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Tea-Brined Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Gravy

['1 gallon water', '38 regular black tea bags or 4 ounces loose black tea', '1 cup kosher salt', '1 cup sugar', '1 chicken (about 3 pounds), cut into 8 pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 wings, and 2 breasts)', '2 quarts buttermilk, preferably whole-milk', '3 tablespoons hot sauce', '1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper', '1 1/2 pounds chicken skin, cut into 1/2-inch pieces', '6 cups flour, preferably Anson Mills White May Flour', '1 cup fine cornmeal, preferably Anson Mills Antebellum Fine White Cornmeal', '2 tablespoons cornstarch', '1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder', '1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder', '1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper', '1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika', '1 cup rendered fresh lard', '1 cup canola oil', '"2 ounces Bentons slab bacon, diced", "2 ounces Bentons smoked ham, diced", 2 tablespoons unsalted butter', 'Sea salt', 'Gravy']

1. Put the water in a pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the stove, add the tea bags, and let them steep for 8 minutes.
2. Remove the tea bags, or strain the liquid if you used loose tea. Add the salt and sugar to the hot water and stir to dissolve them. Pour the brine into a heatproof container and cool it to room temperature, then refrigerate until completely cold.
3. Rinse the chicken with cold water. Place in the brine, cover, and refrigerate for 12 hours. After the chicken has spent 12 hours in the brine, make an ice bath in a large bowl with equal amounts of ice and water. Place the chicken in the ice bath for 5 minutes. (The ice will rinse away any impurities.) Remove the chicken and pat it dry.
4. Combine the buttermilk, hot sauce, and 1 tablespoon of the black pepper in a large container. Add the chicken pieces to the buttermilk mixture, cover, and let marinate for 1 hour at room temperature.
5. While the chicken is marinating, put the chicken skins in a small saucepan over very low heat, adding a small amount of water to prevent the skins from sticking and burning. Cook the skins, stirring frequently so that they don't burn, until their fat is rendered. Strain the fat; you need 1 cup.
6. Drain the chicken, quickly rinse under cold water, and pat dry.
7. Combine the flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, the remaining 1 teaspoon black pepper, the cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika in a large bowl and mix well. Add the chicken and toss to coat thoroughly. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes, then shake off any excess, transfer the chicken to a wire rack, and let sit for 15 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, put the chicken fat, lard, and canola oil in a large, deep cast-iron skillet. Add the bacon and ham and heat the fats over medium-high heat until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the fat reads 275°F. Turn the heat off and allow the bacon and ham to infuse the fats and oil for 10 minutes.
9. With a skimmer or slotted spoon, remove the bacon and ham from the skillet (discard them or eat as a snack). Set up a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels, or place a wire rack over the sheet and place alongside the stove. Heat the oil to 300°F. Add the breasts and thighs and cook for 3 minutes. Add the legs and wings and cook for 5 minutes more. (Remove the fat needed for the gravy at this point and start the gravy.)
10. Turn the chicken over, cover the skillet, and cook until the pieces of chicken are the color of hay, about another 5 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the pieces again, cover, and cook the chicken until golden brown, another 3 minutes. Add the butter and continue cooking, turning the pieces once, for another 2 minutes or so on each side. The chicken should be crispy and golden brown. Let the chicken rest and drain on wire racks or on a plate covered with paper towels for about 8 minutes, but no longer.
11. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with the gravy.

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