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Sunday, September 14, 2008

best fried chicken in the universe

soul food fried chicken kale mac and cheese

The September 2008 Bon Appetit is shaping up to be the best cookbook I've ever purchased - what is this, my 6th recipe from that issue, and counting? They featured Thomas Keller's recipe for fried chicken, and the pictures of all these kids eating drumsticks had me thinking, I've got to try this. So I cross-referenced with my trusted resource, New Best Recipes, but for the most part followed Keller's recipe (scaled down to about 1/3 of the original - which called for 3 chickens!). Just like the rosemary garlic roast chicken I've blogged before, brining is the key. This is by far the BEST FRIED CHICKEN I have ever tasted.

Grocery list: (for the brine) 1/3 cup kosher salt, 3 T honey, 6 bay leaves, 10 unpeeled garlic cloves, 1 T whole peppercorns, 2 rosemary sprigs, 3 thyme sprigs, 3 parsley sprigs, zest & juice of 2 lemons, 1 3-pound chicken (or 3 pounds of chicken parts like thighs and drumsticks); (for frying) 2 cups AP flour, 2 T garlic powder, 2 T onion powder, 1.5 tsp paprika, 1.5 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp ground pepper, 1.5 T kosher salt, 2 c buttermilk, 4 cups peanut oil.

brine ingredients

You have to start this recipe either the night before or early the morning of - in the 12-24 hours before dinner window. Put all the brining ingredients in a large bowl with 8 cups very hot tap water, and stir to dissolve the salt. Chill until the brine is cool or room temperature.

brining chicken thighs and drumsticks

Rinse the chicken parts and submerge them in the brine. Cover with saran wrap and chill for at least 12 hours, and no more than 24 hours. About 2-3 hours before you start cooking dinner, drain the chicken and pat the pieces dry, removing any bits of herbs that stick to the skin.

buttermilk and flour coating for chicken

Next, set up your assembly line. You'll need 1-2 large baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Mix all the dry ingredients for the coating in a bowl (flour + spices), and put the buttermilk in a bowl next to it.

double breaded chicken pieces

Dip a piece of chicken in the flour mixture first, then in the buttermilk, then back in the flour mixture again. You want a pretty thick coat - don't shake off the excess - because some will fall off anyway during the drying process. Place the coated chicken pieces on the lined baking sheets and let stand to dry. The Keller recipe says they can dry at room temperature for 1-2 hours, but the New Best Recipe says to refrigerate them for a couple hours (your own comfort level with room temperature poultry is the determining factor I guess).

frying chicken

In a heavy skillet or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat until it registers 320-330 degrees. The oil should be at least 1.5 inches deep. Add 4-6 pieces of chicken at a time, carefully lowering each piece into the hot oil with a slotted or wooden spoon. It's also safe to keep a splatter screen in the other hand, shielding you from the pan just in case. Fry for 7 minutes, then carefully turn each piece over and cook for another 6-7 minutes.

best fried chicken ever

Transfer the chicken pieces to paper towels to drain, and sprinkle with more kosher salt. The New Best Recipe gives a helpful tip for placing the first batches of chicken in a warm oven on a cookie drying rack over a baking pan, so they stay warm and crispy (instead of on paper towels, where the crust can get soggy and stick to the paper towels).

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