Friday, January 14, 2011

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

This post is a bit overdue, but for Thanksgiving this year, Ari and I decided to make fried chicken rather than the traditional turkey. Of course, who could we turn to for guidance on fried chicken but the master, Thomas Keller? I was first introduced to him when I stumbled upon the French Laundry Cookbook when I was 13, and I had never seen anything like it. It was more like art than a cookbook, with massive pictures of stunning fruits and vegetables and sculptural plates. His Ad Hoc cookbook is a little more accessible, but just as beautiful and the recipes are always incredible.
Making fried chicken included a few firsts for me, like cutting up a whole chicken, brining, and deep frying, but luckily Chef Keller was with me every step of the way. Mostly. The cutting up was a little tricky, but it worked out in the end; and though very time consuming, the brining made a huge difference in the flavor and moistness of the chicken. I also didn't have a candy thermometer, so the fried exterior got a bit darker than I would have liked, but overall this is a really excellent, albeit extensive, recipe.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (adapted, just barely, from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller)

Chicken Brine
2 1/2 lemons, halved
6 bay leaves
1/2 bunch parsley

1/2 bunch thyme, or 1/4 cup dried thyme
1/4 cup honey
1/2 head garlic
1/8 cup black peppercorns
1 cup kosher salt
1 gallon water

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute, and stir to dissolve salt. Remove from heat and cool completely before using. Can be made up to 3 days ahead.

For Chicken:
One 3-pound chicken

For Dredging and frying:
Canola oil for deep-frying
1/2 quart buttermilk

kosher salt and black pepper

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 cup garlic powder
1/8 cup onion powder

2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne (or more for more spice)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cut chicken into 10 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast quarters, and 2 wings. If you are not practiced at cutting up birds, I would highly reccommend looking at a diagram or how-to video. I had a bit of difficulty, especially separating the breasts from the ribs, but it worked out alright, even though it wasn't as nice as it could have been. Add the chicken to the cooled brine, and refrigerate for 10-12 hours (no more, or it will get too salty).

Remove chicken from brine, discard brine, and rinse chicken under cold water, removing all of the herbs and spices. Let rest at room temp for an hour or so.

Fill a large pot with at least 2 inches of oil (no more than 1/3 o
f the way up the side) and heat to 320 degrees. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet.

Combine all coating ingredients in a large bowl.
Transfer half to a second bowl. Pour buttermilk into a third bowl and season with salt and pepper. Just before frying, dip chicken thighs into first bowl of coating, shake off excess, then dip in buttermilk, then dip into second bowl of coating.
Carefully lower thighs into hot oil. Fry for two minutes, then carefully move around and continue to fry, monitoring oil temperature, and turning pieces to ensure even cooking, 10-11 minutes, until chicken is deep golden brown and crispy.
Transfer to wire rack, and sprinkle with salt. Continue cooking pieces two at a time, 10-12 minutes per piece. For breasts, turn up heat to 340 degrees and fry for 7-8 minutes until cooked through. For wings, cook at 340 degrees for 6-7 minutes. Let chicken rest for ten minutes before serving. Arrange chicken on a serving platter and enjoy!
We liked this with a little sriracha sauce on the side, but it is pretty delicious all on its own as well.

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