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Sunday Supper – Fried Chicken!

August 8, 2010

I love fried chicken. You love fried chicken. Let’s be serious – everyone loves fried chicken. Even my sister who is vegetarian wants to eat this fried chicken. It’s a classic American staple that will never – and should never – go away. It’s extremely comforting and homey, but with a few tricks up your sleeve, fried chicken can become an out of this world experience.

Sometimes, I get a craving and head out to some of my favorite places for fried chicken. On Monday’s, Arnold’s Country Kitchen serves up some of the crispiest and most flavorful fried chicken you can get. On everyday except Sunday and Monday, however, I head to my favorite spot – Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville. Incredibly spicy, crispy, and juicy, it’s quite possibly the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. Other times, I get inspired to make fried chicken from scratch at home. It’s a process, but it’s completely worth it. Fried chicken is one of those foods that transcends time. When I prepare the dish, I feel like I’ve connected with someone who made fried chicken 50 or even a 100 years ago. It’s a timeless classic and I hope you take a long, lazy day on the weekend to enjoy it with your friends and family – because this is one dish you want to share.

This recipe is inspired from Thomas Keller’s fried chicken recipe. I’ve added some ingredients to heighten the spiciness of the chicken, but feel free to omit those if you aren’t a fan of spicy food. The key is brining the chicken to ensure it is well seasoned and remains moist.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (serves 4-6)

(inspired by Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home, p.16-17)

Two 2.5-3 lb. chickens (you will likely have to go to a farmer’s market or local purveyor to purchase chicken of this size, as grocery store birds are bigger). Cut the chicken into 10 pieces so you have 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast quarters, and 2 wings.

Chicken Brine: (makes 2 gallons)

5 lemons, halved

12 bay leaves

4 oz flat leaf parsely

1 oz thyme

1/2 cup clover honey

1 head garlic, halved

1/4 cup black peppercorns, whole

1 habanero chile, chopped (optional)

10 oz Diamond Crystal kosher salt

2 gallons water

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from heat and cool completely before using.

TIP: To cool the brine faster, put a large pot in your sink and fill the sink (outside the pot) halfway with cold water, ice, and a handful of salt. Pour the hot brine into the new pot and stir the mixture so it cools.

Pour the cold brine over the chicken and stick it in the fridge for no longer than 12 hours (or the chicken will get too salty).

Remove the chicken from the brine and wash away all the salt and/or spices and pat dry with paper towels. Lay the chicken on a plate and let it dry for about 45 minutes and comes to room temperature.

I used a deep fryer for this recipe, but if you don’t have one, just heat oil in a pot to 320 degrees. (TIP: Only fill oil about 1/3 of the way up the pan to avoid the oil boiling over). When the oil is cold, add a few springs of rosemary, thyme, and whole, unpeeled garlic cloves into the oil to flavor it. Once the target temperature is reached, take out the herbs. This will add great flavor to the oil before you fry the chicken.

Now, you have to make all the components for the dredging station. We’re going to dip this in flour, then buttermilk, then back in the flour. So, here is how to make the flour:

6 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup garlic powder

1/4 cup onion powder

1 T plus 1 tsp paprika

1 T plus 1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 T plus 1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine all these ingredients and separate the flour mixture into 2 separate bowls.

For the buttermilk, combine 1 quart of buttermilk with 1/2 cup of hot sauce (optional).

Set up your station so you have the dried, room temperature chicken, one bowl of flour, the bowl of buttermilk, the second bowl of flour, the fryer, and a place to put the cooked pieces. Here is how mine was set up:

Now, let’s get to business. First, dredge the chicken legs and thighs in the flour and pat off any excess. Then, dip it in the buttermilk, allowing an excess to drip off. Finally, dip it in the 2nd bowl of flour to coat. Slowly lower the chicken into the deep fryer. Cook for about 11 to 12 minutes, turning often to ensure even cooking until the chicken is cooked through and very crisp. Once the chicken is cooked (you can also check it with an instant read thermometer for a temp of 165 degrees), transfer it to a sheet with a cooling rack to let excess oil drip off. Sprinkle the chicken with fine sea salt.

For the breasts and wings, turn the oil up to 340 degrees. Repeat the dredging procedure, and fry the chicken for about 7 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to the rack. Let the chicken rest for about 7-10 minutes. (TIP: If the chicken is getting cold, just pop it in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes)

Here is what it should look like:

This is a fantastic dish to make any night of the week, but particularly on the weekends. Invite some friends over, have a few drinks, and share a great meal together. At the end of the day, that’s what makes fried chicken so special.

Cheers,

Vivek

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