CLASSIC SOUTHERN - Fried chicken at JCT. Kitchen & Bar in AtlantaHAD YOU PLACED a bet a decade or two ago on what would be the “It” dish of 2013, would you have put your money on fried chicken? Old-fashioned, hard to eat, messy to cook, downmarket and déclassé, it once seemed to belong to the South—and not in a good way. Yet now, against all odds, this old-school classic is trending feverishly.

Fried chicken, like America itself, looks different than it once did. Rock-star chefs in hipster enclaves have foodies in a tizzy over weekly fried chicken nights. Boldface-name fine-dining chefs are giving the dish the kind of painstaking attention formerly reserved for turbot and Wagyu beef. The modernists, too, have gotten their tweezers on it, crafting diabolically clever new versions undreamed-of in Dixie. Regional takes on fried chicken, formerly known only to a few lucky gluttons, are broadcast far and wide on Instagram. And most radical of all, Korean immigrants have brought their own version of the dish to this country—one so spicy, crisp and addictive it threatens to snatch away the South’s golden-brown crown. “Fried chicken is a rural dish from our past that has become even more beloved in the modern moment,” said John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi and the dish’s leading scholar. “It’s a primal food, eaten with your hands, with a bone at its core. It’s something we can all connect with, whether we’re from the South or not.”

by Josh Anderson for The Wall Street Journal
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