Buttermilk pulls double duty in this recipe, providing flavor and tenderizing the chicken. Although the recipe traditionally calls for lard, shortening is a fine substitute. Serves 4 to 6. INGREDIENTS 3 1/2- to 4-lb. chicken, cut into 8 pieces 2 cups buttermilk 1 tsp. black pepper, divided 1/4 tsp. salt 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt, such as Lawry's 1 lb. lard (or solid vegetable shortening) 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter Step 1 Rinse the chicken pieces and blot them with paper towels. In a large bowl combine the buttermilk, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper and the salt, and stir to combine. Step 2 Add the chicken pieces and turn to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight, turning the pieces occasionally. Step 3 Combine the flour, seasoned salt and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon of black pepper in a shallow baking dish and blend well. Line a baking sheet with three layers of paper towels and place it near the stove. Step 4 Put the lard and butter in a large cast-iron frying pan or pot big enough to hold the chicken pieces in one layer without touching. Melt over medium-high heat. The fat should be about 1/2-inch deep. Step 5 Heat until it registers 365 degrees on a candy thermometer or until a small cube of bread dropped in the oil browns in about 1 minute. Step 6 Using tongs, remove the thighs from the marinade, draining well. Dredge them in the flour mixture, turning to coat evenly. Shake off any excess flour. Place them skin-side down in the center of the pan. Step 7 Coat the remaining pieces in the same way and add them to the pan in a single layer without touching. Work in batches if necessary. Step 8 Don't move the chicken for about 5 minutes or until the coating is set and looks firm. Check the underside by lifting with the tongs--it should be deep golden. Cook the pieces between 8 and 20 minutes (depending on size), turning them periodically until crispy brown and cooked through. Step 9 To test, cut into the thickest part of a piece. The juices should run clear and the meat should be opaque throughout. Place on the paper-lined baking sheet to drain. Step 10 Arrange the chicken pieces on a platter and serve hot, room temperature or cold.
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