate 8-12 hours.
Drain the chicken on a wire rack, discarding the buttermilk.
Meanwhile, prepare the fat for frying: put the lard, butter and country ham into
a heavy skillet or frying pan. Cook over low heat for 30-45 minutes, skimming as
needed, until the butter ceases to throw off foam and the ham is browned.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the ham carefully from the fat. (Reserve the fried ham for
another use, such as snacking.)
Just before frying, increase the temperature to
medium-high and heat the fat to 335 degrees F.
Blend together the flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl or on
Dredge the drained chicken pieces thoroughly in the flour mixture, then
pat well to remove any excess flour.
Slip some of the chicken pieces, skin-side-down, into the heated fat. Do not
overcrowd the pan; fry in batches, if necessary. Cook for 8-10 minutes on each side,
until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through.
Drain thoroughly on a wire
rack or on crumpled (not flat) paper towels. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
A country ham (such as a "Smithfield" ham) is salt-cured, smoked
and aged well. Whole country hams are expensive; it is possible, however, to buy
country ham steaks. But you may also substitute thick-cut, smoked, streaky bacon
for the ham in this recipe.