Q. Why do fried chicken recipes recommend marinating the chicken in buttermilk before battering and frying? Is this absolutely necessary?
A. It's not absolutely necessary, but it is recommended for fried chicken. Buttermilk imparts a good flavor and helps the coating stick to the chicken. Its acid content tenderizes the meat. The chicken should be marinated -- in the refrigerator, of course -- at least one hour or overnight. If you don't have buttermilk on hand, substitute plain yogurt or milk, to which a small amount of lemon juice or vinegar has been added (1 teaspoon per 1 cup milk).