Story and Recipe by Kaitlin Hill
Whether you remember her in the simple yet elegant white chiffon dress with a plunging neckline from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or in one of the 65 extravagant costumes from Cleopatra, there is no denying that Elizabeth Taylor will always be Hollywood’s leading lady of fashion. Though, for those who knew her, she was so much more than just her sense of style and onscreen success. She was shockingly real, a generous host and a loyal friend.
With those striking violet eyes and the acting chops she had from an early age, Elizabeth was quickly discovered and elevated to Hollywood “it girl” status which she would enjoy her entire career. Her big break came at the age of twelve with the 1944 release of National Velvet and Elizabeth never slowed down. The London-born American actress was certainly one of the hardest working women in show business, starring in at least 50 films and winning three Oscars. In 1961, Elizabeth Taylor was the highest paid actress in cinema.
In addition to groundbreaking roles, she is remembered for her thrilling outfits, both on and off screen. In costume, she looked stunning donning elaborate gold headdresses in Cleopatra and her figure-hugging, white one piece from Suddenly Last Summer. In the movie Giant, she was a welcome sight clad in “Western-chic.”
She worked her unique sense of style off screen too, further cementing her title of “fashion icon” on her impressive resumé. She wore a tie-dye wedding dress embellished with little feathers when she married Richard Burton for the second time. At award ceremonies, she would often pair form-fitting turquoise dresses with daring necklines and blinding bling. Who can forget the Cartier tiara she wore to the 1957 Academy Awards? She famously said, “Big girls need big diamonds,” a slogan she often embodied.
But, those close to Liz knew she could be casually chic too. At home, she preferred sporting comfortable yet sophisticated caftan dresses made by lifelong friend and designer, Vicky Tiel. The caftan would later be named the “Liza Caftan” after Elizabeth’s daughter.
As in her closet, Elizabeth contrasted the extravagant and the everyday in her kitchen pantry and with the guests around her dining room table.
Tiel, who now splits her time between Paris, New York and a farm on the Florida-Alabama border, told me about the unique taste testing events Elizabeth would put on for friends.
“She liked to match peanut butter and jelly, hotdogs, hamburgers with Grand Cru wines…and we would have tastings,” she said. “She loved to mix the greatest wines with the cheapest food. Especially fried chicken and Rothschild.”
Fried chicken was her favorite. In Tiel’s book, It’s All About The Dress: What I Learned in Forty Years About Men, Women, Sex, and Fashion, she published a series of Elizabeth Taylor’s most craved menus. For dinner, fried chicken always topped the list.
The icon was even famously captured by photographer Firooz Zahedi cooking fried chicken at her home, Atoka Farm, just outside Middleburg. She moved there in 1976 with then husband and U.S. Senate-hopeful, John Warner. Page Allen, co-owner of the Fun Shop in Middleburg, remembers her, “visiting the B&A Grocery Store. She would wander around town just like everybody else.”
And according to Tiel, Elizabeth treated each person who crossed her path as if they were just like everybody else and encouraged, sometimes forced, others to do the same.
Even at the height of her fame, Elizabeth remained humble and always generous to all. Doing so was one of Elizabeth’s keys to a happy life, something she taught Tiel, who writes about lessons learned from Elizabeth in her new book, The Absolute Woman: It’s All About Feminine Power, to be released this October.
Throughout her life, Elizabeth was so much more than her memorable costumes and notorious cravings. She was a mother, a wife, and a friend. She was an advocate for HIV/AIDS research and a philanthropist. Tiel writes, “Elizabeth’s generosity was her foremost quality and it shined in her love for all her friends and extended family.” Elizabeth even wrote a cookbook. With that in mind, celebrate the legendary food and fashion icon with a batch of fried chicken and be sure to share with friends and family, as she would have. Here’s my recipe:
6 – 8 pieces of chicken (I used a mixture drumsticks and boneless skinless thighs)
1 cup of buttermilk
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of paprika
2 teaspoons of granulated garlic or garlic powder
1 teaspoon of cayenne (or more if you like heat)
1 tablespoon of salt
pepper, to taste
1 quart of canola oil
In a small bowl, mix together the flour, paprika, garlic, cayenne, salt and pepper. Place this mixture in a gallon bag.
Place the buttermilk in a liquid measure jug or small bowl.
Working in batches, dip a piece of chicken into the buttermilk then transfer it to the bag of flour and spices. Seal the bag and shake well to completely coat the chicken in the flour. Remove chicken from the bag and transfer to a cookie tray lined with parchment. Repeat with the remaining legs and thighs.
Once all the chicken is coated, cover it with a clean dishtowel or piece of parchment and let sit while you heat the oil.
Fill a medium (mine is a 3 1/2-quart) Dutch oven with the canola oil and begin to heat it over medium-high flame.
Set a wire rack over a second cookie tray lined with parchment. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
When the oil has reached about 375°F you can begin to fry the chicken. If you don’t have a thermometer but need to test the heat, you can take a little scrap of chicken coating and drop it in the oil. If it sinks and only bubbles slightly, the oil is too cold. If it floats but browns instantly, the oil is too hot. But if it floats and browns gradually, your oil is good to go.
Fry the chicken in batches for three to four minutes per side, until a medium golden brown color. Transfer all fried chicken to the wire rack and then place in the preheated oven. Cook for an additional 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the size of your chicken pieces) until they have reached an internal temperature of 165°F.
Sprinkle with additional salt and eat immediately! ML
—Originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Middleburg life.–