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Chicken Betty’s Fried Chicken and Gravy

(recipe, Merrill Stubbs)

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This recipe appeared in the New York Times Magazine in 1980, in an article written by Mimi Sheraton. At the time, “Chicken Betty” Lucas, who had been frying chicken for 57 years and had garnered a loyal following cooking at restaurants in and around Kansas City, was a local legend — and rightly so.


    For the fried chicken
    1. 1 3.5 lb. chicken (preferably organic or free-range), in 8 pieces
    2. 1 egg
    3. ⅔ cup milk
    4. 2 cups flour
    5. 2 to 3 cups (trans fat-free) vegetable shortening or vegetable oil
    6. 1½ Tbsp. kosher salt
    7. 2 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
    For the gravy
    1. 2 Tbsp. flour
    2. 2 to 3 cups milk
    3. Salt and pepper


    1. Rinse the chicken and thoroughly pat it dry. Beat the egg with the milk in a large, shallow bowl and put the flour in a baking pan.
    2. In a wide, deep skillet (preferably cast iron), melt 2 cups of the shortening over medium heat. (The fat should be about an inch deep — if it's not, add more.) Meanwhile, dip the pieces of chicken in the egg, and then transfer them to a large sheet of waxed paper. Season liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. Thoroughly coat the seasoned chicken in flour, tapping gently to get rid of any excess.
    3. Test the heat in the pan by dropping in a breadcrumb. If it starts frying immediately, you are ready to go. Gently submerge the chicken pieces in the hot fat. Fry until dark golden brown on one side, about 8 minutes, and then carefully turn and brown the other side. (If the chicken browns too quickly or too slowly, adjust the heat accordingly.) When the chicken is a rich coppery color on both sides, remove it to drain on paper towels and turn down the heat under the pan.
    4. Keep the chicken in a warm oven while you make the gravy. Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat, making sure to leave the browned bits in the pan. Stir in the flour. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in about a cup and a half of the milk and simmer for about 8 minutes, whisking and adding more milk as the gravy continues to thicken. It should be the consistency of heavy cream when it is finished. Taste and add salt and pepper. Serve the chicken warm with the gravy and homemade biscuits.


    Read Merrill Stubbs' essay about cooking for friends.